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Bicycle Day Touring: What to Take

It's Saturday morning, the sun is up, and you've dug your bike out of the garage for the first time in months. Do you know what to pack before you pedal? We've put together a checklist of items, below. Be sure to customize it according to the season, the weather, the geography, and your own personal needs. After a couple of trips, you'll figure out which "extras" can be left at home and which can't.

Just print out this list and check items off as you pack them. If you want a more specialized list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your own computer and add your individual essentials.

Essentials

  • Well-maintained, road-tested bike (make sure to check your tire pressure)
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Map of your route
  • Plenty of water (at least 20 ounces for every hour you'll ride, depending on how much you sweat)
  • Bike lock (if you'll be off your bike walking or sightseeing)
  • Tire pump (one that attaches to the bike frame)
  • Handlebar-mounted bell (to let pedestrians, cars, and other cyclists know you're coming)
  • Underseat bag, handlebar bag, or fanny pack
  • Basic first-aid kit (ibuprofen, bandages, Ace bandages, Neosporin or other antibiotic ointment, Benadryl or other antihistamine)
  • Cell phone
  • GPS
  • Tool kit (see below)

Tool Kit

  • Patch kit (to fix a flat tire)
  • Spare tube
  • Tire levers (to separate tire from rim safely when fixing a flat)
  • Multipurpose bike-repair tool (including Allen wrenches, Phillips screwdriver, pedal wrench, etc.)
  • All-purpose lube
  • Rag for cleanup

Clothing and Outerwear

  • Lightweight, brightly colored shirt or pocketed jersey
  • Breathable, lightweight jacket
  • Cycling shorts (padded)
  • Cycling gloves (to absorb shock, improve your grip, and prevent blisters)
  • Lightweight, moisture-wicking socks
  • Rain gear

Food

  • Energy bars
  • Bagels

Extras

  • Cycling shoes (their hard soles prevent the arch problems that riding in regular athletic shoes can cause)
  • Seat pad
  • Handlebar-mounted cycling computer (to gauge time, distance, and speed)
  • Hydration system, or "water bladder" (a tube goes from the water pouch straight to your mouth
  • Headlight and taillight (if there's a chance you'll be out after dark)
  • Backpack (with padded back panel and shoulder straps)
  • Panniers (for larger loads)
  • Change of clothes
  • Money

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Bicycle Safety Network. "Bicycle Helmet Effectiveness"; "Bicycle Helmet Statistics." 1995.

Mayhew, Bill and Teyler, Tim. Bike to Work, International Commuter Cyclists. "Practical Hints, Equipment, Safety Tips, Maintenance Tips."

Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? April 2010.

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