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11 Things You Never Thought You Needed on a Bike Tour

This post is dedicated to those little bits of kit which you wouldn’t immediately consider when writing up your cycle tour packing list, but nonetheless can make themselves invaluable on a long tour. And long tours are really what we are talking about here; most of this stuff you wouldn’t bother with for a fast 2 week trip in Europe for instance, (for that length of time we’d be inclined to rough it for the sake of weight savings); however, when you’re spending months on the road, making life that little bit more comfortable becomes that much more important, not just for your sanity but also to help with recovery and maintenance when things start to fall apart, (your gear that is… not you hopefully).

Ortlieb Folding Bowl

I know, I know – “everything including the kitchen sink”, funny fucker… get off my site. But seriously, this bit of gear gets used so extensively when you’re cooking for yourselves that I can’t imagine touring without it. Not only can you use it to wash the dishes, it also acts as a handy evening storage device for all your pots and pans in the porch of the tent so they are there ready for breakfast without the hassle of packing everything away. Also good for;

• Washing clothes

• Washing fruit and veg

• Holding water when giving the bikes a clean

• Transporting said washing water from streams/standpipes

Ortlieb Folding Blow in Action

Ortlieb Folding Blow in Action

You get the idea… it holds water. It also packs down nice and neat and weighs very little. Win.

Ortlieb Water Bags

Ah Ortlieb, your contempt for/mastery of water makes me smile. Very useful kit, excess water storage capacity when traveling in areas where water is scarce which straps neatly to your Ortlieb panniers at the back. Also great for use around the campsite – fill it up when you get there and you don’t have to keep going back and forth to the water source like some sort of chump. Oh and you can also get a shower nozzle for it – good way to stay clean while wild camping.

Can make water taste a bit plasticish at first but this effect wore off pretty swiftly. Very light when not in use as well.

Camp Washing Line

Basically it’s 3 bits of elastic rope entwined together with hooks on the end to… er… hook it to things. Great for… er… drying clothes. Yeah. “but why not use a bit of string Phil?” I’ll tell you why – the intertwined ropes means it can grasp your clothes and stops them blowing away – no need for pegs and no risk of losing anything. Nice.

Washing Line

Washing Line

The only downside is that you have to find two things the right distance from each other to string it up – but it’s pretty stretchy so this isn’t usually a problem. Also Weighs nothing.

Washing Line Close Up

Washing Line Close Up

Gaffa Tape

What can’t it fix? “A broken heart” you say, you’re not trying hard enough… it can fix everything. Panniers ripped – BOOM! Wind break for the stove failing – BOOM! Arm on your glasses broken – BOOM! Panniers rubbing the paint off your racks – BOOM! You get the idea. IT’s not a long term fix obviously but well worth brining.

Thermarest Pillow

“A pillow! You soft git” Well maybe, but sleep is important and while using some of your clothes in a dry bag may be good for a short tour it’s pretty inconsistent and I for one am not a fan. This all comes back to comfort on a long tour – and for less than 200g, (the medium pillow) which compresses pretty petite, we think these are well worth it… very comfortable too. They also have the added benefit of providing padding for breakable items, such as a netbook, in your panniers.

Thermarest Pillow

Thermarest Pillow

Sewing Kit

Your clothes will rip and wear out – no matter how fancy – a small sewing kit takes up no space and weighs nothing. However, If you forget one they are pretty easy to pick up nearly anywhere.

A Bit of Old Inner Tube

A trick taught us by a Kiwi – cut a bit of old inner tube and wrap it round the end of your handle bar; when you stop you can stretch it round your break lever, boom… instant hand break! Great for parking your bike on hills & if you didn’t bother with a kickstand, like us.

Hand Brake

Hand Brake

An Australian $5 Note

Massive irreparable gash in your tire? No spare? Don’t want to have to flag down a lift to the next town. Get your Australian, (or any plastic note) and put it in the tire over the gap. Clearly not anykind of long term solution but it may get you to the next town. You also have the secondary use as… er… money – the Ozzy Dolar is pretty strong at the moment ;).

Ear Plugs

Boom raves, noisy hotels, the call to prayer, traffic; you’ll be sleeping in a lot of weird, wonderful and potentially noisy places. As mentioned above a good night’s sleep in important and these are honestly one of the handiest things we brought with us.


We bought the Terra Nova Voyager XL groundsheet to match out tent, great for protecting your ‘home’ if you have to camp on suspect ground but the usefulness doesn’t stop there. Tarps and groundsheets make a brilliant picnic blanket for making/eating your dinner on; if you have a bit of string they can also become a makeshift sun/rain cover to keep you cool and/or dry.

Terra Nova Ground Sheet

Ground sheet action… please excuse the two empty wine bottles


This might be stating the obvious to most of you, but due to the amount to other cycle tourists we met who didn’t have one we thought it worth mentioning. Even if you’re crap at the pronunciation and have to then point to the words in the book, nearly all locals will appreciate your attempts to speak their language and be way more inclined to help you. We have noted a distinct correlation between people who didn’t enjoy a country so much and lack of a phrase book, (compared with people who bothered to learn a few words of the local).

This list is by no means complete and is obviously just based on our preferences and the way we like to tour – no doubt some of you found a couple of the things above daft; but it’d be great to get your feedback and well and some new ideas for invaluable touring gear, so please do comment!

4 comments to 11 Things You Never Thought You Needed on a Bike Tour

  • Andrew Sewell

    Hi Guys,
    Glad to see you are using the ‘inner tube + brake lever = hand brake’ trick I showed you outside the pasty shop in Beautiful Hayle, Cornwall. Good effort for passing the trick on to others. I’ll take the AUD5 note trick in return.
    Please don’t be so hard on Shiraz. I was in hospital there for 10 days in 1992 after shitting myself nearly rigid in Pakistan. They brought me back to life and really looked after Katie (my wife) while she was a foreign-woman-alone in Iran. Perhaps the town has gone downhill or perhaps I missed out on the weirdness by being in a hospital bed. Perhaps you guys just attract these type of people, in your lycra.
    It’s great to see you are still cycling on. Keep going!

  • Phil

    Hey there, Andrew; great to hear from you! And thanks again for the trick, it’s come in very handy indeed.

    As for Shiraz; nice to hear from someone who had a better experience there than us, (even if it was in hospital). Maybe it has gone down hill or maybe like I said, we were just a bit over Iran by that point – but we’ve talked to at least 10 other travellers who all agree it’s a bit rubbish. But hey, each to their own.

    You been riding anywhere interesting of late?

  • pixi

    Decathalon do a simlar pillow for 7quid that does a great job. Has a compartment in the back you can stick a jumper in for a little extra too.

  • Andy

    A thin piece of wire about 30-40cm (even tho you can find some on the side of the road) Saved my arse a couple of times when the side wall of the tyre opened up. Just sewed it up and layered the inside with a few layers gaffer/duck tape. Both times had to bike over 200km with it to the next shop.

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