Nothing beats the joy and freedom of riding a bike during the long, languorous days of summer. Packing for a successful bike trip, however, requires advanced planning. All two-wheeled adventures require safety essentials like hydration, a tool kit, protective eyewear, gloves and a helmet, plus comfortable cycling clothing and other items that may be hard to find at your destination.
If you plan to rent a bike, reserve one in advance – lingering Covid-era supply-chain issues have made it increasingly impossible for manufacturers to keep up with demand. For the most comfortable fit and safe ride, communicate with the shop the kind of riding you plan to do and your skill level. Most reputable ones will ask you to send body measurements: height, weight, inseam, arm reach and a thing called your “ape index,” a comparison of your arm-span to your height, which helps calculate how stretched out you will feel on a rental bike.
The better you plan and prepare for your trip, the more you can relax and enjoy the ride. Here’s a list to help you plan for each specific adventure with suggestions on makers of the appropriate gear.
Cycling shell: Daylong rides almost always involve changeable weather. Pack a lightweight wind- and waterproof jacket. 7Mesh’s Copilot is hard to beat.
Packs: Whether you prefer to stash snacks and essentials on the handlebars, behind the seat, or stowed on the top tube in front of the stem, Cedaro has a ready-made pack to fit the size and style of your bike.
Lights: Bontrager’s rechargeable Ion Pro RT Front Bike Light has five modes for enhanced safety both day and night.
Helmet: Almost all helmets sold today offer MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) or similar technology that helps reduce the rotational movement of the head during a crash, which helps protect the brain. Lazer helmets offer MIPS protection and have a five-star rating from Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings.
Long-distance, multiday ride
Padded cycling shorts: Spandex is hard to beat when spending long days in the saddle because it is streamlined, compressing and comfortable. Bibs are even better because they seamlessly mesh with a jersey and relieve pressure at the waistline. Many women’s bibs now have dropper backs so that female riders can easily relieve themselves mid-ride. Most important: the thickness and shape of the chamois. Pearl Izumi has multiple options.
Cycling jersey: With a full zippered front and two or three generous back pockets big enough to stash cellphones, bananas, energy bars or additional layers, a good cycling jersey helps regulate body temperature and keeps important items close. Rapha makes silky-soft long- and short-sleeved versions in high-wicking fabrics.
Panniers: Many multiday cycling trips have sag support – that is, a van that trails you with your luggage. But if you’re on a self-supported journey, you’ll need these packs that attach to racks over the rear, front or both wheels. The German company Ortlieb makes a variety of waterproof pannier styles depending on the duration of the trip and the type of bike you ride.
Anti-chafe cream: Long days in the saddle can yield sores. The gold standard skin lubricant to help prevent chafing is Chamois Butt’r; the 91-percent-allergen-free product washes off both body and shorts with soap and water.
Tool kit: Ride prepared with a multi-tool, spare tube, tire levers, extra chain lube and master link. Build your own tool kit at REI.
Overnight e-bike trip
Sunglasses: Sun and wind combined with the speed of an e-bike make sunglasses more essential than ever. Roka offers lightweight styles from wraparounds to wayfarers that have no-slip nose pads, provide high-quality optics with SPF protection, and are sweat, chemical and fingerprint resistant.
Panniers: Pack your beach gear in Specialized’s Tailwind pannier. The 17L water-resistant pack, compatible with standard racks, is so streamlined that it claims to reduce battery consumption by 6 percent.
Shoes: Flip-flops are not the wisest choice while pedaling a motorized vehicle. Many companies like Shimano make e-bike rated shoes that have a stiffer midsole which act as a lever while pedaling, among other features to make a long day on an e-bike safer and more relaxing.
Mirror: If your e-bike adventure involves a road with cars, invest in a clamp-on rearview mirror like the one from Rad Power Bikes that fits any handlebar with an outside diameter between 21 and 26 mm.
GPS bike computer: Download local Trailforks maps, upload your ride to Strava, monitor your heart rate and allow loved ones to track your ride with the smart, small, intuitive Wahoo Elemnt Bolt.
Hydration: It’s almost impossible to drink too much water on a long, hot summer day in the saddle. Osprey makes both hip- and backpacks designed to maximize the ease and efficiency of hydrating on the fly.
Gloves: Keeping your hands free from sweat, bar friction and dirt, sticks and rocks should you crash, is essential. Giro offers a full line of men’s and women’s protective mountain bike gloves.
Helmet: Whether used to block sun glare, protect the face from incoming detritus, or because it simply looks cool, most mountain bike-specific helmets have attached, adjustable “peaks” or visors. Swedish brand POC’s Kortal Race MIPS helmet has been tested at higher-impact speeds than standard bicycle use.
Stephanie Pearson is a contributing editor at Outside magazine and frequently reviews bikes and cycling accessories for Wired magazine.