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Cycle Touring Kit for my First Bicycle Tour

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need an expensive bike, luxury panniers, specialist clothing, ultra-lightweight tent, etc... to go bicycle touring.  Yes, these are nice items to have, and they could make life easier at times, but not having them won’t take away any of the enjoyment of bicycle touring.  You will be surprised how easy it is to pick up good quality and reasonably priced items to get you started.  And you can often beg, steal and borrow from friends or family too.  Visit the local boot fair, browse eBay, etc… Or take a look in your attic/loft/garage for those forgotten items.

My first ever tour was a two-day cycle tour in Brittany, France.  200 miles through the French countryside - an opportunity for me to get away for a couple of nights and travel at a slow pace.  It was what I needed - a slower-paced bicycle ride away from a busy life.  My preparation consisted of dusting down my old mountain bike and giving it a good service.  A service before any bicycle tour is always a good idea, especially if you decide to use a bike that has been hiding away for some time.  Get it out and clean it.  Take it out for a ride and work out if anything needs looking at.  Replace anything that is broken or worn and then test ride again.  Get yourself down to the local bike shop if you are unsure.  Don't risk taking the bike out with little or no testing - chances are you will be fine, but do try to plan ahead.  

For my other equipment, I picked up a cheap 2nd hand (barely used) Targus rack from eBay and searched my loft for camping gear I knew was up there somewhere.  I spent less than £50 (GBP) in total.

 

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This is what I took: 

Eurohike Backpacker 2-Man Tent

More like a one-man tent with me in there!  But perfect for the first tour. Pretty light and compact - a good starter tent for spring/summer camping.  Cost me £20 in a sale.  

Unknown brand Sleeping Bag

Found this in the loft.  Not entirely sure where it came from, but it kept me warm.  Although quite bulky to carry, perfect for first-time cycle touring. It did smell a little!

Bike                                                                      

Cube hardtail mountain bike.  Just added a 2nd hand Targus rack to the back to carry my tent and sleeping bag.

Cooking and Eating

Lighter/matches to light disposable BBQ.  Borrowed cutlery and a plate from our picnic bag.  A couple of water bottles on the bike.  I purchased food as I went along, with a few snacks to keep me going along the way.  Unless you are heading to the outback, you will survive eating out or by finding a local supermarket.

Rucksack                                                

I use a fairly large rucksack for work, so decided to store my clothes in here rather than investing in panniers.  A little sweaty on the back, but I survived!

Pillow                                                       

Purchased a Mamut one in a sale. Less than £10 and very comfy. I still use this today.

Clothing

Just used my normal cycling clothes.  Put on a pair of normal shorts over my unsightly lycra when wandering into shops and other places!  

For washing, I took a small towel and laughed as I attempted to dry myself off - it was like I was using a tea towel :-)

Lights                                                  

Took my work commuting lights (be seen) for emergencies.  I didn't plan to cycle at night anyway.

Navigation                                         

Google Maps on my phone, some printouts from Google, and a Michelin paper map.  Stopped a few times to work out where I was, but I got there and arrived home.  Don't stress about navigation - you will always get there somehow.

 

Even with this limited and far-from-perfect equipment, some of my first touring rides were my most enjoyable.  The feeling of arriving in another country for a few days of peaceful riding is amazing and is what I find I’m always looking forward to the next time I go away.  It is the experiences and memories of traveling that stick in your mind, not the latest piece of kit.  

I hope you can see from this brief post that you can go bicycle touring on a small budget.  Have a little think and start hunting around for a few basic items and you will be away before you know it.

You don't need to go on a multi-month expedition to go bicycle touring. A weekend away exploring somewhere new and exciting is just as enjoyable, and is sometimes what is realistic in this busy world we live in. So what are you waiting for?

Get out riding! 

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