One of the most important parts of packing for a bicycle tour is deciding which clothes to bring and which clothes to leave at home.
Because each and every bicycle tour is different, there is no one way to correctly pack for a bicycle adventure. What clothes you eventually decide to bring with you is going to depend on personal preference and the general location and time of year of your tour.
With that being said, I have provided for you here a list of the clothes I generally bring with me on my bicycle adventures. My hope is that this list will help you in knowing what to pack for your bicycle tour… and what to leave at home.
Here Is A List Of All The Clothes I Bring With My On My Bicycle Tours:
Jersey – I tour with only one jersey and wear it day after day. Mine is a Fox Racing jersey. I bought it years ago and absolutely love it. I like that it is not form fitting like a traditional bike jersey would be… and it allows my body to breathe and stay warm all at the same time. I once toured with a German couple and they had at least four (4) different jerseys that they carried with them, but I think carrying this many different jerseys is a little unnecessary. Two might be a good idea, but any more than that is overdoing it.
Bike Shorts – I did my first two bike tours in regular canvas shorts and had absolutely no problems except that the butt of my shorts turned brown and it looked as though I had crapped myself (This was partially due to the fact that I was wearing white shorts. On my second tour I wore black shorts and there was no brown butt as far as I can remember.) But as far as discomfort goes, there was none to speak of. I’ve since worn more traditional bike shorts of all of my subsequent bike tours and while they are definitely more comfortable for me as a cyclist, I do think that bike shorts can really turn other people off. If you are walking into the grocery store or the bank or post office or any other respectable business and you’re wearing bike shorts, people are going to look at you a little funny – no matter how good you think you may look. Because of this, I usually wear a pair of thin athletic shorts over my bike shorts. This allows me to look a little more normal when both on my bike and when walking around. It is also very comfortable. Wearing athletic shorts over my bike shorts also works to keep me a little warmer in cooler conditions.
I know that some bicyclists really think it’s funny to see another cyclist with shorts on over their bike shorts and I understand where they are coming from. I would never wear shorts when riding my racing bike, but on a long distance tour when you are getting on and off your bike all the time, walking into businesses and interacting with other people, I wear the shorts! I don’t care what any other bicyclists say! I wear the shorts!
You might also consider riding in regular mountain bike shorts. I just purchased a pair of Fox Racing shorts and I’ll likely bring these shorts with me on my next couple bike tours.
Athletic Shorts – As mentioned above, I usually bring a pair of thin athletic shorts to wear over my normal bike shorts. This makes me appear more normal and also gives me a pair of shorts to wear if I want to go on a hike or go swimming.
Shoes– I’ve experimented with a number of different shoes over the years. I wore regular tennis shoes on my first two tours and got along just fine. No problems. Then I switched to Shimano Touring Shoes (SPDs)and found that being able to clip into the bike made a huge difference! The only disadvantage was that walking became more difficult… and much more painful. If you plan to do any sort of walking, you may consider bringing a lightweight pair of sandals or even another pair of walking shoes. I’ve only done one tour in which I brought an extra pair of shoes and I found having another pair of shoes to be terribly useful. Once again, whether you bring an extra pair of shoes or not is going to depend on where you are traveling and what you plan to do once you get out on the road.
Warm Jacket – This is going to be your warmest piece of clothing. I have a Patagonia jacket that I really like, but whatever type of jacket you select is entirely up to you. Whatever jacket you bring with you, make sure that it is warm enough to withstand the conditions that you will be riding in. And also make sure that it is small enough and light enough to fit inside your panniers or trailer.
Sunglasses (in a hard case) – Most cyclists see sunglasses as an essential piece of gear. I don’t wear my glasses as much as I should (mainly because I think I look funny with glasses on), but I won’t hesitate to wear my glasses if it gets real bright, or if I happen to enter a field full of dragonflies or other flying insects. Even though I don’t like wearing sunglasses, I’ve brought them on all of my bicycle tours. They’re nice to have if you do decide you want to wear them.
Jeans – Whether you bring jeans or another type of long pant, bringing a pair of long pants is essential. If you want to have any sort of life off of the bicycle while you are on tour, having long pants is a necessity. Make sure that your pants match the rest of your clothes that you are bringing on your tour. I once saw a bicycle tourist wearing purple pants, a bright green shirt, and red shoes. It looked like a rainbow had vomited all over him! I’m not the most fashionable person ever, but what was this guy thinking?
Rain Jacket – You are likely to encounter some rain (or hail or snow) while on your bicycle tour. When the weather gets scary, you’ll be glad you packed your rain jacket! I have used a number of jackets over the years, but I really like the Showers Pass rain jacket that I have now. It’s lightweight, compacts down to a very small size, and can be worn over my fleece jacket if the weather is really bad!
Rain Pants – I actually hate wearing rain pants when riding my bike because I get all hot and sweaty and the pants make so much noise while I’m riding, but I will wear the pants if the storm gets bad enough. I would recommend having them even if you don’t think you’ll ever wear them. A good pain of rain pants will take up practically no space inside your bags.
T-Shirts– Bring at least two T-Shirts with you. You could probably get away with only one, but I like to bring two because if I am staying at anyone’s home for more than a day, it’s nice to at least have two different outfits. I’m used to living in the same clothes for 30 or more days in a row, but other people may find it strange if you wear the same pants and T-shirt day after day. “Is he wearing the same underwear too?”
Underwear– Speaking of underwear… don’t leave it at home! I once went on a class trip in elementary school and forgot to pack any extra underwear! Boy was that a long week! I usually bring 3 pairs of extra underwear and I change/wash them often. More than anything, you need clean underwear! I’m not going to go into the details here. Just make sure you don’t foget this important piece of clothing!
Arm Warmers – I started using arm warmers when I was riding with my college bike club. We would go on rides very early in the morning and it was always freezing. After nearly freezing to death on a number of these rides, I started to look into finding ways to stay warm while out on the bike. That’s when I bought my first pair of arm warmers and put them to the test. Let me tell you… they made a huge difference! I am now a bit of an arm warmer freak! I’d wear them around with my normal clothes if it were socially acceptable. I love um! They don’t take up hardly any space and I’d highly recommend at least giving them a try to see if they are something that can improve your ride.
Socks– I usually bring 2 pairs of specifically made riding socks. One pair might be the short anklet type and the other will be a longer touring type of sock. I also usually bring at least 1 pair of normal black anklet socks to wear when I am just walking around or spending the evening in someone’s home. This pair of socks can also be used to ride in if so desired. Then, finally, I also recommend bringing at least 1 pair of warmer, thicker socks. These are useful for colder weather and I like to simply wear them at night when I am sleeping. Do your best to always keep your socks clean and dry! The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning and have to stuff your foot into a smelly, wet sock. Yuck!
Long Sleeved Shirt – Your long sleeved shirt should be lightweight and compact, just like all your other clothes. I like to sleep in this shirt so that I’m warm at night, but I may put it on when riding if the weather is especially cold.
Sweat Pants – Sweat pants may not be touring essentials, but for me they are. I like to sleep in these pants and keep warm. I absolutely hate being cold, and if that means I have to bring a pair of sweat pants along with me, then so be it! I have a pair of Puma athletic pants. They aren’t your traditional sweat pants and they look much more respectable when walking around in them. They aren’t nearly as embarrassing as traditional sweat pants.
Gloves – Most cyclists wear gloves when riding, but I absolutely hate them. I’ve never been able to figure out why you need them. Traditional bike gloves don’t really keep your hands warm, I don’t think they provide much extra padding, and I think they can cut off your circulation when riding – thus doing more harm than good. For this reason, I don’t usually wear gloves when I’m riding, but I do usually carry gloves, just in case. I usually wear them when riding in cold temperatures. I have full-fingered gloves and they do provide a small amount of protection from the cold, but not much!