In 2018 while traveling through Europe, I completed my first two bike tours ever. I had never ridden a bike for several days at a time before, and I had a lot of questions and concerns before I hit the road. One of those concerns was not having everything I “needed” for a bike trip, and not knowing exactly what those things were.
I turned to my friends at BikeTours.com who were organizing the trip, and I also asked my readers for help with this. I got some great advice, picked up a few things at a European sports store (search for a Decathlon if you’re in Europe), and showed up as ready for my tour as I thought I could be.
Along the way, I created a bike tour packing list of everything you could need on a bike tour. It’s still the list I check today, now that I’m an avid cycle tourist! (Want to join me?)
A note about weather: The weather on my two bike trips couldn’t have been more different. Both were in April, but the first one was in Portugal where it was cool and rainy, and the second was in Austria where it was hot and sunny. As a runner and hiker, I always have plenty of athletic and outdoor-ready layers packed in my backpack. Your layers are up to you, but this list should be considered no matter what kind of weather you face on your ride!
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Bike Tour Packing List (Men or Women)
1. Anti-Friction Stick: Look for something like BodyGlide or Chamois Butt’r. Rub this anywhere you fear you might get chafing. Where skin meets clothing seams, skin to skin, put it everywhere if you must. It’s worth it!
2. Padded Bike Shorts: This one was obvious and I’m glad I got some before my trip. I bought two pairs and ended up using the more expensive ones everyday because they fit and felt better. Comfort is everything. In Portugal I wore these over my running leggings, so I had no chafing. In Austria I wore them in between my running skirt layers to reduce chafing. Ladies, you can sport bike shorts and it’s not weird, the link here is to a women’s specific bike short. Dudes, it’s up to you, but if you feel funny wearing bike shorts, try the padded underwear style bike shorts and you can put other shorts over them.
3. Gel Bike Seat Cover: If you are concerned about comfort and know you won’t be getting a nice padded saddle, get a slip-on padded bike seat cover before you go. I used one of these on my rather hard seat in Portugal and it made all the difference for my comfort. This one is water and dust resistant with a draw string to fit any regular seat.
4. Baseball Hat: Yes, you’ll be wearing a helmet (I hope), but think about sun cover (and helmet hair) during your stops. Keep a baseball hat in your pannier to switch with your helmet throughout the day.
5. Bluetooth Headphones: For the times that you want to tune out and jam to your favorite beats. You can’t be dealing with cords while you’re riding a bike, so make sure you have wireless bluetooth headphones. These ones are waterproof, have a microphone to take phone calls, and have a volume button. I’ve been using them for over a year and am very happy with them. Be smart about headphones and biking: don’t wear them on busy roads with car traffic or anywhere you need to be alert to sounds. These should be for calm rides or bike paths only.
6. Portable USB Charger: If you’re tracking your ride, taking photos, listening to music, etc., you’ll be using your electronic devices without a chance to charge them during the days. I use an Anker and carry it with me everywhere, it lasts for days without needing a charge and will charge devices up to 7 times.
7. Sunscreen & Lip Protection: 50 SPF at least! Make sure you have a cream that won’t get taken from your carry on bag (no aerosol), and also make sure you bring sunscreen lip balm.
8. GoPro & Pole: Because on a bike, the iPhone selfie doesn’t cut it. I carried my GoPro Hero 6 and I use this telescopic pole with it. This way I could capture the entire scene (I was traveling alone so I needed to take photos of myself!). Watch this to see how that worked out.
9. Biking Gloves: Biking gloves have extra padding around the heel of the hand which rests hard on your handle bars. If you can get a pair of biking gloves, do it. I use Pearl Izumi full finger gloves. I also generally travel with batting gloves by Under Armour, and I use them for any sport activity that requires use of my hands. Kayaking, biking, rafting, zip lines or via ferrata, ropes courses… I used them constantly on my first bike trips and even without the padding they helped.
10. Biking Jersey: I really understand the function of the bike jersey now. It is super breathable, has a high collar in the front, and non-zippered pockets on the lower back. The high collar, in my opinion, is to stop bugs from splatting against your skin (the bugs can be annoying). The pockets obviously are a convenient place to put cell phones, sunglasses, whatever you need to hold closely, because it is very uncomfortable to ride with these things in front with constant cycling motion.
11. Sport Sunglasses: It is essential that you have lenses that are big enough to protect your eyes from the constant wind, dust, and sun. Also, think grip. You don’t want to be pushing your glasses up your nose every half mile. My new favorite cycling sunnies are the Rail from Tifosi, which tick all the boxes for me and protect my contacts incredibly well. I opted for the crystal blue lenses, which are dark enough for sun and somehow light enough for shade, they are winners for me. Use whatever lenses work for you. It’s very important that you get this part right.
12. Compression Socks: Wear them every night after intense activity and they will help your legs recover faster. I love bringing mine with me on multi-day hikes and I used them every evening on my bike tours. I wasn’t sore at all. I have CEP sock and they come in sizes for both men and women.
13. Sunglass Holders/Retainers: Use these because you can’t put your sunnies on your head while you’re wearing a helmet. This also prevents you from setting them down and leaving them behind. Keep them close!
Extra Packing Tips for Ladies on a Bike Trip
14. Sport Skirt: As I mentioned in #2 above, I used my running skirt with the padded bike shorts in the hot Austrian sun. I did this because it ended up being more comfortable with less chafing to have that extra layer of clothing in between my skin and my padded bike shorts. To each her own! I loved wearing a skirt on my bike ride, and it also helped hide the unsightly padding on the shorts. Or, skip the double layer and try a bike skirt.
15. Seamless Sport Thongs: Apparently you aren’t supposed to wear underwear with your bike shorts, but I just can’t get on board with that. With seamless thongs made for activity, it ain’t no thang.
16. Cotton Dress: I loved having my Prana dress to change into after a long day on the bike. Any cotton dress would do, but Prana is nice because they are designed for athletes and have built-in bras. In cooler weather, wear it with leggings and a sweater.
17. High Impact Sports Bra: An absolute must for a bigger bust. Just thinking about riding all day on dirt, rocks, and sometimes cobblestone (!!!) makes me shudder. Best high support sports bra I’ve ever tried is my Uplift by Brooks Running.
Where to Pack This Stuff on Your Bike
You should have at least one pannier (back bag) on your bike to carry gear, and possibly a front bag too. These are big enough for holding layers, chargers, sunscreen, and everything else mentioned here. The rest of your luggage, assuming you have more, will need to get transferred for you to your next hotel, or if you’re just doing out and back rides, then you won’t need to worry about it.
I traveled with BikeTours.com for my two trips, and all of my extra luggage was transported for me to my next hotel every single day as part of the “tour” service, even when I was on a self-guided trip. It was brilliant! I only carried with me what I needed during my rides, and the rest would await me at my hotel each afternoon/evening.
Have you done a multi-day bike trip before? Would you add anything to this list? Please share in the comments!
This post is part of a sponsored collaboration with BikeTours.com. As always, all opinions are my own.