What to pack for a long distance bike ride

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What to pack for a long distance bike ride

James Lambie is cycling 15,000 miles from the UK to his native New Zealand, travelling through more than 20 countries over the next few years.

On his first leg of the trip he travelled across Europe to Turkey, pedalling up mountains, swerving around potholes and enduring sun, wind, rain and snow along the way. After a break for winter, he is pushing on towards central Asia.

James is travelling light, carrying all his gear - including camping equipment - on his bike.

We asked him about the cycling clothing he's come to rely upon during the trip. 

James says: I've been going on shorter cycling, running and hiking adventures for many years and believe that having a good layering system is the best way to be prepared for any conditions.

No doubt everyone will have their own opinion on the "best" clothes to pack when cycling around the globe, but I feel that if you go out into the world with a sense of humour, a ready smile and an open mind, you're almost as prepared as you need to be.

Shimano SH-CT80 cycle shoes


All the performance of mountain biking shoes without looking like mountain biking shoes. Excellent stiffness in the sole, transferring power to the pedals but also perfect for walking around town with no click from the recessed SPD cleats.

Icebreaker merino vest

Since restarting the journey after winter, I've been wearing this item 24/7. The only time it comes off is when I spy a washing machine. It's light and thin and works equally well under all the layers listed below. It's comfortable enough to sleep in and I know when I wake up I can put any of the other layers over top.

 

Macpac merino short-sleeve cycle jersey (discontinued)

I've tried using normal t-shirts but the three rear pockets in this cycle jersey are invaluable for storing food, gloves, wallet and whatever I find in my hand that I might need to access easily later. The one I'm using now is starting to show signs of the abuse I've given it.

I've also tried another non-wool cycle jersey but found it uncomfortable as soon as my temperature increased. The merino stays comfortable in all conditions.

 

Fairydown lightweight fleece 
(discontinued, image shows Energy Lightweight Fleece)

Worn over top of the merino vest and cycle jersey, this light fleece is perfect in most temperatures. I start riding every morning wearing this and it regulates temperature so well that I often don't remove it until I'm halfway up a hill climb or the sun is blazing and I want to work on my tan.

It rolls up fairly small and can easily be stored under a bungee cord on the rear of the bike. I usually put it straight back on when stopping for a snack or lunch break.

 

kora Shola 230 zip base layer top

The kora layer has been so useful. I usually put this on before setting up camp for the night. After a long day of riding being able to put on a different soft and warm layer is a welcome change. I start looking forward to putting it on at least a couple of hours before stopping each day.

I've ridden in it a couple of times when it's been very cold in the mountains of Turkey and have slept in it numerous times as autumn turned towards winter.

It's also kept me extremely comfortable on a day where the temperature was in the twenties but the headwind was so strong that even when pedalling all out on the flat I was kept to a maximum speed of 10 kilometres per hour. An excellent layer for staying warm AND keeping the sun off my skin during an eight hour ride.

 

Macpac synthetic down jacket

Worn over the top of all the above, this lightweight and extremely compact outer layer has been a real winner. It deflects wind, doesn't get too hot and zips right up to my chin to keep the chill out. I've spent nights in my sleeping bag wearing this and it's another item I usually wear for the first hour of riding.

It's bright orange, so great for when the light gets a bit dimmer in the evenings. At it's synthetic down I don't need to be concerned about it getting too wet and have worn it in most conditions.

 

North Face trekking shorts

They have many zip pockets which I've found to be useful for all manner of things. Some of my riding companions have been sporting the latest in Lycra fashion but that doesn't work for me - I want to look fairly normal when I get off the bike and interact with the general public.

I also have a pair of trousers with zip-off legs to turn them into shorts. This will be a better solution further down the line when I reach Iran where I can't show my knees.

 

Finisterre Last Long socks 

Soft, warm and very difficult to make them smell like socks. I have three pairs of these in rotation and have occasionally needed to wear more than one pair at a time. They get washed sometimes...

 

Cotton Buff headwear

I wear a buff underneath my helmet, both for soaking up sweat and keeping the sun and wind away from my ears.

 

Rain gear


There have been a few days of all-day rain and the waterproof gear I'm carrying has been brilliant. I have an Outdoor Research jacket, with a hood large enough to accommodate my cycle helmet, Macpac trousers and Sealskinz socks. This combination keeps me pretty dry and I don't seem to sweat too much inside it all. The socks have been less waterproof than claimed, but they at least keep my feet warmer than if I was wearing normal socks.

 

In the backpack

The only extra items I'm carrying are a long-sleeved shirt for visa application appointments, a spare t-shirt and extra socks and underwear.

Follow James's adventure on his blog A Great Distance.

Are you planning on a long distance bike ride this year? Let us know your plans by emailing community@kora.net