Cycling tours are on the increase and while many people choose to enjoy a cycling holiday that is supported with luggage transfers, others like the freedom of carry-you-own-kit journeys. The crucial factor to enjoying a bike tour is what to pack in your panniers, and how to best pack them. Here we bring you a guide to bike pannier packing.
What to pack for a cycling holiday with panniers
Panniers: Choose waterproof if you can. If they are not waterproof, ensure everything inside the pannier is packed in waterproof bags or drybags. The most useful panniers are the ones that fix to a bike rack on the back of your bike and over the wheel. Front panniers are smaller and hang either side of the front wheel. An extra handlebar pannier can be useful but try not to overload your bike with too much gear. Remember that less is best, so long as you have all the essentials. You’ll need:
- Small, lightweight tent or bivi bag.
- Sleeping Bag: A lightweight down or synthetic bag but remember not to scrimp. If you’re cold at night you won’t sleep. Then again, carrying excess luggage is tiring, too.
- Small, lightweight roll mat orThermarestt for sleeping on.
- Stove and fuel canister
- Cooking pot: Look for lightweight and foldable if possible to reduce the space it takes up.
- Take a bowl for eating out of or use the pot if you plan to go for one-pot meals
- A Spork – combination spoon and fork – keeps weight down
- Lighter AND matches in case one doesn’t work . Look for waterproof matches.
- Bike lock
- Extra inner tubes and all the kit you’ll need to sort a puncture, including tyre levers and a pump.
- Battery chargers for your phone or GPS device.
- Phone and/or GPS device. A handlebar attached GPS device will keep you going in the right direction.
- Food: Keep this to a sensible amount. Plan ahead and know where you’ll be stopping and where there will be shops. If you’ll be at a town each night, you might like to ditch the cooking and food and eat out. You could also book B&Bs and hotels to save on tent and sleeping bag weight.
- Leatherman or multi-tool and/or bicycle multi tool.
- Bungee cord. Very useful for all kinds of situations, such as tying on extra kit to your bike or fixing a broken tent.
- Hotel-style toiletry kit. Keep this small and stock up as you cycle from town to town.
- Small bottle of clothes washing liquid.
- Clothes and underwear. Many cycling tourers will wash their cycle clothing each night and wear only one set for the entire holiday. If this is too minimalist/unhygienic for you, back a spare set of cycle clothing. Add an outfit for wearing in the evening when you go out for s meal or while the day’s cycle clothing is drying. If you ride with clipped in bike shoes make sure you remember a lightweight pair of shoes for the times when you’re not on your bike.
- Useful added extras: Head torch for nighttime in the tent, camera, bike lights, solar charger, phone, waterproof bags and cases, wallet, passport.
How to pack bike pannier bags
Keep the heavier kit for the rear panniers. Into these panniers should go tent (separate out the poles and attach them to the top of the pannier rack), sleeping bah, sleeping mat and clothing such as a warmer jacket for evenings, trousers, spare shoes etc. Your cooking items can go into the back panniers, too. As you pack, hold up the bags in each hand to see if they are evenly weighted before attaching to the bike. Into the front panniers, pack items such as smaller clothes, wash bag, cooking pot, plate and utensils. You could add in a couple of heavier items to distribute the weight over the length of the bike. The handlebar bag should be reserved for items that you will use throughout the day, such as camera, phone, maps, wallet etc. In addition, you can attach a saddlebag with essential puncture repair kit and two bottle cages for water bottles. A GPS gadget attached to the handlebars aids navigation. Make sure you go for a few test-rides with your panniers before setting off on your tour. There is a big difference between riding a bike that is pannier-free and one that has all you'll need for a fun cycling holiday.