What to bring on a bicycle trip is a personal matter. Minimalists discard comfort to be lightweight. Pack rats can’t have enough with them.
Distance, weather forecast and number of days on the road or trail also dictate what should go in packs and panniers.
The key is to balance comfort and weight.
My wife, Jan, and I recently planned for a three-day, two-night 80-plus-mile journey on pavement, dirt roads and rail trails. Instead of sleeping in tents and cooking with a backpacking stove and carrying our kitchen, we’re ready for indoor lodging, grocery stores, take-out and delivery. Those decisions cut down on weight, but will increase the trip budget for us who think of ourselves as cycling do-it-yourselfers.
For this trip, we’re going with four panniers and a handlebar bag between us. As custom, we toss granola bars in each bag just in case.
Though I hope not to use them, tools are essential. My philosophy is simple — carry the tool and find someone who knows how to use it. An Allen wrench, screwdriver, etc. multi-tool can come in handy. So do tubes, pump, flat repair kit, bungie cords, lock and duct tape rolled around a small pencil. I also have a Swiss army knife as the cork screw is a must-have for possible post-ride libation. We also have four water bottles between us.
Toiletries vary. Planning to stay indoors, we’re not packing soap (use the motel’s), but are taking small toothpaste tubes, toothbrush, deodorant, moisturizing lotion, ChapStick, sunscreen, bug dope, cosmetics, hair brush, eyeglasses, sunglasses and pills, including naproxen sodium.
A first-aid kit is another essential and another item I don’t want to use. Basically I’m taking the one I use for hiking and tossing it in.
As for clothing, we’re each packing two riding shorts. It would probably be OK just to use one for the trip but with rain in the forecast we’re going with two just in case. That’s why we’re also taking light waterproof jackets and long pants. I’ll throw in two riding shirts — one long sleeve, one short — while Jan’s going with three shirts to ride in.
We each decided on two pair of socks, riding gloves, bandanna and baseball cap. Morning temperatures are forecast for high 40s and low 50s, so we’re each carrying long riding pants, too. For after the ride we’ll have long pants, T-shirt and sport sandals plus PJs. Opting not to use clipless pedals, I’m riding in trail running shoes while Jan’s in sneakers.
Among other items to take along are our cellphones. I like to carry mine in the rear zippered pocket of my riding shirt and sometimes in the pocket of my mountain biking shorts. We also carry phone chargers. That’s about it.
Everything then goes in plastic bags. Using see-through tight sealing plastic bags help to organize and locate items. Though waterproof panniers are best, garbage bags make a decent front against rain. So are bags from department stores. If they’re not clear, write what’s inside — like “clothes” — with a magic marker on masking tape and affix it to the bag.
The handlebar bag is quite handy, a great spot for items you may want easily and quickly like map and directions, sun screen, bug dope, granola bar and ChapStick.
So, with our bags packed, we’re ready to roll. We don’t plan on going terribly far from the valley. There are some fairly accessible routes from here like doing the 100-plus mile loop around the White Mountains using the Kanc, Franconia Notch Bike Path, Route 3 and Route 302. Or, a long rolling circuit on both sides of the Connecticut River in the North Country and Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.
The Eastern Townships just over the border in Quebec, Canada, have some excellent opportunities for bicycle travel too with lots of loops. There’s also portions of the East Coast Greenway to do, like riding from Portland, Maine down through Portsmouth and into Newburyport, Massachusetts, about 100 miles. All of those sound like fun trips that can be done over a few days or less.
But that’s not the plan.
We’re heading across the Granite State on the new Cross New Hampshire Adventure Trail. Next week, I’ll tell you about it.