ExperiencePlus! Blog

To Pack It or Not to Pack It: What to Bring on a Bicycle Tour

Less is More

Nadine’s Packing Tips and Tricks

What is it about packing that I find so unpleasant? Maybe it is having to make wardrobe decisions days in advance, while also trying to anticipate variables such as weather and the various activities I’ll be participating in – the known and the unknown. Next, there are travel-related factors to consider such as luggage size and available laundry facilities. Although lists won’t minimize my dislike of packing, I do find they help me stay organized so that I don’t forget anything I may need.

Below I’ve put together a few handy pieces of packing advice tested and proven by … myself. And, yes, I have a couple of lists for you.

Experience the Plus in list form                                                        

First, check out our ExperiencePlus! packing list! They have been created specifically to make your life easier when preparing for your cycling adventure. These will provide an excellent overview of what to pack (and what not to pack) and will also specify recommended luggage size and weight limits, among other valuable hints and reminders. Golden rule: Go light, go little.

Leave out the Plus when you pack                                       

Did I mention do not over pack? It bears repeating, do not over pack. I know that we fashion-forward folks can fall victim to the famous outfit and shoe problem: “These shoes match these pants but only this pair and I can’t wear them with a dress…” If you are facing this classic fashion-paradox, do not pack that outfit. Even better, don’t pack any “outfits” at all. Here are some tips for picking what clothes to bring:

  • Decide on a color scheme that goes well together with several easy-to-wash pieces,
  • Embrace the layering style and leave that extra pair of shoes at home.
  • Shoes, look for flat and light and ones that go with both pants and dresses. I’ve found that a nice pair of cross-training shoes can go riding, walking, and look stylish enough to go with a skirt.
  • Choose clothes that travel well: light-weight, multi-functional (i.e. be suitable for various different activities), easy to stow (think jackets that stow in their own pocket. Bonus: you’ll have a pillow on the airplane!), match your other colors, don’t wrinkle etc.. A few of my favorite brands for travel clothes include: Prana, Patagonia, and especially Icebreaker  – they offer active lifestyle fashion that travels well and washes easily on the go. Weight and easy care are the key factors in my wardrobe endeavors nowadays!

Don’t break your Tour Leaders’ backs (or your own)

You may not believe it because Tour Leaders will go above and beyond to make your tour as wonderful and memorable as they can. This includes breaking rules and limbs by handling luggage that is way too heavy.

By the book, Tour Leaders are not allowed to handle luggage heavier than 50 lbs (25 kg). Please don’t make them.

Oh, but that darn laundry

You might ask yourself what to do when you are at the end of the shirt rotation if you are working with limited luggage. A hotel sink with a dash of soap and a towel to wring your laundry out is a quick fix to this problem. Wringing your things out really well in a towel after washing is the key to drying your lightweight items most of the way. The rest will be solved over night by a gentle breeze at an open hotel window or a radiator in the hotel bathroom. In Europe there are even such laundry detergent in single-use tubes specifically made for traveling! I haven’t been able to find those in the US, but I do and stock up when I’m in Europe. You can find these useful packets in drug stores and some supermarkets. Another more recent find that might even be better than a tube of travel detergent are laundry sheets, and I will try those on my next trip! Of course, any other type of soap, works just as fine. Since hotels usually offer soap, that’s one less thing to bring.

Of course we will also tell you when there’s a laundromat nearby hotels on tour, but who really wants to watch their laundry spin when you could be enjoying an aperitivo and bustling town center as the sun sets?

Ready to rock’n roll?

When I start packing, I imagine the activities a typical day it will entail. At the risk of stating the obvious, on a bike tour, my clothing is centered around cycling wear. Padded cycling pants, shoes, and a colored shirt or cycling jersey are my base pieces. Then I consider the weather: It might be cool in the mornings, so I bring arm and/or leg warmers. It might rain, so I bring a jacket that can deal with a bit of weather and is light enough and bright enough to use while cycling. That jacket can also double as a go-to for any activities after cycling.

After cycling is done for the day, I pack something casual to wear around town and for dinner: pants or a skirt, a shirt and maybe a light long sleeve for layering. Lastly I pack short sleeves for variety and maybe a pair of pants and tadaa! Easy!

If you are worried about your daily style getting boring, remember you might buy something on the way as a souvenir. Perhaps a scarf at the French market?

The seven secrets of successful suitcase stuffing (with some space left!)

  1. Put out what you want to bring and make little piles for each day/couple of days around your basic pieces. Then start weeding out.
  2. Get compression pouches or use Ziploc bags to compress and sort your clothing. I like Eagle Creek’s Packing Cubes. Speaking of Ziploc – bring one for your phone, and put your passport in another one.
  3. Do not fold your clothing, roll it. It will avoid wrinkles and be so much more space-efficient.
  4. Use the room inside your packed shoes for smaller items like socks, jewelry (if you must, but don’t bring anything valuable!), travel size soap, etc.
  5. Don’t lug along that hair dryer, you will look just fine and the hotel will have one anyway. One caveat is that locations like e.g. Cuba may not have hair driers as readily available as European hotels.
  6. Make an extra little pile for items that go into your hand-luggage and for stuff that you are going to wear to fly. If you go carry on exclusively, even better!
  7. Never (seriously, never ever!) pack anything that you will likely only wear once.

Now where’s that list again?

Voila: Remember to always check the ExperiencePlus packing list and also take a look at what’s in your bike rear pack for ideas on what to take for you each day on your bike!