man standing near shoreCycling

10 Essentials For Long-Distance Cycling Trips

I came across this article that I wrote for a bike insurance website last year when writing the new book, Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggieyesterday. It never appeared on but here it is now…

If you’re planning a long distance cycling trip, it’s important that you keep your packing to an absolute minimum, whilst making sure you’ve included the essentials. Andrew Sykes is currently making his way from Tarifa in Spain to Nordkapp in Norway – here he lets us in on his packing essentials.

1. A chair

Probably not what you were expecting to be first in the list but if you are camping, you will appreciate somewhere comfortable to sit in the evening. You can get incredibly lightweight chairs that pack down into a very small bags. Not cheap but worth every penny of the investment. You’ll be the envy of your fellow tourers.


2. Smartphone

I’m currently heading to the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway, having set off from Tarifa in southern Spain in April. I have yet to be without a 3G/4G signal or WiFi on any of the 100 days since I set off.


3. Paper maps

Your smartphone won’t give you the bigger picture like a good old-fashioned paper map. It not only shows you where you are going, but where you aren’t going: What’s in the next valley? Is there another mountain behind the one you can see? Just how far away from civilisation am I? Paper maps are also great talking points. Spread it out on the ground at a campsite and you’ll have fellow travellers offering their advice within seconds!

4. Waterproof clothing

Someone quite wisely said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. They were right. If it rains and you are cycling, you are going to get wet but it’s important to keep rain off the skin as much as you can. The knock-on effects of evaporation taking heat from your body can, in the extreme, turn a soggy ride a very cold one, even when the temperature is quite mild.


5. Essential spare parts

This probably means inner tubes, cables, brake pads and spokes. Even if you don’t know how to replace them yourself, you will probably be able to find someone who does have the know-how. They might not, however, have the correct parts for your bike


6. A notebook and pen

If you are travelling alone one of the nicest things you can do to fill your time is to write about your experiences. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway to jot down a few thoughts. Don’t fancy writing? Try drawing…

Notepad & Pen

7. Waterproof bags

The type that roll up at the top. They make packing everything into panniers so much easier.

8. Waterproof boxes


Waterproof boxes for your electronic gear and the little bits and pieces that you take with you. It’s amazing just how many cables you need for a phone, small tablet, extra battery and camera. Keep them dry and in an easy-to-locate place!

9. A credit card

Someone asked me just before I set off on my current trip if I took gold sovereigns with me for emergencies(!!!). I’m not James Bond… But a credit card kept hidden away in a different place to your wallet will come into its own if you happen to lose or have stolen all your cash and your debit card.


10. Your beloved bike

Last, but by no means least, a bike that you are comfortable with. It doesn’t have to be a £2,500 hand-made bike or indeed a ‘proper’ touring bike. A good, reliable bike with pannier racks, a set of robust tyres – consider Schwalbe Marathon Plus – and a comfortable saddle. Get it serviced before you set off and, of course, give it a name!

This isn’t an exhaustive list of equipment, just ten things that I’m certainly glad that I didn’t leave at home after having set off on my current 7,500 km cycle from Tarifa in Spain to Nordkapp in Norway. If you’d like to see the full set of equipment I set off with (a few items of which have subsequently been returned back to the UK) you can find it here.
Read more about packing for a long distance ride in this post: A Packing Guide for Cycling in Europe.

Categories: Cycling

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