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When Two Wheels Meet the Road: How to Plan, Pack and Prepare for a Long Bike Trek

Nothing’s better than strapping on the backpack and helmet for a day-long or week-long trip through the mountains or a state park. But, before you go, here are a few tips you’ll need to prepare, pack, and plan for your adventure.

Decide What You’re Going To Do

Where do you want to go? Plan out a trip before you do anything. Map out areas of interest, how long you expect to be gone, and goals or milestones for the trip.

Tell someone you know and trust where you’ll be and when to expect you back.

Bike Tour Argentina

Dress Appropriately

Pack appropriate clothing for the trip. And, dress appropriately on the day of. Search if you’re taking a bicycle trip, as they often have very good sales on biking gear.

Pack Your Panniers

If you’re touring with panniers, keep your total load to 15 and 45 pounds. Your bike will be the most stable in this weight range, with most of the weight in your front panniers – roughly 60 percent in front and 40 percent in the rear.

Pack A Trailer

If you’re packing a trailer, keep the load between 15 and 45 pounds. Most of the gear you need will fit in the cargo bag that comes with your trailer. And, for the best stability, keep the heaviest gear low and toward the front of the trailer. Test out different weight distributions with your bicycle.

Packing Extras

You should start your trip with extra room in your panniers for any items you decide to pick up along the way. Extra room will also make it easier for you to pack quickly and efficiently.

If you are using a handlebar bag, you should keep the weight down to 5 to 10 pounds.

Do A Test Run

Before you undertake a long trip, test your equipment out. If your bike feels unstable, it’s time to repack your bags.

If you’re traveling in a vehicle, make sure everything fits in the vehicle securely and that you can get to everything you’d need while on the road. If you find that some bags are inaccessible, either move necessary items out of the bag and into a more accessible location, or reconfigure your packing arrangement.

For example, let’s say that you can fit everything you need into the back of your SUV. But, it’s difficult or impossible to access the first aid kit. While you might not necessarily need this on your trip, if you do happen to need it, you won’t want to dig through mountains of bags and suitcases. Put the first aid kit in a more accessible location.

Bike through the Andes

A very long climb to above 4000 m in the Andes Mountains

Equipment Checklist

Having the right equipment with you can make all the difference. Before you leave, make sure you bring these essential bits:

For biking

  • First aid kit
  • Helmet, either ANSI or Snell approved
  • Dedicated touring shoes. You’ll want these for walking as well as riding
  • Bike gloves
  • 1 to 3 pairs of bicycle shorts
  • Wool socks
  • Leg warmers
  • At least 2 short-sleeved shirts
  • A light, long-sleeved shirt that you can layer if you get cold. It will also protect you from the blistering sun.
  • Rain gear, jacket, shoes, and pants
  • Waterproof shoe covers or waterproof shoes

You should also consider bringing:

  • Non-bike shorts that are comfortable and easy on the eyes
  • Chinos or comfortable pants
  • Extra pairs of underwear
  • A pair of sandals or lightweight shoes
  • Wool hat
  • Wool sweater
  • Wool gloves
  • A nice swimsuit

Finally, if you’re going on any trip in a car, bring:

  • Extended first aid kit with Faraday flashlight and radio
  • Toletries
  • Quick-dry towel (microfiber)
  • Pocket knife or multitool
  • Lock and cable
  • 1 gallon water containers
  • Bandanas
  • A nice pair of sunglasses
  • Sewing kit and a few needles
  • Essential oils for insect repellant
  • Sunblock if you’re sensitive to the sun
  • Paracord bracelet
  • Bungie cords to tie things down
  • Non-potable water filter (Berkey or something similar)
  • A digital camera and journal
  • Bear spray and extra cords to hang bags
  • Multitools
  • Tire jack
  • Spare tube
  • Accessory-powered air compressor
  • Blue Loctite
  • Electrical tape
  • Spoke wrench
  • Allen wrenches
  • Screwdriver set
  • Chain tool
  • A file
  • Vice grips or Robogrips
  • Heavy duty zip ties
  • Duct tape
  • Waterproof sleeping bag
  • Personal tent
  • Ground cloth
  • Utensils
  • Camping stove
  • Cooking equipment and utensils

Don’t forget to bring some cash with you, a credit card or two, and something for personal self-defense. You don’t have to carry a firearm, but maybe some mace or pepper spray at the very least. You should also make sure to take our travel insurance before you leave.

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Wayne McLain works in transportation and is a committed bike enthusiast who has been enjoying two-wheeled adventures for many years. He enjoys sharing his experiences online and contributes regularly to a number of niche websites.

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