Gearing up for a self-supported bicycle tour doesn’t have to cost a lot money. If you are like most people, you already own a number of the items you need to conduct a multi-day bicycle tour of almost any type. And those items that you don’t already possess can be purchased inexpensively if you know where to look for.
In this article I will be sharing with you an example packing list that you can use to equip yourself for your first bicycle tour for less than $2,000 USD.
I’ll also share with you a number of different strategies you can use to reduce the cost of your bicycle touring equipment even more (allowing you to equip yourself, in some instances, for as little as $500 USD or less).
Before we begin, you should know that the basic bicycle touring gear consists of:
- A bicycle
- Some way of carrying your belongings (whether it be in a trailer or a set of panniers)
- Camping equipment (such as a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat.)
- Bicycle tools (such as a multi-tool, spare tube, patch kit, etc.)
- Clothing (i.e. shorts, shirt, shoes, helmet, etc.)
- Food and water
- And a number of additional miscellaneous items.
For the purposes of this article, I have selected some of the more inexpensive bicycle touring products you can use to gear up for a traditional self-supported bicycle tour. I picked products that are of high-quality, but also have a low to moderate price tag. In addition, I have selected gear that goes well together and looks good both on and off the bike.
While the products featured in this article are certainly not the only bicycle touring products available to you (there are thousands of different ways you could equip yourself for a bicycle tour), the items featured here give you a good baseline as for what to look for in a bicycle touring gear checklist.
Each product listed contains a link to a page on the Internet where that item can be purchased. The prices listed here were the prices at the time of this article’s publication and prices are sure to vary.
After looking through the sample bike tour packing list below, be sure to read my comments at the end of this article to learn how you can reduce the cost of your equipment even further!
Fuji Touring Bicycle
The Fuji Touring bicycle is one of several inexpensive beginner touring bikes. The rear rack and pedals will probably need to be replaced pretty quickly, but the frame and basic components should last for several years. Read my full review of this bicycle right here.
$889.00 USD – LEARN MORE HERE
Most touring bicycles don’t comes with pedals of any kind. If they do come with pedals, you will usually want to replace them with something better, like these SPD pedals which allow you to clip your shoes to your bicycle and pedal with greater power and control.
$34.64 USD – BUY HERE
Voyager Low Rider Front Rack
The Fuji Touring bike comes with a rear rack, so you only need to purchase a front rack, like this inexpensive Voyager Low Rider Front Rack, and you’ll be all set to carry four bicycle touring panniers on your bicycle.
$19.30 USD – BUY HERE
Front & Rear Fenders
Fenders protect you, your bicycle and your gear from rain, mud and other road debris. While fenders are not 100% necessary (especially if you don’t mind getting wet), they are nice to have on any proper touring bicycle. Fenders are almost always sold in sets with both the front and rear fenders included. These Planet Bike hybrid/touring fenders are the perfect size for pairing with the Fuji Touring bicycle’s 700c tires/wheels.
$44.99 USD – BUY HERE
Water Bottle Cages
The Fuji Touring bicycle is equipped with mounts for two water bottle cages, but doesn’t come with the cages themselves. So you’ll need to buy two cages for your new bicycle.
$5.70 USD (This is the price for 2 cages) – BUY HERE
You can spend a lot of money on fancy water bottles, but you don’t really need anything special. Use white or clear water bottles (rather than black or dark colored bottles) in order to keep the temperature of your water down when cycling in hot weather.
$9.98 USD (This is the price for 2 bottles) – BUY HERE
Axiom Champlain Deluxe Rear Panniers
While these Axiom panniers are not entirely waterproof (like some of the higher-priced bicycle touring panniers on the market), they are water-resistant and come equipped with two rain covers that you can slip over the exterior of the bags when it rains to protect your gear inside.
$118.77 USD – BUY HERE
Axiom Lasalle Deluxe Front Panniers
A fully-loaded bicycle tourist will need to purchase two larger panniers to carry on the rear rack of his or her bicycle and two smaller panniers to carry on the front rack. Most panniers are sold in sets of twos, so you’ll need one pair of panniers for the back and one pair of panniers for the front of your bike.
$111.78 USD – BUY HERE
OnGuard Doberman Key Cable Lock
There are a number of different bike locks to choose from. While this lock might not keep your bicycle safe in New York City (or similar big cities around the world), it’s light enough to carry in your panniers without weighing you down and strong enough to keep most would-be thieves from stealing your bike.
$24.95 USD – BUY HERE
Topeak Mini MasterBlaster Bike Pump
Any small bike pump will probably do, but having a pump that you can depend on is important. You’re sure to get a flat tire at some point in your journey, so be sure you have a pump that you can rely on… like this Topeak Mini MasterBlaster bike pump.
$21.80 USD – BUY HERE
Mini Bicycle Tool
You want to have the smallest, lightest multi-tool you can find that also has all the tools on it you will need to repair and/or maintain your bicycle on the road. There’s no point in carrying a heavy multi-tool that comes equipped with a bunch of tools you are never going to use.
$13.81 USD – BUY HERE
You should always be carrying a tube patch kit on your bicycle tours. If you get a flat, you need to be able to remove the tire from the wheel’s rim and you should possess the skills to patch a tube if necessary.
$5.58 USD – BUY HERE
I recommend you carry at least one spare tube on your bicycle tours. If you are traveling in an especially remote part of the world, where bike shops are few or far between, you might want to carry two spare tubes. Make sure you get the right size tube for your bicycle.
$3.98 USD – BUY HERE
MSR Hubba 1-Man Tent
There are a number of cheaper tents available, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a lighter or more compact tent than the MSR Hubba. This 1-person tent is the perfect size for bicycle touring and will keep you safe and dry during your cycle touring adventures. Read my review of the MSR Hubba tent right here.
$199.99 USD – BUY HERE
Big Agnes Air Core Sleeping Pad
If you plan to camp, your sleeping mat plays a major role in how well you sleep at night. Foam sleeping mats are cheaper than the inflatable kind, but they are larger, don’t last as long, and they aren’t nearly as comfortable.
$56.95 USD – BUY HERE
Marmot Mavericks Sleeping Bag
Most bicycle tourists travel during the warm summer months. This means that carrying only a lightweight summer sleeping bag is necessary. Get the smallest, lightest sleeping bag you can find. Make sure it compresses down to a very small size, but is also warm enough to keep you comfortable at night.
$99.00 USD – BUY HERE
Shimano SH-MT33G Shoes
If you want to dramatically increase your power and performance on the bicycle, consider investing in a pair of SPD shoes. This type of shoe has a small metal clip on the bottom of it that you can use to clip into the pedal of you bike (kind of like a binding on a pair of skis). SPD mountain bike shoes like this one are well-suited for bicycle touring as well.
$59.99 USD – BUY HERE
Giro Hex Helmet
You’re going to need a helmet. Almost any old helmet will do. Search online for good deals or try your local bike shop in the winter/off-season to see if they have any massive helmet discounts.
$44.95 USD – BUY HERE
Fox HC Undertow Jersey
The clothing you wear on a bicycle tour is largely a personal choice. You can choose to dress up in Tour de France style lycra, or you can wear something more casual, like this Fox Racing mountain bike jersey.
$27.95 USD – BUY HERE
Fox Head Men’s Demo Fit Cargo Short
The shorts you wear are extremely important on a bicycle tour because they are one of three parts of your body that come into contact with your bicycle. Get the wrong shorts and you will have an uncomfortable bicycle touring experience. But get the right shorts and you’ll never have to worry about your bottom getting sore. These Fox Racing shorts are made for mountain biking and come with a removable padded interior.
$99.95 USD – BUY HERE
So, there you have it! That’s a very basic sample bicycle touring equipment list.
If you were to purchase every item on this list, you could equip yourself with a nice bicycle touring setup for only $1,893 USD. But as you will see in just a moment, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your expenses even more.
Save Money On Your Touring Bicycle
For example, you may want to start out by using a bicycle that you already own, instead of purchasing a dedicated touring bike right away. While I don’t recommend you ride a mountain bike or a road bike on most extended bicycle tours, those types of bikes can work on shorter bicycle touring adventures.
When I conducted my first bicycle tour at the age of 17, I didn’t have any money to buy a touring bicycle, so I used my father’s old mountain bike instead. There were some definite downsides to touring on a mountain bike (i.e. sore hands and neck, it was harder to pedal, it wasn’t equipped to carry the gear I was hauling, etc), but using that old bike did save me a lot of money. And after two years of bicycle touring I decided that I wanted to make bike travel a regular part of my life, so it was then that I finally bought a proper touring bicycle.
Using a touring bicycle (instead of a road or mountain bicycle) on a long-distance bike tour might not seem that important, but it really does make a major difference in the overall ease and enjoyment of your bicycle tours. But as I said before, if you are just starting out and want to do some short bike tours near your home, it’s perfectly okay to start out with whatever bicycle you have on hand and then upgrade to a proper touring bicycle if you become more dedicated to bicycle touring.
For additional tips on how to save massive amounts of money when purchasing a new or used touring bicycle, see my book: The Essential Guide To Touring Bicycles.
Save Money On Your Shoes & Pedals
Another thing you can do to reduce your start-up costs is to ride your bike in a pair of regular tennis shoes, instead of using the SPD mountain bike shoes and pedals I recommend in this article.
While the SPD pedals and shoes I recommend do indeed make a dramatic difference in the power, efficiency and control of your bicycle, they are not 100% necessary.
Like with the bicycle you choose to ride, try conducting a bicycle tour in regular tennis shoes when you start out… and as you become more serious, consider upgrading to a pair of SPD shoes and pedals.
Save Money On Your Panniers
Bicycle touring panniers are not exactly cheap. The Axiom panniers I featured in this article are the least expensive panniers I would recommend. There are certainly not the cheapest bicycle panniers available, but anything cheaper than this is usually a piece of junk.
Top of the line panniers can cost as much as $500 USD, so consider the $100 – $120 panniers featured here a real bargain!
Like many of the items in this article, you can always start your bicycle touring endeavors with a less expensive set of panniers and then upgrade to a higher-quality set at a later point in time.
Another way to save money on the cost of racks and panniers is to carry such a light load that you only need to use two rear panniers, instead of the traditional four panniers that are carried on the front and rear racks of a touring bicycle. Using only two panniers will cut your rack/pannier costs in half, but it also means that you are going to have to be careful about what you choose to carry on your bike tour. Pack light!
Save Money On Your Bike Tools & Accessories
If you ride a bicycle at all, you’ve probably already got a pump, lock, patch kit and multi-tool. You don’t need to go out and buy all new items just because you’re going on a bike tour. Use what you’ve got and, if necessary, upgrade to higher-quality items at a later point in time.
Save Money On Camping Equipment
Just because you’re planning a bicycle tour doesn’t mean you have to camp. While many self-supported bicycle tourists choose to camp (because it is less expensive than staying in a hostel/hostel and because it gives you the freedom to sleep almost anywhere), you might choose to opt out of camping entirely… and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Opting out of camping will save you a significant amount of upfront costs and it will greatly reduce the weight of the gear you have to carry on your bicycle, but it will probably cost you more in the long run because the cost of staying in hotels, hostels, apartments, etc is so much more expensive than camping.
While there are hundreds of camping products available to you, I recommend you avoid the super cheap camping gear you find at Walmart and similar low-priced stores. These low-priced camping items are typically quite large and heavy… and therefore difficult to carry on a bicycle of any kind.
On the other hand, you can really go crazy with camping equipment if you want to. Camping equipment ranges from very cheap to very expensive. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but I recommend you get the best, smallest, and lightest camping equipment you can afford.
Just remember this: Cheap camping gear is usually large, heavy and easier to maintain. Expensive camping gear, however, is small, lightweight, and requires more maintenance to keep it in good working condition.
If you can’t afford the most expensive camping equipment, then opt for something in the middle, but avoid the super cheap stuff in most instances.
Save Money On Bicycle Touring Clothes
Another great thing about bicycle touring (versus so many other sports and activities that exist) is that you can choose to dress however you please. If you want to dress up in skin-tight racing Lycra, you can do that. If you want to wear looser mountain bike clothing, that’s perfectly fine. And if you just want to wear a T-shirt and a regular regular pair of shorts, that’s okay as well.
On my first several bicycle shorts I just wore a pair of regular shorts and a T-Shirt. Even now, after 13+ years of bicycle touring, I still only wear regular shorts and a lightweight, yet loose fitting bicycle jersey.
If you want to save money on clothing, just wear the clothes you currently ride in. If the clothes you have now work well for you, there’s a good chance they will work well for you once you get out there on your first bike tour.
If you spend any money on clothing at all, spend it on a good pair of shorts. Because your bike shorts come into contact with your saddle, they play a major role in how comfortable you (and your butt/crotch) will be once you hit the road on your bicycle tour.
Other Notes About Packing & Saving Money
It should be noted that in addition to the items listed above in this sample bike touring equipment list, there are a number of additional items I didn’t include here. Things like:
- A camera and charger
- Cell phone and charger
- Socks and underwear
- Maps & other paperwork
- Journal & pen/pencil
- Rain clothes
- Off the bike clothing (such as jeans, T-shirt, etc.)
A fully-detailed packing list can be found inside my book, The Bicycle Traveler’s Blueprint.
I didn’t include these additional items in the list above because these are things that you likely already own and/or these additional items will vary greatly from person to person.
You should remember though that the cost of these additional items will add up and increase the overall total cost of your bicycle tour gear.
With a little research, you can find high-quality, yet low-priced bicycle touring equipment that will not only make you look good, but will successfully deliver you to your final destination.
Combine the money-savings tips in this article and you could be ready to go on your first bicycle tour for less than $500 USD.
If you have questions about any of the items listed in this article or about how you might be able to affordably equip yourself for a bicycle tour of any kind, don’t be afraid to leave a comment below. I’m happy to help you out in any way that I can and I will respond to all comments at my earliest convenience.
Thanks for reading… and I hope to see you out on the road on your first bicycle touring adventure very, very soon!