Touring Checklist: What to Bring on a Bike Tour Pt. 1

When planning what to bring on a bike tour, gear is not the least of your concerns. Luggage may not be as exciting as your choice of route or companions. However, preparing thoughtfully for your trip can make the difference between comfort and a grueling slog, or between a minor hiccup or a total breakdown. With our combined touring experience here at the shop, we’ve learned what works for us. It can be incredibly valuable to make a checklist in order to help prepare for your tour. Ultimately what you decide to bring will depend on the style and length of your trip, as well as your personal traveling preferences.

What to Bring on a Bike Tour

Riding Gear

The first decision to make is how much you are willing to “rough it”. If you will be biking from hotel to hotel and eating in restaurants, a credit card will be your most important piece of equipment. If you’re riding farther afield and camping, you’ll need carry everything you’ll need. Keep things you’ll need during your ride in smaller bags or in jersey pockets. Otherwise you’ll be digging through your panniers looking for your squished banana.

  • Water bottles: 2-3 can be mounted on your bike. Crushable bottles like Platypus are good for extra water storage if you’ll be riding long stretches between water sources.
  • Sunscreen
  • Money and Identification (I like to keep it in a small plastic bag in my jersey pocket)
  • Phone, charger, and any foreign sim cards or solar panels you may need to make it work
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Toiletries (still important to brush teeth on a bike tour!)
  • Any other comfort items (like chamois butter)
Bike tour riding gear

And last but certainly not least…

Tools

Unless you are doing a supported ride with a follow car to pick you up, you’ll need to be self-reliant. At the minimum, you will need to be able to fix flat tires and tighten/loosen all bolts on your bike. If riding with others, you will probably only need one set of tools between you, with the exception of tubes.

  • Spare tubes: 2 or more(make sure they are the correct size for your tires, especially if you have different tire sizes)
  • Tire Levers: 2 or 3
  • Patch kit
  • Mini pump (we reccomend Topeak Morph pumps)
  • Set of hex keys, in a multi-tool or separate (check every bolt on your bike to make sure you have a tool that fits it)
  • Lock (U locks are the most secure, but heavy. If you’ll mostly be stopping in rural areas or are riding in a group, a cable lock will probably suffice.)
Bike tour tools

For longer or more remote riding, consider bringing extra tools. Hopefully you won’t need them often, or at all, but the little extra weight can pay off when stranded in the middle of nowhere.

  • Extra spokes: at least one per wheel (each wheel side requires a different spoke length, so make sure you have the correct lengths!
  • Spoke wrench (also wheel-specific)
  • Chain breaker (included in some multi-tools)
  • Spare tire (foldable tires are much easier to carry)
  • Duct tape (I like to wrap it around my water bottle so I don’t need to bring the whole roll, but you could use your seatpost or anything else)
  • Small bottle of bike lubricant
  • Lights, especially if you’re not riding during summer
  • More general tools like pliers, knife, screwdrivers, etc. – a lightweight multi-tool is a great way to get most of these functions in one small package.
  • Cable Ties – For some of our staff, cable ties are the new Duct tape, and very useful in a pinch!

What else?

Is this all I should bring on my bike tour? No… But, these are just the most bike-specific things you’ll need to pack. You’ll find our checklist for other supplies including camping gear, clothing, and more in our soon to come post Touring Checklist: What to Bring on a Bike Tour Pt. 2.

What Should I Oil On My Bike? (And What I Shouldn’t)

Bicycling takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It also requires a bit of oil and grease to keep your bike moving smoothly with all the blood, sweat and tears you’re getting on it. You might ask “What should I oil on my bike?” Every so often and just once in a while? What should I never oil? Although we’ve had a similar post in the past, we wanted to dive into this question in more detail. Here are our mechanic recommendations on what to oil, grease and what to keep nice and dry. If you’ve got any questions we don’t cover here, give us a call or email.

What Should I Oil on My Bike?

Essentially, you want to make sure all moving parts are oiled/greased appropriately. Be sure to use bicycle lubricant, not WD40 or another solvent. Putting anything other than bike lube on your components can cause them to corrode faster. I’ve had customers tell me they’ve used motor oil, baby oil, coconut oil, vegetable oil, etc. Sounds like a good idea right? Actually it’s not, it ends being more work to clean up since it picks up more dirt onto the drivetrain. Besides the nice scent of the non bike oil of your choice, the only thing you are left with is a bunch of parts needing replacing often. We use Tri-Flow at our shop and it’s a fantastic lube to use for almost anything that needs it, plus it smells pretty great! As for grease, we use Phil Wood Waterproof Grease, great for all the threads and keeping your non drivetrain parts and bearings working smooth.

A bottle of Tri-Flow and a bottle of Phil Waterproof Grease

Things to Oil

  • Chain
  • Cables
  • Cable housing
  • U-lock
  • Brake levers and assemblies
  • Derailleur levers and assemblies
  • Spoke nipples
  • Kickstand
  • Springs
  • Drivetrain
Look at all the buildup!

Things to Grease

  • Rack bolts
  • Fender bolts
  • Pedal threads
  • Seat post
  • Threads
  • Bearings
  • Quill stems

 

 

What Should I Not Oil?

At best, excess oil can collect dirt. At worst, it can make your bike less stable or safe. Even after you oil something like a chain, its a good idea to wipe off the oil from non-moving parts (like the faceplates of the chain).

  • Handlebars
  • Bottom Brackets (grease, but don’t oil)
  • Threadless Stems
  • Anywhere near your braking surface
  • Cassettes
  • Disc Rotors
  • Brake Pads

So the next time you’re looking at your rusty steed and a bottle of lubricant, refer to this list and ask yourself “what should I oil?”

Bike Food Part 2: Food to Take on a Bike Tour

On long bike rides, your body needs lots of food. Buying all your food from restaurants can leave you broke. Trying to subsist on granola bars alone can leave you unsatisfied and wondering why you decided to go on this trip in the first place! With a little creativity, however, choosing food to take on a bike tour can become part of the adventure! If you haven’t read Bike Food Part 1, make sure to give that a read as well.

When I toured down Highway 101 from Washington State to California, I tried to live on $10 a day or less. I came across enough grocery stores that I was able to restock almost every day. You may need to save room in your bags for a few days worth of food, depending on where you are going. Adventure Cycling has excellent maps that can help with planning routes, indicating spots to pick up food, get bike maintenance and camp.

Food to Take on a Bike Tour

To help you better understand what food to take on a bike tour, here is an example menu for one day. I’ve left recipes pretty loose because you never know exactly what you’ll be able to find. You can always add a little flair with sides like a bag of hot potatoes or a roadside peach.

Muesli

For breakfast, you want something simple you can prepare ahead of time.  In the morning, muesli is delicious served in a cup or bowl with some milk and a banana. In a pinch, you can also have it raw or with water. One travel trick I like to use is to put quick oats in a cup and find a place with drip coffee, like a bank or drive-thru cafe. Pour a little coffee into the oats and you’ve got delicious caffeinated oatmeal!

I buy these ingredients when I find a good bulk section at a grocery store.

Roadside Wrap

Your lunch spot usually chooses you. Your legs may yell at you for a break or you may come across a hilltop park to have your bike food with a view of the sea. Either way, you’ll want something you can put together without too much effort. Wraps are pretty easy and are a good way to use fresh vegetables you may come across.

Or, if I have the good fortune to come across a berry bush, I like to make a fresh tortilla “smoothie”:

Campfire Food

After a long ride, it feels real good to sit and not move your legs. Your dinner possibilities will depend on where you’re stopping for the night. If you’re able to make a fire, cooking can be a nice way to wind the day down. If you’ve got a stove and a pot, go ahead and whip up your instant pad Thai. However, people have been cooking with nothing but fire for thousands of years. Here are a few examples of things you can cook over coals:

For more bike food tips for your trips check out Bike Food Part 1 : How to Make Your Ride Delicious and stay tuned for Bike Food Part 3. Stop in the shop sometime, we’re happy to chat with you and give tips on how to plan food to take on a bike tour!

Bike Light Review: Cygolite Hotshot 100 lumen Rear Light

As summer’s luxuriously long days grew shorter and shorter, I spent a while in denial. I thought of myself as someone who “doesn’t really ride at night all that much.” So I didn’t invest in a very good light. The light I used ran on batteries that only seemed to last a few days. Now that the sun sets around 4pm, I ride in the dark every day. I saw other commuters with brighter lights – great furnaces I noticed from blocks away. I grew envious. At last, I decided to accept that I am actually someone who rides at night all the time. Therefore a proper light was not decadent, but entirely appropriate. It was time to turn the green lights on getting that red light. So for a new rear light user, I decided to write up my own bike light review to share with other nightly commuters.

Cygolite Hotshot
Cygolite Hotshot 100 lumens (Bright!)

Cygolite Hotshot Bike Light Review

I decided on the Cygolite hotshot with 100 lumens. The packaging warns “do not look directly into the light” and boy howdy were they right! My previous tail light couldn’t blind a mole. This Cygolite turns everyone behind me red! I now no longer roll up to stoplights, embarrassed by my weak glow. Now that I’ve had the chance to ride with it a few times, I’ll admit that 100 lumens is probably more than you’d need for riding in well lit areas with lots of other cyclists. This isn’t a problem because you can adjust the brightness of the Cygolite with a button. However, if you’re deciding between the 100 or 50 lumen model, you may be fine with the latter.

I try to have as few things that run on batteries as possible. Batteries can be expensive and are a pretty toxic form of garbage after they’re used up. If you do use batteries, make sure you’re recycling them the right way. Cygolites charge with a USB cable and can go up to 200 hours of use on a charge, so I figure I’ll end up saving money in the long run. Overall, this is the light I’d reccomend to anyone looking to be seen.

Bike Food Part 1 : How to Make Your Ride Delicious

If you’ve ridden a bike much, you may have noticed there are few kitchens on the side of the road. You also may have noticed you are hungry. You are not alone. But with a some preparation, a positive spirit and burritos, you’ll find there is bike food out there suitable for all cyclists.

Bike Food

I always carry at least a granola bar in my saddle bag. “Bonking,” or running out of energy on a bike ride, is at best an avoidable bummer. At worst, it can be a health hazard, especially if you are far from civilization or riding in cold weather. Fueling your ride can be either a chore or a delicious picnic. It’s easy to find a place to get food in a city like Portland where food trucks are around every corner! But when traveling longer distances, a little planning and attitude makes all the difference.

Your body does require more calories and electrolytes while exercising, but don’t be intimidated by sports food marketing. “Electrolytes” is basically just another way to say “salt”. Calories and electrolytes exist in literally all food. This is what makes it food. Over my experience on longer rides and tours, I’ve found a few favorite foods that fit well in a jersey pocket or saddle bag and add to the pleasure of riding a bike. Then again, everything tastes better after a long bike ride.

Burrito!

A perfect pocket-sized sandwich. I used to have a shirt that said “53 miles per burrito,” which is pretty accurate. The real advantage of this food is the near ubiquity of taco trucks in some parts.  Many times have I been saved from hunger by some middle-of-nowhere taqueria. Remember to bring some cash when you ride, if you dream of burritos.

Trail Mix!

I guess on a bike it would technically be a “road mix,” but the principle remains the same. You can make it as fancy or cheap as you’d like, but I like to buy a bunch of ingredients in bulk and mix them into bags to take with me. Here is a rough recipe I like:

Harmonious Pairs

Snacks don’t have to be complex. Some of the most satisfying road foods I kept going back to were pairs of things that go together. This is partly because its easier to find just two things at a random convenience store in the middle of nowhere. But also you don’t want to spend all your time planning food when you could be riding. Here are a few of the pairs I kept going back to on longer rides:Apple and Nut ButterHummus and chips

Beverage

Water is the best beverage, but sometimes you want something else. You can get fancy powders that magic your water into a smoothie or a sports drink. I prefer to use a little lemon juice or hibiscus mixed with honey, or even coconut water. On long trips with friends, I like to hide a bottle of beer in my pannier. When you arrive at your destination everyone is tired, but a little surprise at the end can turn “ugh, what a ride…” into “wow, what a ride!”

Bike food is important for the mind, body and spirit. As important as it is to take care of your bike, it’s probably more important to take care of yourself! Put the right things in your body and you’ll get the best out of your bike and yourself! Stay tuned for more bike food tips in part 2 and part 3.

Make Bike Riding Hurt Less: The Anti Chafe Cream for Cyclists

A touchy subject, but an important one. Chafing hurts cyclists from loved ones to enemies, traveling tourists to downhill mountain racers. But I am here to help you make bike riding hurt less. I recall my first intimate inner thigh irritation experience when I made the switch from underwear to boxers in my angsty and rebellious youth. One hot summer day after hours of play in the sun… it happened. The annoyance, the discomfort, the absolute turmoil was too much for some baby powder (Really dad? You hiked the Sierras and baby powder was the best solution you had).

Fast forward. It’s 2016. Taking long strides and walking like bigfoot to avoid the torturous touching of my inner legs, I’m browsing the walls at a bicycle shop in Portland, OR after a long ride. I can hear the spandex from my pants stretching, exhausted despite not performing their duty. From the corner of my eye, I spot a colorful purple and yellow box. “Chamois Butt’r” it read. I assumed it was a small energy pack similar to the GU energy gels and reached for one.

Finally! You can make bike riding hurt less!

Four tubes of chamois butt'r

Luckily before oral consumption I decided to read the packaging. There it was. “The Ultimate Skin Lubricant.” Without hesitation, I purchased a small pack and awkwardly found a hidden corner to apply my new discovery. Instantly, I was able to move around comfortably. Wielding a large grin, I skipped around the shop testing the product as others looked at me with confusion and disdain (and a little jealousy). But it didn’t matter. I’d found the solution. I’d found solace. I’d found a way to make bike riding hurt less.

However, this is not the solution for everybody. Some riders have ultra sensitive skin and this does not provide the necessary lubrication. Other riders don’t need as much cream or find other options such as Body Glide more effective. For those traveling upwards of 20 miles, it may be best to carry extra butt’r for more applications along your route. But for a rider, runner and chafer like myself, Chamois Butt’r is a part of my leg rubbing ritual.

Now, biking up hills is treacherous because of the ascent, not the abrasion. Now, I pedal with my legs close together, the non-greasy cream allowing me to focus. I look back at the butt’rless days restricting me from my potential as a cyclist and a person. I look excitedly into my rash free future.

Closed for the Holidays!

Dear friends!

As we approach this holiday season we will be closed on December 24th – 26th and again on December 31st – January 1st. Thanks for stopping in for bike mechanic work, accessories, rentals, tours and our new Sock Hop business which is now open via the interwebs! Make sure to come in before for that last minute gift (or after if you forgot some people). Our socks make the perfect present for family, friends or yourself!

Happy Holidays!

The Cycle Portland Staff