Cycling has seen a huge increase in popularity, as people look to bikes to improve their commute, for exercise and for outdoor recreational fun. With the boom in biking has come a newfound interest in bike trips. But for those who are new to bike trips, sorting out how to pack and what gear is needed to ensure a safe and fun ride can be daunting.
We enlisted Erik Saltvold, the owner and founder of Erik’s Bike Shop, to share his expert knowledge on all the gear you need for a successful bike trip. He offers some general advice when stocking up for a bike trip. “There are no specific products we would recommend avoiding,” he says, “rather just to make sure you do not overpack and weigh yourself down. This is often a common mistake on long rides and results in riders getting burnt out too quickly.”
Ahead, with Saltvold’s help, we’ve rounded up the essential items you’ll need for a bike trip.
“Making sure you pack correctly for a bike trip will ensure you have a great time,” Saltvold says. “There are different things to consider when determining what to pack, like weather, length of trip, terrain and lodging. However, there are general cycling essential items that you will want on any trip.” The essentials for a bike trip that Saltvold recommends are:
• Correct type of bike for the trip and terrain
• Packs or rear saddle bags
• Roadside repair kit
• Bike lights
• Lock with cable
• Water bottle(s)
• Cycling apparel
“Depending on the length or your trip you will want good rear, and possibly front, saddle bags,” Saltvold says. He recommends weatherproof bags like the Specialized panniers, which come in either black or a bright neon for increased visibility.
A repair kit is a must-have for a bike trip, or, as Saltvold puts it, “A good starter kit for tools and roadside fixes can save your ride from a total disaster.” He recommends the Diamondback Starter Kit Tool Kit for those looking for a basic starter tool kit.
Longer trips may require a more extensive tool kit like this repair set that gets high marks for its storage case that keeps everything in its place when not in use.
This multipurpose bike tool with nine different screwdrivers in different sizes is perfect for someone new to biking to help with a sudden repair on the road.
Niterider Lumina 1200 Boost and Solas 250 Light Combo
“Whether or not you are riding at night,” Saltvold says, “bike lights are always a good idea to make sure you are seen by others.” He likes the Niterider Lumina 1200 Boost and Solas 250 Light Combo, a combo set of front and rear lights that will be sure to keep you safe.
If you’re buying bike lights on a budget, this rechargeable set gets high marks for brightness.
A lock and a cable will keep your bike and gear safe if you need to leave it behind for a bit. Saltvold recommends the Kryptonite Kryptolock With Cable; for more bike lock recommendations and bike storage ideas, check out our guide to bike storage for every type of home.
Our associate editor, Kai Burkhardt, reviewed water bottles for day-to-day use; he offers his expertise to those looking for a water bottle for cycling.
Burkhardt’s top pick for cyclists is a traditional soft sport bottle like the Co-Op Cycles Purist.
For those looking for an insulated water bottle, Burkhardt suggests the CamelBak Podium insulated water bottle.
In his testing of water bottles for everyday use, Burkhardt’s top pick was the Yeti Rambler; for cyclists, he recommends getting the straw lid, which will make it easier to drink out of and won’t require unscrewing a lid while riding.
As an alternative to a water bottle, Burkhardt recommends the CamelBak Fusion 3L Reservoir, a water bladder-style hydration pack that is popular with hikers and backpackers.
“When biking with kids,” Saltvold says, “having adequate water and snacks can make or break the trip.” He suggests packing energy bars in addition to having a water bottle or hydration pack for each rider to stave off hunger-related meltdowns. There are also some specific pieces of equipment he recommends for bike trips with children.
“Making sure your kid is dressed appropriately will also make your bike travel much more enjoyable — bringing an extra removable layer is always a good idea,” Saltvold says. “Most importantly, make sure your child is protected with a quality helmet.” The Giro Scamp MIPS helmet for kids is his choice for best children’s helmet.
When planning a bike trip with children, the first question to ask is if your child is biking themselves or riding with you. If they’re riding with you, or if they are biking on a longer trip when a break might be needed, a child trailer may be essential.
Saltvold points out that trailers can hold more than just your kid. “You can also use these to store more gear,” he says, “just be careful not to load them down with too much stuff to avoid burning yourself out.”
Another option to consider are trailer attachments that allow your child to contribute to the riding experience. “There are also options for your child to pedal along with you,” Saltvold says, “like the Adams Folder Trail-A-Bike.”