Useless Gear: Coming Home With What You Really Need

By Darren Alff on - Download my FREE bike tour starter guide!

How you start a trip and how you finish are two completely different things.

At the beginning of a long distance bike tour, you have the urge to pack as much on your bike as you possibly can. But as time goes by and the miles/kilometers become more difficult, you quickly realize that some items you are using on almost a daily basis and others are only weighing you down.

The photo below shows every single item I carried with me to the finish of my recent 9-month bike tour through Europe (excluding my bicycle and tent). If you followed me from the beginning of that tour, you will have seen all the items I had with me at the start and read about how I mailed most of my snow gear home after Spring finally reared its head in early April (while I was in Austria).

The items shown below are noteworthy due to the fact that I carried them for an entire 9-months and therefore found them an essential part of my travels through Europe. Hopefully, by sharing this list of clothing, technology and gear with you, you will be better equipped to pack for your own bicycle touring adventure…. and most importantly, know which items to leave at home.


The following is a list of items I used until the very end of my bike tour:

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  1. Jim

    November 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I can even imagine touring without a handlebar bag, but it looks like you managed without one…but where did you keep all your valuables? And what did you use the duffel bag for? Do u pack the Lone Peak pannier on top of the rear rack? And did u have any room to spare in those Ortliebs or were u pretty much max capacity?

    I prefer sandals or Crocs, over the tennis shoes but that’s just me. But I understand the need for a 2nd pair of footwear. I use Diadora SPD cleated cycling shoes and the cleat is not fully recessed, thus they aren’t ideal for extensive walking off the bike. They can scrape floors and walking on gravel is annoying.

    Anyone have any recommendations for a SPD-type cycling shoe that is ideal for touring? Looking for something that has a fully recessed cleat, comfy for walking, and has velcro/straps (preferably) instead of laces?

  2. Jim

    November 14, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Oops…I meant to say: “I CANNOT even imagine touring without a handlebar bag”

  3. Peter Hubbard

    November 20, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Darren just wrote a post a bit ripping off your style
    hope you don´t mind!!

    I am carrying a waist pack that I used to use for hill running. Its ace as I just step off the bike and I know all my valuables are on my person. and when ever I need a camera, wallet, ipod, spoon, pen, gloves etc they are all just there.

    Jim, have you tried the SPD sandals?

  4. Jim

    November 20, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Never tried SPD sandals, but they look useful for summer touring. The only issue I have with them is just that…they’re limited for summer use, and in some places I’ve toured in can get cold or rainy anytime.

  5. Michael English

    February 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Ant of you ever try using a solar battery foil recharger,it saves on batteries and some of them can even charge a cell phone i-pod ect.

  6. Andreas

    April 26, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Hi. I’ve never gone bicycle touring before but i like to read your blog as i prepare myself for future adventures. I’m planning for my first trip this summer, a lightweight trip that will only be for a weekend just to get me going. I tried to find some information on tents through your site but couldn’t find anything. What type of lightweight single person tent would you recommend? I assume a little bivouac would do the trick but i’m wondering what you might recommend. I plan to travel light since i don’t have a heavy duty bike and i don’t have that much gear yet.
    Thank you for your site.

  7. Harry

    July 2, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Here in the midwest we have humid summers that cause you to sweat alot. I can’t imagine only one pair of riding shorts. How do you do it? Do you wash them out every day or just stink a little?

  8. Bicycle Touring Pro

    July 3, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Harry, I’ve ridden across the US 6 times, so I understand the humidity you are talking about. The answer, however, is yes, I wash my clothes as often as I can. I’ve never brought more than 1 pair of riding shorts on any of my trips… and never had any problems with that. I think 2 pairs of shorts would be overkill – for me at least. There’s nothing wrong with bringing 2 pairs if it will make you happy.

  9. Graeme

    July 25, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    Just a bit of all in one tech advise.

    I use a windows mobile smart phone mounted on my bars with Garmin installed. It works identical to the standalone Garmin GPS devices. The GPS chip in the phone works directly with the satellites meaning no cell phone roaming fees.

    I also use the phone for playing mp3s. For headphones, I use these Nokia behind the neck bluetooth headphones:

    They’re a bit pricey but I think they’re well worth it. No wires, good sound, can use the phone (though wind noise is an issue), listen to Garmin instructions and the controls are easy to use while riding. They charge with any Nokia phone charging system and last for at least 15 hours (I’ve never worn them down). The charging inlet is positioned such that you can charge them while you’re wearing them and a helmet.

    I’ve used them daily for 2 years now during commuting and all day at work. They take extreme temperatures no problem though I’ve always avoided getting them drenched. I like them so much that I bought a spare pair in case they’re discontinued when the first pair finally dies.

  10. Brim Stone

    August 20, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Well Darren it looks like you’ve made some good, expirience based gear choices. You packed plenty of the one essential: a great sense of adventure. I’ll add:

    -Please, PA-LEASE, any of you going to Europe have at least one pair of non-denim trousers and one matching collared shirt. If you don’t do it for yourself then do it for your country. Chicks, pack a knee length skirt. These items are available in packable lightweight wrinkle resistant fabric. If you can squeeze them in a pair of laceup leather casual-dressy shoes will carry you a long way in Europe (NPI). Folks do check you out there and tend to judge harshly by appearances.

    -Highly recommend Merino wool t-shirts. They look nicer becasue they drape better, are wearable in a wide range of temps, dry faster than cotton (not quite as fast as synthetic). Best of all you can wear them for WEEKS without funk. Ditto for socks.

    -Undies. Some like Merino. Many, many love Exofficio Give-n-Go. Lightweight, quick drying, highly wicking, soft, highly funk resistant. Available in three styles: boxer (Plaid Darrel? Really?), boxer-breif and my personal favorite whitie-tities. Well grey, actually. Hey it’s Europe. Go with it. Oh and this may be your only chance to sport a Speedo so go for it. Sense of adventure, remember? Chicks- time to lose that bra/swim top. You know you want to.

    -Power straps. Nearly as efficient as cleats, less complicated so less breakage, wearable with all types of footwear. Safer, quicker in the city.

    -France requires cyclists to wear a reflective vest outside the city nowadays. May be a growing trend in other places. Probably a good idea anyway, even during the day. ‘Cuz for every beautiful sunny Balkan day there is a a day of Austrian mountain fog thick as pea soup.

    -Helmet mirror will make you look goofy and save your life. Take-A-Look.

    -Keep your passport on your person under your clothes all the time. Or locked in a hotel safe and have a copy of it on your person. Have a copy with your stuff.


    -Whadya use for a head light?
    -Not even one spare spoke? Or “Spokefix”?
    -Helmet? Looks like you’re sporting a Giro Hex in some of your photos. Excellent choice.
    -Only one spare tube? And doesn’t that BF use an odd size tire?

    Graeme, whadya do with your phone/GPS in the rain? If you go this route consider the watertite Garminphone. Again, NPI.

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