June 2, 2017 - Josh Tack posts to his Touring Gear and Tips blog every month.
Whoa, summer came around fast! Touring cyclists are visiting Adventure Cycling’s headquarters in Missoula, Montana on their way to wherever they’re headed, and just like last year, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to how they haul their gear from point A to point B. (Here’s our Visiting Cyclists page for 2017.)
There’s no right or wrong way to pack your bike, but there are certainly a lot of options. Here’s what you can do this summer:
Tried and true: This is the traditional method of loading up a touring bike, and it’s still what we see most people doing today. Panniers offer plenty of packing space, they help make compartmentalizing your gear easy, and they pop on and off the bike quickly. You just need to make sure your bike is designed to accept racks.
When I first started working at Adventure Cycling nine years ago, it seemed as though all we did was field questions about the pro and cons between trailer and panniers. If you want to carry a lot of gear, but don’t have rack eyelets on your bike, a trailer is a great option. Just know that the longer wheelbase means your maneuverability will be reduced in tight spaces.
Also, pay attention to the compatibility of your bike and trailer well before your trip. Your bike’s tire size, axle type (standard quick release or thru-axle, for example), rear hub spacing, and type of brakes might complicate how your trailer attaches to your bike.
Want to travel simple and light? The bikepacking route may be for you. Frame bags may need to be custom ordered, but there are plenty of seat bags, handlebar bags, and other accessories that will fit most bikes. Just know that you’ll have to think a little more carefully when creating your pack list, and it helps if you already own some lightweight camping gear.
Want to travel really light? Get someone to haul your gear for you. We see a lot of people touring with a support vehicle, of course Adventure Cycling offers fully supported, guided tours, and if you’ve got someone willing to cart your stuff around, why not take advantage of it? After all, you still have to push the pedals.
There’s no reason why you can’t take a little from column A, and a little from column B. Panniers with frame bags, trailer with pannier, one week of support with two weeks loaded. Do whatever you need to do to get out and ride.
Photos by Josh Tack
TOURING GEAR & TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling’s member services department. It appears once each month, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and offering advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead. Look for Josh’s “Fine Tuned” column in Adventure Cyclist magazine as well.