Best bike touring kit 2021: the essential gear for cycling tours - panniers, small tents, to touring bikes
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There are several exceptional cycling routes to enjoy throughout the British Isles, from the Sea To Sea route across Cumbria and the Pennines, to the Hebridean Way, which takes in the highlights of the Outer Hebrides.
Whether you’re an old hand at long-distance cycling or a relative newcomer, you’ll need to be equipped with the right kit to make your cycling tours safe, comfortable and fun. This will include suitable clothing, a way to carry your belongings such as pannier bags, and, of course, a bike and helmet.
In this article, we review some great pieces of equipment that will stand you in good stead for a bicycle tour. Please bear in mind that this is a roundup of best buys, rather than a complete cycle touring inventory.
You’ll need to carefully compile a full list of gear before your grand départ.
Stylish and accomplished, this helmet from Giro is impressively aerodynamic, and will slice through the air as you charge across country. The design ‘TransformAim’ works to streamline airflow, reducing drag as you ride - great if you’re huffing your way up hill.
It’s small enough to make it good for long-distances, while the in-built Magnetic Vivid shield both adds to the aero-dynamics and protects eyes from bugs, grit, and sunshine. It looks cool, too.
The beautiful Cube Travel is one of the finest touring bikes on the market this year, with a full complement of tour-friendly features including mudguards, a pannier rack to carry your bags, lights and kickstand.
This bike glides along like a dream, and we found the seat and handles comfortable – even when cycling a long way.
Shimano’s low-maintenance 8-speed Alfine hub gear and Gates’ durable belt drive means you won’t be hindered by oily chains, rattling gears, or perpetually having to stop for maintenance breaks. We loved that it required so little upkeep.
All things considered, this is a wonderful touring bike. Any cyclist would be lucky to own it.
For cyclists who simply want to do occasional, relatively short tours, investing in a touring bike can be prohibitively expensive. The better option might be to buy a bike for everyday use which is also suitable for low-intensity touring.
The Raleigh Pioneer Hybrid Bike is an excellent option for the casual touring cyclist, complete with a pannier rack, and providing an upright riding position which our reviewer found comfortable over long periods of use.
This bike offers a whopping 21 gears – ideal for tackling varied terrain, from plateaus to steep inclines – and the wheels are thick enough to tackle rugged surfaces such as towpaths and dirt tracks.
This nifty reversible gilet is designed for safer cycling, day and night, with a high-reflectivity grey material on one side, and high-visibility neon yellow on the other.
We found the Proviz Switch particularly comfortable to cycle in. The fitted design, elasticated waist and sleeveless cut all work together to resist excess movement from the wind, and the pockets on the chest and back are really handy for keeping bits and bobs within reach.
The Switch gilet is machine washable, so it won’t require any special care after you get home from a tour.
While some cyclists prefer to stay at hostels and B’n’Bs while touring, others choose the cheaper and more bracing alternative: camping.
If you’ll be pitching up on your travels, we would highly recommend you take a lightweight tent like the 2.77kg MSR Elixir 2 Backpacking Tent. The Elixir 2 is compact, easy-to-pitch, and surprisingly roomy considering its excellent portability. Our reviewer has found it well suited to all sorts of contexts besides cycling tours, from regular camping trips to music festivals.
Working out how to pitch the Elixir 2 might take a little time at first, as the tent’s semi-geodesic design will likely be unfamiliar to many users. Get to grips with it in the garden or on some nearby grass before you set off cycling.
When you’re cycling a long way, you will probably find it far more comfortable to carry your belongings on a pannier rack, rather than wearing a backpack. This way, the bicycle bears the brunt of the weight.
The Thule Pack N Pedal Tour Rack XT is a premium option among pannier racks, offering clever features such as an attachment system that joins easily to the front or back of the frame, and rubberised grips which prevent the rack from sliding when a load is added.
We found it to be a brilliantly sound and simple solution for mounting our luggage.
The only good way to ensure your bike tyres are at the right pressure during a cycling tour, is to take a pump along for the ride.
This handy little ‘road pump’ from Lifeline can be mounted on the frame of your bike, providing easy access without requiring you to take up precious baggage space. It can be used with both Presta and Schrader valves – so in all likelihood, it’ll fit the valves on your wheels.
While the Lifeline Performance Road Mini Pump certainly does a great job of pumping up tyres, some users may prefer a valve with a pressure gauge fitted, such as the Topeak Pocket Shock DXG XL Pump.
For many touring cyclists, a twinset of pannier bags is the only good solution for carrying luggage on the road.
The Altura Grid pair of rollup pannier bags is a great example, offering two 15L bags that will rest nicely across a single pannier rack.
They’re big enough to provide the storage space for shorter trips (with no camping involved), or to supply some of the storage for a more gear-intensive tour. We found that the rollup design of these smart-looking bags made it easy to use their capacity to the full.