Expert tips on making sure you’re only packing essentials (kitchen sink not required).
Don’t get deflated
Punctures can be time consuming, costly and spirit-sapping. For tubeless tyres pack a repair kit. If you run tubes, DIY adventure guru Austin Vince recommends taking Michelin’s Ultra Heavy Duty tubes. “On our Mondo Enduro trip we left with standard inner tubes and sustained 77 punctures. Fast-forward to Mondo Sahara, where we had the UHD tubes and between seven of us we had zero punctures.”
Break out the bungees
Even travelling light, carrying the kit to make long-distance biking easy can be a challenge. Expensive luggage is one solution but even then “bungees are your friends” according to tour leader Steve Hotson. “Take spares, just in case something breaks or you decide to buy a painting.” Austin Vince has a cheaper and potentially even more versatile option: string. Cable ties should be considered an essential, too.
Create some leverage
“Old adventure lags used to weld a tyre lever onto the crappy 24mm ring spanner that came in the bike’s toolkit. Adventure Spec picked up on the idea and used aluminium to make the Motion Pro T6 Combo Lever. These are so light that when in the palm of your hand, they appear to have no mass. I used to pass one around the class when teaching ‘density’,” says schoolteacher Austin Vince.
Adventurer and author Lois Pryce recommends taking paper maps. “Don’t just rely on GPS,” she says. “Batteries die, a map will never let you down.” Tour leader Bill Roughton recommends carrying a variety of local maps. “Some will show roads with green edging to indicate a very scenic route,” he says. “Sat-navs tend to send you the way for cars and crowds.”
Keep your papers safe
Boring, but important. You’ll need physical copies of your licence, passport, visas, insurance, V5 and MOT. Also, make sure to double up. “Scanning copies and carrying them on a USB stick or having them saved in the cloud is handy,” says Steve Hotson. Fellow tour leader Graham Saunders also urges that you check your travel insurance covers you for riding.
Multi-function tools save weight and time. One of the best, says Austin Vince, is Adventure Spec’s Motion Pro Trail Tool: “I took my engine to pieces with one of these on the edge of the Sahara.” They cost £50 and can be used to remove 8mm to 14mm bolts, #2 and #3 Phillips screws (plus standard screws) and 5mm and 6mm Allen bolts, and includes a basic socket driver set.
A fistful of dollars
In an emergency most tourers are amazed by the kindness of strangers, but that doesn’t mean money isn’t essential. Carrying credit cards is an obvious one, particularly those, such as the Post Office card, which don’t charge extra for use abroad. Lois Pryce recommends an emergency stash of US Dollars. “Wherever you are, greenbacks will get you out of trouble,” she says.
Electric pumps make life easy
“Only mugs pump by hand,” says Austin Vince. “I replaced our bicycle pump with a 1930s style stirrup pump. It was 10 times more potent than the hand pump... but compared to a 12V pump, it was medieval! The crappy ones you buy in petrol stations for £5.99 will last forever in my experience. They, and everything, else plug into the socket I wire to the battery.”
Keep the clothes light
“Take three pairs of pants and no more,” says Lois. “Turn them inside out and they’ll last you six days.” Steve Hotson agrees: “Two of anything is enough. You can give light clothing and undies a quick wash when you shower at night and you’ll have nice fresh clothes every day.” He also advocates taking a scarf or neck tube: “When it’s 42°C, if it isn’t covered it burns.”