Bike & bags
Genesis Tour De Fer 10
The main thing to focus on with a bike is getting one that's comfortable for you. The Genesis Tour De Fer 10 was great for me (especially as I prefer straight handlebars), although I'd advise changing the rear wheel for a stronger rim and spokes.
It can also be worth checking out this great guide (may cost) to expedition bikes. It's written by Tom Allen, a cyclist who's been travelling the world by bike for over 10 years and knows a thing or two about bikes.
Ortlieb Rear Roller Pro Plus QL2.1
Ortlieb are the most popular pannier brand and with good reason - they're great quality and 100% waterproof. I opted for the larger ones (the "Pro" range) to be able to pack more stuff in; as I said I'm not a light packer! (although I had loads of spare room)
Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Classic handlebar bag (large)
This handlebar bag was spacious enough to store all the gear I needed easy access to such as my phone, camera, spare battery pack, wallet, inhalers, and suncream. It helped to counterbalance the weight of the rear panniers somewhat, and being quick release with a shoulder strap meant I could take my valuables with me if I left the bike somewhere.
Top bar bag
Bontrager Pro Speed Box
Topeak Aero Wedge Saddle Bag (medium)
Camelbak Mule NV Hydration Pack
My rucksack contained a 3 litre water bladder (although I never filled it that full), as well as my jacket for quick access on days when it looked like it might rain (on other days my jacket was packed away in my panniers).
If you prefer cycling without a rucksack (and relying on your water bottles instead of a bladder), then as an alternative this frame-mounted bag looks as if it'd be great for storing your rainjacket with easy access.
DMR V8 Magnesium Pedal
These replaced both the original pedals that came with the bike (which were very basic), and the Meetlocks pedals I initially used but which snapped mid-ride. These pedals however were great, giving large surface area for the feet and good grip. Many people prefer clip-in (cleat) pedals but it's years since I've used those and I didn't have time to re-learn them.
BV Rugged Adjustable Kickstand
Navigation & other electronics
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Garmin Edge 1000
Garmin Edge 520
Innergie PocketCell Plus
The spare battery pack I had proved crucial for powering my GPS when I once forgot to recharge it, and was also really useful for keeping my phone battery topped up during the day too. There's loads of battery packs available; this one has a high capacity (6000mAh giving me about 3 charges of my iPhone), is lightweight, and has a fast output to boot.
USB plug adaptor
Avantree Multi USB Wall Charger
Sony RX100 IV
I love my photography but taking my full SLR kit would have been a bit much. This camera (which took all the landscape photos on this website) is small yet brilliant quality and takes RAW format images too. Don't forget to pack a spare battery and memory card too, as well as any cables or units for charging the batteries.
Safety & security
Mirrycle Mountain Bike Mirror
Abus Granit X-Plus 540
Bike cable lock
Kryptonite Kryptoflex 7 Foot Cable Lock
Bike cable lock
Kryptonite Kryptoflex Seatsaver
BCB CL044 Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag
First aid kit
Plusinno 31 Pieces Mini First Aid Kit
Bushcraft BCB Distress Whistle
Boots Antiseptic Wipes - 48 Wipes
I kept these in my handlebar bag where they were useful for cleaning hands, for example after any fiddling with my bike chain. These ones from Boots are antiseptic as well, useful for cleaning any cuts (eg whenever I bashed my shins against my pedals!)
Buy from: Boots
In addition I packed a few other lightweight medical supplies, including:
- Lemsip tablets
- Antiseptic cream
Clothes & comfort
AeroTech Designs Rain Jacket
This was superb jacket - not only was it a rare large jacket that I could find that would fit me, it was also lightweight yet warm, windproof, & totally waterproof. My only regret was that it was yellow - a colour that I discovered attracts flies!
Buy from: AeroTech Designs
Endura FS260 Pro Aerogel Mitt II
Revolution arm warmers
I only wore these a couple of times but they were useful on days where it wasn't cold enough for my jacket but when I still wanted some more warmth. They were also useful when passing through areas of lots of flies for keeping the critters off my arms.
The North Face Hedgehog Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe
These shoes were another of the items that I was so glad of taking. If you use cleated pedals then your choice of shoes might be a little more limited, however having some that were waterproof was great for light rain showers as there was no need to keep stopping to put my waterproof shoe covers on. The danger of waterproof shoes is that your feet might sweat more but I didn't find this was the case with these ones.
Buy from: Blacks
Waterproof shoe covers
Endura Luminite II overshoe
I took these for times when the rain was a full-on downpour, when I thought that even my waterproof trainers might struggle. I have huge feet (size 13) and these were about the only overshoes I could find that would fit, and even then it was tight.
Unfortunately though these proved useless - both days I wore them my feet ended up sat in a lagoon; I wouldn't have been surprised if any tadpoles came out when I took my shoes off at the end of the day! I never did work out how the water was getting in as they seemed waterproof and were tight (and scratchy) at the back against the calves, however next time I think I'd be better without these ones. An alternative choice could be to opt for waterproof socks instead.
Packmate roll-up space saver bags (medium)
These are just genius! They'll make your clothes take up less room (simply zip them up & roll to squeeze the air out), keep them dry should your panniers leak, and help keep clothes sorted (eg 1 bag for dirties, one for still-damp washed clothes, etc). These made unpacking & repacking my bags every night so much easier.
Buy from: Wilko
Helmet rain cover
BTR Helmet Cover
Chamois Butt'r Original
These were useful for pretending that I was Tom Cruise. And for keeping the sun out of my eyes.
Some cycle tourists manage to get by on just 2 t-shirts and sets of underwear; I found 4 sets much easier:
- Cycle shorts (x1)
- Waterproof hiking trousers (x1)
- Cycle t-shirts (x2 short sleeve, x2 long sleeve)
- Underwear (x4)
- Handwash liquid
I tried washing clothes every evening but found that items didn't always fully dry out overnight (unless the B&B had a heated towel rail). In those cases I was grateful for an extra set of clothes to give the damp stuff an extra 24hrs to dry. I also got a bit lazy some evenings and just couldn't be bothered doing any washing! The handwash liquid was useful though I could have saved weight by using shower gels instead.
In addition I visited a couple of launderette's en-route too for a thorough wash, even though they took a couple of hours out of the day.
One tip I learnt regarding choice of clothes though - always test any of your waterproof gear before you set off! I didn't and it seems my once waterproof hiking trousers (a few years old) had lost their water repelling abilities! Even washing with re-waterproofer stuff during my halfway stopover at home in Leeds didn't seem to have much effect; with more planning I should have bought some new ones.
Bringing evening wear was a luxury that some people may choose not to do, however I didn't want to spend weeks being in my cycling gear the whole time!
- Spare shoes
The jeans were a luxury and I should really have taken lightweight hiking trousers instead, whilst my spare trainers (which I was especially grateful for on the really wet days when my cycling shoes needed drying out) did take up a lot of room. If I do the ride again I'll look for some slim pumps instead.
Other smaller toiletry items I packed as well included:
- Travel shower gel / shampoo
- Hand cream
- Shaver & shaving cream
- Mini deodorant
Hex Key Set 2mm-8mm
Stanley 150mm MaxSteel Adjustable Wrench
Topeak Super Chain Breaker Tool
Spare chain links
9 Speed Bike Chain Split Links (Pack of 3)
Topeak mini dual pump with gauge
Spare inner tube
Topeak Shuttle 1.1 Tyre Levers
Finish Line Dry Teflon Lube
I'd read a tip somewhere that gaffer tape could be useful - and so it proved! I used it to secure my trouser ankles & stop them catching in the chain before I could buy some trouser clips, as well as securing parts of the bike when transporting it. If you wrap some tape around a very narrow tube (eg an old biro tube) then it doesn't need to take up much room and is very light.
These energy gels and powders can add a lot of weight quite quickly; it's best to buy only a few days worth at a time and re-stock from bike shops as you go.
SiS GO powders
SiS ReGO powders
In all honesty I have no idea if these worked or not! You're meant to mix one sachet with water & drink it as soon as you finish exercising for the day. They contain carbohydrates to replenish your body stores, as well as protein to help your muscles recover. I don't know whether they did any good or not, but as I have never cycled so far before I figured my body needed all the help it could get so why not.
Is there anything else I wish I'd taken?
I think I actually did pretty well with taking everything I needed for my LEJOG trip yet not carrying anything majorly excessive. In hindsight though there are a couple of things that I didn't take but wish I had done:
I did quickly buy a pair of these, making do with gaffer tape initially, to stop the bottom of my trousers from catching in the chain.
Spoke nipple tool
Whilst my adjustable wrench did the job, a dedicated tool would have made it much easier and quicker to adjust my wheel spokes.
Cassette removal tool
These aren't particularly light and it was a conscious decision not to take one as I didn't think I'd need one. And whilst I did manage without, that was just due to luck at being able to find a bike shop nearby when my spokes broke (to get at the rear spokes you need to remove the cassette).
There are novel lightweight tools that will remove cassettes too, such as the "Next Best Thing 2" (NBT"), available from Spa cycles.
No not a razor but a lightweight cycling vest. I wanted one of these but couldn't find any that fit my size; manufacturers obviously think only slim people want to stay warm! There were some days where it wasn't cold enough to need my full jacket yet I could still have benefitted from a little warmth or extra wind protection from a gilet.
Full fingered waterproof gloves
Luckily it never got truly cold for me, although there were a couple of days where long fingered gloves (especially waterproof ones!) would have been nice to have.
Join the discussion!
What tools do you use? Have you got any tips to pass on to others? Let us know here!
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