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  • Writer's pictureSarah Lewis

Bike Touring Basics

How to DIY Bike Camp

Making new friends on the road from Grants Pass, OR to San Francisco

We think that bike touring is one of the best ways to see the world around you. With all the gear on your bike, you’re forced to slow down, and take in the experience one moment at a time. There’s no rush, there’s no exact schedule, and you have literally all day just to be in the present. So how does someone go from having this great idea of traveling by bike to actually doing it?

Here are the basics of bike touring:

Essential Equipment

Having the right gear is a huge part of getting prepared for a bike tour. We break this down into 3 categories:

Our getup

The Bike: You'll need a sturdy (preferably steel frame) touring bike equipped with the right accessories. You’ll need a helmet, front and/or rear racks, a lock, water bottles, bike lights (and batteries or chargers), pump, patch kit, levers, and spare tubes.

Camping Gear: Bike camping requires a lightweight tent, tarp, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove, fuel, matches/lighter, cookware, dishes, headlamp, and first aid kit. No need for a pillow- you can use your sweatshirt or down jacket for that when you tuck yourself in.

The Panniers: Get 2-4 panniers and a handlebar bag for easy access while on the road. A phone mount or route note/map holder comes handy too!

What to Pack

Once you have all the equipment squared away, what do you pack? This is super important, because you need to have enough gear to be able to ride comfortably for several days at a time, stay warm, and have fun.

Essential Clothing: Gear to bike in (we recommend two sets you can switch out), clothes to wear at camp, shoes for biking, waterproof sandals, swimsuit, warm clothing for nighttime and sleeping, and a quick dry towel. The lighter you pack, the better!

Personal Items: Toiletries, wallet, government ID or passport, necessary keys, sunglasses, notebook & pen, book/e-reader, eye mask & ear plugs, and organizing bags.

Electronics: Smartphone, camera, external batteries, headphones, ear plugs and charging cables. Bring a waterproof bag so that nothing gets damaged in case it rains! Bike touring is also a great time to disconnect, so make sure you think about what your needs are and if you actually want to carry all of those electronics with you.

How to Route Plan

Now that you have all the equipment and gear that you need for your trip, you need to decide where you’re going and how you’ll split up the days.

Highway 1 on the Mendocino Coast

Where to Wander: Pick a route that inspires you and is accessible WITH a bike. Buses and trains usually allow bikes on board. Most flights require extra payment. Check if you need to box your bike too! Greyhound and most airlines require a bike box or bag, so make sure you give yourself time to disassemble your bike at the station or airport, or have it boxed ahead of time by a professional. Don't want to deal with packing, shipping and reassembling your bike? Find routes near where you live, and use public transit to get out of the city if possible.

How to Pace: Bike touring is slow (we average 10-12 mph). Decide how many hours you want to ride each day, keeping terrain in mind, and map your route accordingly. Remember, bike touring is not a race! Enjoy your ride, and give yourself time for little adventures and detours along the way.

Where to Stay: Many US State Park campsites have hiker-biker sites. These cost between $0-$10/person/night. Hotels, motels, inns, B&Bs, and home stays are also a great way to go. When route planning, make sure to see what your options are for each location. Your budget will help you decide what is the right choice for you.

In case visuals help you, download our DIY Bike Camp Checklist to help you get your next adventure in motion.

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