One of the charms of pedalling off into the unknown is that it doesn’t always need to involve a lot of planning, if you thrive on the unplanned and unexpected. However, some travelling cyclists find that more detailed planning is either essential for a certain trip, or just all part of the fun. This is a growing resource to help plan your cycle travels, including bike setup information and a useful master touring kit list...

WHEN & WHERE

Trip timeframes will work one of two ways – either you have somewhere you want to ride so are limited by seasons, climates or events, or you have a specific time to ride and have options for routes or places based on the same factors. Block out the most time possible: a weekend, 2 weeks, 1 month, 6 months so you have something to work with. Simple. Adventure cycling is as much about escaping over a weekend as a six month trans-continental ride...

Choose a popular / iconic touring route, follow in someone else’s tracks, or pick somewhere that challenges or interests you and plot your own route. The chances are you’ll have an idea for where you want to ride already. Inspiration is everywhere. Check out the great titles on our travel bookshelf below, and the Pannier Journal for ideas. Picking some sort of theme for your trip is a nice idea, whether a distillery tour in Scotland, a wild ruin bagging tour on the Scottish west-coast, or a WW2 bunker tour in the south of France...

Pannier_Plan_Travel-Bookshelf

Home is Elsewhere - Heinz Stucke  //  Into The Remote Places - Ian Hibell  //  Journey to the Centre of the Earth - Nick Crane  //  Atlas Biker - Nick Crane  //  Bicycles Up Kilimanjaro - Nick Crane  //  Cycling in Europe - Nick Crane  //  In Pursuit of Spring - Edward Thomas  //  Between the Hammer & the Sickle - Simon Vickers  //  Off the Map - Mark Jenkins  //  Travels With Rosinante - Bernard Magnouloux  // Travels With Willie - Willie Wier  //  Spices & Spandex - Tom Perkins  //  Dervla Murphy - Full Tilt  //  Around The World on a Bicycle - Thomas Stevens  //  The Lost Cyclist - David Herlihy  //  Lost Lanes Wales - Jack Thurston  //  The Wilderness Books - John Muir  //  Cycling Home From Siberia - Rob Lilwall  //  Janapar - Tom Allen  //  Moods of Future Joys - Al Humphreys  //  Thunder & Sunshine - Al Humphreys  //  Cycle & Camp - Thomas Holding  //  Cols and Passes of the British Isles - Graham Robb  //  Slow Is Fast - Dan Malloy  // The Hungry Cyclist - Tom Kevill-Davis  //  The Living Mountain - Nan Shepherd  //  The Adventure Cycling Handbook - The Pikes  //  Himalaya By Bike - Laura Stone  //  Every Inch of the Way - Tom Bruce  //  Bikepacking - Laurence McJannet  //  A Siberian Winter's Tale - Helen Lloyd

A typical touring route will be based on riding anywhere between 60-200km a day depending on riding mindset, fitness, bike loads, terrain, daylight hours, and overnight stop-over locations (unless you are travelling totally self-sufficient and happy to wild camp). We plan our days in the saddle travelling at an average of 15km/h which takes stoppages for navigating, mechanicals, photographing stuff, wild swimming, or unexpected caber tossing into account. You never know

Find maps of the region(s) you've chosen to explore at a scale of 1:50,000 or less. Despite the number of useful digital mapping apps, especially that work offline for use on the road, paper maps are still the best for laying-out, highlighting and discovering things at this stage; this is when the real planning starts. Of course, open Google Maps and sites like Dangerous Roads alongside to check/edit certain sections. Work out an idea of a route based on: daily distancesroad/track type; terrain; elevation; potential checkpoints; and overnight stops. Try and plan point-to-point routes ending up somewhere new each day, it really is the best way of discovering places and adds to the sense of adventure.

 

Pannier_Plan_Travel-Maps

Once rough ideas are highlighted on the map, work out whether you'll be riding a circular route (from and back to the same point) or a linear route (from and to different points). The main difference between the two is logistical – arranging access to your start and end points whether by train, ferry, plane, or vehicle. This access, or lack of, will define your final route. From the route and season, you’ll be able to work out what bikes, kit and setups you’ll need. Turns out, 'when', 'where', and 'how' are interdependent; you won’t really be able to go on a winter trip in Lapland on a road bike with an ultralight bikepacking setup…

Always contact travel companies ahead to arrange travelling with your bike.

Plan_Route-Planning-Types

The bike and how it is loaded will go a long way to determining the type of tour, and vice-versa. Each tourer's travel mindset will also dictate their kit list - do you prefer to camp comfortably and cook up a gourmet meal in the wild? Or saw your toothbrush in half to save weight? Experience is key - you quickly learn what you can live without, and what you miss. One thing we've learned is: no matter how much gear you're travelling with, always leave a bit of space somewhere to pick up supplies you might need on the road. And carry a spare strap/bungee to help with this...

Source a suitable bike, the touring equipment you need, and organise how to carry it...

...how do you tour?

HOW: BIKE SETUPS
Plan_Bike-Setup-Elevations_Traditional

The traditional method of loading a bike for adventures. Given the vast amount of space provided by four panniers and additonal bags, this setup lends itself to self-sufficient comfy bike-camping tours and really is the only way to go if you need, or want, to carry a full-on shelter and cooking setup, kitchen sink, plenty of clothing and enough food/water supplies. 

Rear Rack / Rear Panniers Front Rack / Front Panniers / Handlebar Bag / Rack Bag / Cockpit Bags

However, with the bonus of space and flexibility comes weight and agility issues when looking to head further off-the-beaten-track. Rack bolts rattle out, panniers hit stuff, and the weight of the bike makes a bike-hike arduous / impossible. It's like running the 100m in wellies that are 10 sizes too big. Cue the Bikepacking Setup... 

Plan_Bike-Setup-Elevations_Bikepacking

The increasingly popular method of loading a bike for nimbler, further off-the-beaten-track adventures. Bags are fixed directly to the frame, seatpost, saddle and handlebars to reduce the weight and bulkiness, and improve agility. This rackless setup lends itself to bike-camping tours for those travelling off-road, endurance racing where lightweight is the only way to go, and tours where you don't need to carry as much kit, if not camping. The beauty of this setup is that you can load virtually any bike (providing the clearances work out) and it really restricts the stuff you can take with you = max efficiency.

Seat Bag / Handlebar Bag / Frame Bag / Fork Bags / Cockpit Bags

However, the bikepacking setup can take a lot of getting used to and experience to perfect in terms of carrying your optimum comfortable touring kit list. And, whilst this setup improves options for terrains and routes, it can restrict things like taking the odd luxury item, or picking up extra needed supplies on the road. Cue the Cross setup...

Plan_Bike-Setup-Elevations_Cross

The ideal cross between a traditional touring and bikepacking setup, for mixed-terrain bike-camping tours. The beauty of this setup is that it keeps packing efficient, but the larger set of bags allows for an added level of comfort, and ability to pick up supplies on the road.

Front Rack / Front Panniers / Seat Bag / Handlebar Bag / Frame Bag / Cockpit Bags

 

HOW: KIT LISTS
Plan_Kit-List-Essentials_

ESSENTIALS: SHELTER / FOOD & DRINK / CLOTHING / NAVIGATION / TOOLS & SPARES

The amount of equipment you need does not necessarily increase with the length of your travels; you will find you need as much for a weekend away as for a month in the saddle. Pack efficiently and realistically - what is the minimum you need to enjoy the way you want to tour? Packing efficiently does not always mean cutting the amount of equipment, look to upgrade the type of equipment - lighter, more packable and higher performing options. The Pannier Shop outlines some great equipment in each category, which you can now even hire.

Bike Camping – prepared to camp and cook for yourself – really is the ultimate way to travel by bike. For the extra gear you need to carry you have a greater amount of freedom and flexibility on the road, memorable nights under the stars, and less of a drain on budget on lengthy tours. There are three main setups for camping out overnight, scaling down in shelter, comfort, packsize and weight: sleeping in a tent, sleeping sheltered under a tarp with a bivvy bag, and sleeping in a bivvy bag:

Plan_Shelter_
HOW: OUR MASTER KIT LIST
Plan_Kit-List_Bags
BIKE Racks
  Lights
  Cages (side swipe?)
  Bottles / Flasks
  GPS & Light Mounts
TOURING BAGS Panniers
  Rack Bag
  Seat / Saddle Bag
  Handlebar Bag
  Frame Bag
  Fork Bag
  Cockpit Bags
  Dry Bags
  Straps / Bungees
Plan_Kit-List_Shelter-Cookware
SHELTER Tent
  Tarp, Poles, Guys, Pegs
  Bivvy Bag
  Sleeping Mat
  Sleeping Bag
  Bag Liner
  Headtorch 
  Touring Towel
  Bug Spray
  Cleaning Stuff / Toothbrush
  Loo Roll 
  Spare bags for litter
COOKING, FOOD & DRINK Stove
  Fuel
  Lighter / Igniter
  Cook Pots
  Mug
  Spork
  Knife
  Food (on and off the bike)
  Nutella
  Coffee Maker / 3-in-1 sachets / Fruit Tea
  Water Carrier
  Water Filter / Tablets
  Flask
  Hip Flask
  Route Beers
   
  Kindling Pack
  Firewood
  Foil
Plan_Kit-List_Tools-Extras
CLOTHING Riding Shoes
  Riding Socks
 

Padded Shorts / Bib Shorts

 

Riding Overshorts

 

Base Layer / Overshirt / Jersey

 

Waterproof / Wind Jacket

  Gilet
  Gloves
  Buff
  Sunnies
  Helmet?
  Riding Cap?
  Overshoes?
 

Off-The-Bike Gear (you won’t regret it)

 

Down Jacket

 

Warm Hat

 

Warm Socks

 

Other Shoes?

TOOLS & SPARES Multi-tool (HEX Keys, Chain Tool, Screw-Drivers)
  Pump
  Tyre Levers
  Cable Ties
  Tape
  Pliers
  Adjustable Spanner
  Quick Link (check chain speed)
  Spare Tubes & Patch Kit
  Small Lube
  Small Tubeless Sealant
  Universal Derailleur Hanger?
  Spoke Key & Spare Spokes (check size)?
  Spare Brake & Gear Cables?
  Spare Brake Pads?
NAVIGATION GPS
  Maps & Map Case
  Compass
EXTRAS First Aid Kit & Suncream
  Phone (loaded with mapping?)
  Camera
  Sketchbook & Pen
  That book you've been meaning to read
  Speaker 
  Powerpack(s) / Solar Panel?
  Chargers
  Harmonica, to annoy everyone else
HOW: BASIC BIKE CONSIDERATIONS
Plan_Bike-Setup-Elevations_Bike

1. FRAME

Material, Geometry and Size. The frame is the integral part of a bike as it dictates comfort, riding style and adventuring capabilities. Check: clearances for wheel and tyre sizes; disc brake compatibility; geometry; chainstay lengths if loading panniers; the space within main triangle for frame bags; cage mounts on the frame and forks; cable routing method; and axle setup. Importantly, ride the right sized frame - head to your Local Bike Shop (LBS) to get a basic fitting sorted... // #steelisreal

2. CAGE MOUNTS

As many as possible. Look under the downtube for some. As a hack, you can always strap cages to the frame using clamps, or even cable ties if you’re not carrying heavy loads. Always carry cable ties. If using frame bags, go for side-swipe cages...

3. SHIFTING

Road Shifters? MTB Shifters? Bar-End Shifters? Downtube Shifters? Each offers something different but largely depend on the style of bike, bars and the drivetrain; double-check compatibilities with manufacturers.

4 & 5. BAR SETUP UP-FRONT SPACE

Drop Bars? Drop Bars with flare? Flat Bars? Jones Bars? The width and profile affects riding style / comfort and up-front carrying capacity, whether handlebar bag, large rando bag, or bikepacking roll. Change the bar style, the bar width and stem length/angle to gain more space, although riding comfort should be paramount.

6. FORKS

Material / Compatibility. Anything other than steel forks will make for a lighter adventure bike, but less versatile touring bike for loading up. Check for rack and cage mounts, mid-fork.

7. BRAKES

The majority of tourers will go with cantilever brakes - effective and super easy to maintain out on the road. However, with the increased stopping power of disc brakes, it’s hard to look passed this option nowadays, especially for off-road adventuring. Mechanical disc brakes are ideal for adventure cycling (eventhough hydraulic should be bombproof) as cables are a lot less faffy than bleeding brakes on the road. It’s always worth carrying spare pads. Wheelsets need to be disc-compatible, as does your bike frame.

8. HUBS

It’s worth looking at dynamo hubs. These can be used to power USB charges or to directly power lights, or both. Never worry about charging lights again. Disclaimer: you often need to be riding more than 12kmph for these to charge effectively…

9. WHEEL & TYRE SIZE

One of the most confusing but important things to get right as it totally dictates how off-the-beaten track you can ride a touring bike; the bigger and wider the tyre, the more flexible you can be with a route. Anywhere between 33c (mm) and 42c is usually suitable, compared to 25c-28c for paved road riding. That said, you’ll need to work with the rim size (inner width/outer diameter) and frame clearances at the fork crown, chainstays, and brakes as they will affect the max sizes you can go to. Keeping the width of the rim consistent, there are essentially three diameter sizes (measured to their outer diameters), which are then given other names by then applying the typical tyre size on top:

622mm = 29” / 700c
584mm = 27.5” / 650b
559mm = 26”

So, if you're planning to head further off-the-beaten-track, check the clearances on your frame, and then the size of your existing rims to see if everything is compatible for an increase in tyre size. Also, check the treads are right for your riding. There is also the tubeless option – an airtight sealed rim instead that is more resistant to punctures and pinch-flats on a tube, which requires tubeless-compatible components…

10. PEDALS

Totally a matter of individual preference but it’s always good to just travel with one pair of shoes – go for 50/50 pedals (cleats one side, flat the other) for ultimate flexibility, or just ride flat pedals…

11. DRIVETRAIN

Touring fully loaded? Travelling off-the-beaten track? You’ll need to think about a lower gear ratio to maximise your time in the saddle – a poor range will limit you to flatter regions, paved surfaces, and lighter loads. This is a complex area and a matter of individual preference, but essentially look for as low as 24t (teeth) chain rings on the front and a rear cassette with anything up to 11-36t (or more if running a single ring, 1x, on the front). Check compatibility across everything if making changes; you might need different derailleurs to cater for different ranges, for example. Crank length is also a factor for comfort and gearing. Check your chain for wear and if carrying a spare / quick link double check you have the right speed chain (size - width). Have a look at our extended tools & spares list below...

12. FENDERS

Fenders are an individual preference. If you’re mainly paved-road touring in groups, or worried about protecting your bike parts, then they're a good idea. The issues come with frame clearance, riding mixed-terrain and transporting a bike. Not only will you find it tricky to fit fenders when running bigger tyres, but fenders are prone to blocking and they are just one extra thing to rattle / bend / rub. Quickly taking your bike apart or wheels off to chuck in the back of your mate’s hatchback becomes an issue too...

13. RACK MOUNTS

If looking to travel with racks, ensure there are mounts at seatstay and dropout level.

14. BACK-END CLEARANCE

If looking to fit bikepacking seat packs, saddle bags, or pile stuff on the rear rack then double check the seatpost and saddle area clearance…

15. SADDLE

Your best companion on the road. You cannot go wrong with a Brooks saddle, whether the traditional leather or the new Cambium range.

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Before heading off on a trip, learn about the basic mechanics of your bike so you are able to fix minor problems on the road. For servicing and spares before setting off, support your LBS. Check our list of tools and spares on the master kit list…

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