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Equipment Planning & Logistics

Do I Really Need Ortliebs? A Buyer’s Guide To Panniers For Cycle Tours & Expeditions

Last updated in January 2021. Happy New Year!

One day in 1884, Thomas Stevens left California on a bicycle, carrying a bag of gold and a pistol rolled up in a blanket, and became the first person in recorded history to cycle round the world.

Today’s bicycle travellers, of course, pack much more gear than that. That’s because we want to enjoy seeing the world, rather than bribing and bullying our way around as Stevens did. 

To carry all the modern equipment available today – ultralight tents, portable camping stoves, specialised bicycle tools, and a whole lot more – many of us will be mounting panniers on our bicycles. The pannier has been the traditional luggage of cycle tourists for more than a century.

A scene every experienced rider will be familiar with: rebuilding bikes and attaching panniers in the arrivals hall of a faraway international airport.

This article is all about how to choose a set of panniers that’ll fit your budget, your style of touring, and the equipment and supplies you’re carrying with you.

It’s based not just on my own 14 years of cycle touring experience but that of countless veteran riders who I’ve cycled alongside and interrogated about their own gear setups, with the goal of creating the most balanced pannier buying guide possible (no pun intended).

Alongside the detailed listings of the best panniers on the market right now, I’ll include direct links to manufacturers’ webpages and buying links for retailers in Europe and North America (affiliate links are identified with an asterisk; click here to read my full affiliate policy).

But I don’t want to assume anything about your prior knowledge, so let’s start by laying out the basics about panniers for cycle touring before we dive into the details. 

(If you prefer to skip the newbie questions, you can also go straight to the pannier listings.)

What Exactly Are Bicycle Panniers?

Touring panniers needn’t be a fashion accessory, but now Brooks have entered the market they’re starting to become one.

Panniers are purpose-made bags designed to be hung off the sides of a bicycle or motorbike (or, originally, slung over a pack animal). They are almost always designed to be used in pairs, for what I hope are obvious reasons of balance and stability.

Do I Need Two Or Four Panniers (Or Something Else)?

Literally a ‘classic’ setup – two pairs of Ortlieb Classic panniers on front and rear racks.

The traditional setup for long-distance cycle touring is four panniers – a small pair at the front and a larger pair at the rear – plus a handlebar bag and a few other bits.

This is simply because, when you make a list of everything you’d need for a transcontinental or round-the-world ride, buy it all, and try to fit it onto a bike – it usually fills four panniers.

If you can live with the compromises of packing light, a single pair of rear panniers can suffice for fair-weather road trips of many months.

Two rear panniers can be plenty for lightweight trips, such a summer ride in the developed world with lots of bike shops and campsites on your route.

You might also use two rear panniers in the longer term with a minimal approach to packing, especially as camping equipment grows ever lighter. You’ll often see more experienced riders taking this approach, because they’ve spent a long time learning what they don’t need to pack.

Combining bikepacking bags with a small pair of panniers is a good way to achieve a nimble and versatile road touring setup.

Increasingly you’ll also see a hybrid approach, with panniers supplemented by bikepacking luggage such as frame bags, seat packs and cockpit pouches. Panniers can then be removed and stored temporarily for shorter side trips, allowing more flexibility over the traditional setup.

In any case, you’ll rarely see panniers used exclusively as a means of storing belongings and supplies. They’re almost always used alongside rack-top drybags, baskets, handlebar bags, backpacks, or other more easily accessible bags which don’t require you to stop and unpack everything just to find one commonly-used item.

I am yet to meet a more fully-loaded cycle touring couple than Katya and Mirko.

Sometimes, in very special cases such as deep winter, desert crossings, or just because you want to bring your guitar and jewellery-making kit, you might consider a trailer instead of (or as well as) panniers, which is a topic I’ve covered elsewhere.

How Do Cycle Touring Panniers Vary In Design?

There are as many ways to use a rear carrier rack and panniers as there are cycle tourists!

Bicycle panniers for cycle touring (as opposed to panniers for, say, grocery shopping) come in a variety of sizes, colours and materials, and are generally labelled as ‘front’ or ‘rear’. They usually (though not always) are sold in pairs, sometimes with differences between left and right, and sometimes without.

Front panniers tend to be smaller, and for good reason: whatever weight you’re carrying on the front wheel will feed directly into the steering and handling of your bike. Lighter is therefore better, particularly on rough roads.

A typical front pannier might have a 10–15 litre capacity (ie: 20–30 litres per pair). Larger panniers at the front would also be at risk of hitting the down-tube of the bike (or even the ground) when turning sharply, or interfering with disc brakes.

Rear panniers tend to have about twice the capacity; anything from 20–30 litres each (ie: 40–60 litres per pair). Tandem panniers can be even bigger.

As mentioned above, a single pair of rear panniers might suffice for even the longest trips if packed thoughtfully with lightweight gear.

What Kind Of Pannier Rack Attachment Systems Are There?

Brooks’ high-end panniers use tried and tested Ortlieb mounting hardware.

A variety of attachment systems exist today, but they almost all make use of a pair of hooked clips attached the back of each pannier, allowing them to be hung from the rack tubing, plus some kind of adjustable retaining tab on the back of each pannier to hook around the rack tubing and stop them swinging about.

Although pairs of panniers can be identical out of the box, setting up the attachments to fit your racks will usually result in them being configured as ‘left’ and ‘right’ panniers from that point forward.

Riding the Zagros Mountains of Iran with two pairs of all-in-one panniers we borrowed from an Iranian cyclist in Esfahan.

You’ll occasionally see a pair of panniers attached together with a strip of fabric between them, the whole of which is then slung over the rack. As a general rule, don’t buy these unless it’s the only thing you can get, as this style is far less durable and versatile than individual panniers and rack mounts.

What Materials Are Panniers Made From?

In terms of design and construction material, there are two main categories of pannier: fully waterproof and semi- or non-waterproof.

Riding off-road in northern Mongolia with an Extrawheel Voyager single-wheel trailer and two large pairs of panniers.

Fully waterproof panniers are usually made of laminated fabric with sealed seams, often using the same ‘roll-top’ closure system found in drybags for paddlesports. As with any waterproof gear, you should always pack a simple repair kit – a length of Gaffa Tape at the very least, or perhaps a roll of Tenacious Tape.

Non-waterproof panniers are usually made of heavy canvas, with backpack-style lids with zips or buckles, and have some degree of water resistance and/or a waterproof plate on the rear to protect against road spray. The repair kit you should pack for this type of pannier is a heavy-duty needle and thread.

(As for which type is better, we’ll come to that later on.)

Some people get hung up on the colour of the material. There’s an argument that black waterproof panniers in sunny climates will heat your belongings more than white ones. Conversely, some people think high-visibility panniers are better for safety.

Personally, I don’t believe there’s much practical difference. If it’s really that hot, it’s hot, and you – the rider – should always be more visible than your panniers. From my point of view, feel free to choose whatever colour panniers you like, and make a hi-viz vest the first thing you put in them.

This is a ‘concept’ bike I saw at Eurovelo 2014. Almost nobody would actually choose to ride something like this.

In short, there’s a lot of variety out there. There are, however, a few specific makes and models of bicycle pannier that have proven themselves over many decades on very long and demanding tours.

We’ll start, however, by looking at basic, budget-friendly panniers, and work our way up to durable and hard-wearing panniers capable of withstanding years of constant daily use.


No-Budget Panniers For Cycle Touring

Somewhere in Cornwall at the start of my #FreeLEJOG money-free ride to Scotland, with a scrapyard bike and a donated pair of panniers.

For the most ultra-low-budget of trips, you are very welcome to stop reading this article, take whatever cheap or free second-hand panniers you can find on eBay*, Freecycle, Gumtree, or get donated or lent to you, add a basic sewing kit, a roll of Gaffa Tape, some cable ties and a few plastic carrier bags, and leave.

I did this in 2013, wrote a detailed article about it, then cycled the length of England to prove they worked.

Panniers can be made at home using cheap plastic cool-boxes and some basic hardware. Photo © Jamie Bowlby-Whiting

If you’re good at DIY, consider making your own panniers.

Rectangular buckets with lids are available from hardware stores and pet shops and can be converted into panniers with a few commonly available fixings. Cool-boxes have travelled across continents in the same way (see photo above). The REI blog has a lengthy and useful post on making your own DIY bucket panniers*.


Cheap Panniers For Cycle Touring

Light summer touring in Europe is perfectly possible with a pair of cheap and simple canvas panniers from Halfords.

When it comes to cheap panniers at the bottom end of the market, a trip to any mainstream bike shop or outdoor retailer (eg: Go Outdoors or Decathlon in the UK, REI in the USA, or MEC in Canada) will demonstrate the endless options in this category.

None can really be said to be better or worse than any other, due to the lack of substantial documentary evidence besides customer reviews (which should always be taken with a pinch of salt).

To help you choose reasonably durable cheap panniers, and keep them on the road as long as possible, here are a few tips:

  • Cheap panniers are often aimed at commuters and shoppers, rather than cycle tourists, so see if you can find something that at least claims to be designed for touring use.
  • Avoid anything that relies on zips for closure of the main compartment, as cheap zips are liable to break. Go for something with straps and buckles/clips instead.
  • Avoid cheap and flimsy ‘waterproof’ material in favour of real fabric, then waterproof everything inside the panniers with carrier bags or drybags as necessary.
  • Consider buying or making waterproof pannier covers, which are essentially giant elasticated shower caps; they’ll get you to the next shelter (especially when paired with an effective mudguard to stop road-spray soaking the bags from behind).
  • Finally, pack a sewing kit, Gaffa Tape, and cable ties. I know I’m repeating myself, the point being that you can save a lot of money and solve a lot of problems with a pragmatic attitude.

Recognisable budget brands in the UK and Europe include Altura, Topeak, and B’Twin (Decathlon’s in-house cycling brand).

What you’re looking for at this end of the spectrum is a capacity that matches your packing needs, compatibility with your racks, and as few things to go wrong as possible.

All-in-one pannier pairs are probably the last thing you should choose for a tour – unless it’s literally all you can get.

Of course, if it’s a simple question of what you can beg, borrow or steal, anything is better than nothing!


Mid-Range Panniers For Cycle Touring

There are a few mid-range models of pannier that don’t quite meet the criteria for high-end expedition panniers but have nevertheless been shown to cope well with some very long and arduous bicycle journeys. Here I’ll list a few of the best known examples, as well as introducing a couple of lesser known brands that show promise in this category.

Crosso Dry (Poland, £55/£60 front/rear)

A pair of Crosso Dry 30-litre front panniers mounted on the rear rack of a Kona Sutra touring bike.

Crosso is a Polish company which has been manufacturing panniers commercially since 2006. If you’re based in Europe and can find a retailer, they make for a good option in the mid range, being considerably cheaper than the big-brand panniers. They’re quite basic in terms of design and materials, but in many ways this is a good thing, and they will serve you well if you look after them. (I’ve had a pair for 9 years which I’m still happily using after a few repairs.)

The waterproof Dry panniers come in front/universal and rear pairs with a capacity of 30 and 60 litres per pair respectively, with roll-top closures and welded seams, and a choice of 10 colours.

Full Crosso touring luggage on an island-hopping ride through southern Thailand.

The standard attachment system features two fixed steel hooks at the top, with an inverted hook on an elasticated strap at the bottom to secure the pannier in place. Once you get used to the system it is very easy to mount and dismount the panniers, and it’s surprisingly stable.

Not all racks have a lower horizontal rail to attach the bottom hook, so there is also the more expensive Click option, using traditional-style fixtures from German company Rixen+Kaul (who make the popular and widespread KlickFix system). These might be a better choice for extremely long journeys as the fixtures are replaceable.

Carradice CarraDry (UK, £55/£85 front/rear)

Carradice’s CarraDry panniers are waterproof, feature a generous capacity (58 litres per pair at the rear) and are very good value for money. They share a mounting system with the heavy duty Super C expedition panniers (below).

Though they can’t be described as 100% watertight, with a lidded drawstring closure system rather than a roll-top drybag-style closure, they’re made of a similar laminated synthetic waterproof fabric as the other panniers in this section, with welded seams and waterproof zips, which will still keep out the heaviest rain. Like other Carradice products, they feature outer pockets as well as the main compartment.

The CarraDry might be a good choice if you’re looking for a high quality pair of waterproof panniers (and you don’t plan on floating them across deep rivers), but your budget can’t quite stretch to the top-end Ortliebs.

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller City (Global, €85/€95 front/rear)

The City series of Ortlieb panniers is a cheaper, simplified version of the Classic/Plus series usually chosen for touring (see below). The City range is marketed to commuters, but in reality they are the same as the higher end Ortliebs in terms of shape, capacity, waterproofing and construction materials, made slightly lighter and quite a bit cheaper by a couple of missing features.

So what do you lose by saving some cash? Aside from the limited choice of colours, the most significant thing you lose is full roll-top closure. Instead, the top buckles attach to clips on the sides of the pannier, and there’s no extra cinch strap over the top (although you can add one afterwards). This is a less flexible setup with a variable sized load, and less waterproof in the case of a pannier being completely submerged.

There is also no shoulder strap or inner pocket, though neither of those are hugely important for touring. The rack attachment system is the slightly older QuickLock1 mechanism, previously used on Classic/Plus panniers which are still going strong after decades – again, not a huge issue.

On the plus side, all of this reduces the overall weight; 760g per pannier for the City as opposed to 950g for the Classic. And, as mentioned, it reduces the price too.

In my opinion, the extra versatility and feature set of the Classic/Plus panniers is probably worth the extra money if you’re already looking at panniers of this kind of quality. If you’re commuting with a pair of City panniers already and thinking about a tour, however, you’ll get on absolutely fine with them.

Alpkit Tolari (£70/£80/£90 24/40/60l pairs)

Relatively new on the UK scene is the waterproof Tolari pannier range from direct retailer Alpkit. If the quality of the rest of their products is anything to go by, they’ll prove durable and well-made, which is why I’ve included them here, but it’s important to say that they are as-yet untested on multi-year expeditions.

Available in three sizes (12/20/30 litres per pannier) in a single graphite colour and sold individually, they’ll probably be of most interest to brand loyalists, being about the same price as the Ortlieb City panniers whose reputation will likely win more buyers.

  • Buy Alpkit Tolari panniers direct from Alpkit in the UK, with worldwide shipping also available.

MEC World Tour (CAD $180/200 front/rear)

Canadian outdoor equipment retail cooperative MEC has been outfitting adventurers since 1971. Their World Tour bicycle panniers, available in 20- and 30-litre capacities for front and rear use, are a solid and reasonably-priced mid-range option.

Simply designed with one main compartment plus a small front pocket, the panniers are water-resistant, although not fully waterproof – MEC does offer optional rain covers if you want more protection from the elements, as well as a wide selection of dry bags for the contents.

The widely-used Rixen and Kaul hook mounting system is easy to work with and compatible with almost all racks and carriers, and the designers have also incorporated extra gear loops on top of the pannier – useful for strapping on extra bits that you might pick up on the road.

If you’re based in or starting a tour from Canada, the MEC World Tour pannier is a decent option if you want something simple, durable and very functional without putting a huge dent in your bank balance.


The All-Time Best Expedition Panniers For Cycle Touring

Here we’re going to look in detail at panniers that have at least a decade (often two or more) of proven and documented reputation as being suitable for long-haul rides. I’m talking multi-year, round-the-world odysseys with a single set of bags. That kind of ‘long-haul’.

A full set of Ortlieb Plus panniers mounted on a Ridgeback Panorama touring bike, ready for a round-the-world adventure. Photo © Tim Moss / TheNextChallenge.org

As you might expect, the biggest concern at this end of the market is durability. Panniers take a lot of abuse, and not just the bag material – it’s also where fabric and rack mounts meet that forces will be concentrated over thousands of miles of bumpy roads.

Holes in canvas can be repaired with a sewing kit, and waterproof material can be patched with Aquaseal, Tenacious Tape, Gaffa Tape, even puncture patches, all of which are part of a more general gear first-aid kit. Broken attachment systems are harder problems to solve. Buying top-quality panniers from a tried-and-tested brand will largely – though never entirely – negate this risk.

The same pannier-buying considerations apply to expedition panniers as they do to budget ones. Are they compatible with the racks on your bike? And are they appropriately sized for the gear you’ll be carrying, plus food space?

Four large Crosso panniers, a cargo trailer and a giant dry-bag were needed to carry the gear necessary for a deep winter expedition into northern Lapland.

As mentioned at the start of this article, many of today’s bicycle travellers could get away with two large rear panniers, a varying rack-top bundle and a bar-bag. Packing for a round-the-world ride traditionally calls for four panniers – a smaller pair of panniers at the front and a larger pair at the rear – because any trip years in length will inevitably require flexibility.

You’re unlikely to know exactly what your capacity requirements are until you’ve got your gear laid out in front of you, but as a rule it’s better to distribute weight evenly and have a little extra space than to be overloading your bags and having an unbalanced bike.

Remember that – regardless of ‘official’ capacity rating – most roll-top or buckle-lidded panniers will cinch down or expand a certain amount to accommodate what’s inside.

A very typical luggage setup for a long-haul touring cyclist, consisting of two small panniers at the front, two large panniers at the rear, a bar-bag, and a rack-mounted drysack.

OK! Let’s look at the all-time best expedition panniers available today that have accumulated the most miles around the world on tours of every length, location and level of challenge. (All the RRPs I’ve listed below are per pair.)


Ortlieb Cycle Touring Panniers

Let’s get this out of the way: the single most interesting thing about Ortlieb’s range of roll-top waterproof panniers is that they’re the most popular of all the panniers being used on world-ranging tours.

Indeed, in a highly unscientific Twitter survey I conducted while first researching this article, about ⅔ of respondents used Ortliebs.

Seeing everyone using them attracts more people to buy them, and then claim that they’re the “only choice” despite never having used anything else. And so the inertia continues.

Of course, about ⅓ of respondents didn’t use Ortliebs, yet somehow were still perfectly happy.

So: do you really need Ortliebs?

Well, there’s no doubt that they make very good panniers. They’re about the right size for most users. They’re available in a choice of colours. They’re compatible with most touring racks. They’re durable (which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring a repair kit), and come with a 5‑year warranty. And they’re in the same price range as most of the other expedition panniers in this list.

In short: the price is competitive and they’re proven to work. You certainly don’t need them, but they’re highly unlikely to disappoint you.

(By the way, second-hand Ortlieb panniers are prime for being snapped up for cheap in early spring, because they’re the kind of thing people buy in January when resolving to start cycling to work and a few weeks later sell barely-used on eBay. Take advantage*.)

Ortlieb panniers come in several varieties. Let’s look at those of most interest to bicycle travellers.

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller Plus (Global, €125/€145)

A classic combo: Ortlieb Back-Roller Plus rear panniers mounted on a Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike.

If there was a Standard Issue Cycle-Round-The-World Kit (now there’s an idea), it would probably include a pair of Ortlieb Sport-Roller Plus (formerly known as Front-Roller Plus) panniers at the front and a pair of Ortlieb Back-Roller Plus at the rear of the bike, all in matching his-and-hers colours.

At 25 litres per pair for the Sport-Rollers and 40 litres per pair for the Back-Rollers, they’re slightly smaller in rated capacity than other panniers in this list. As with all roll-top panniers, however, you can make fewer rolls when closing them to create more space.

The buckles at the top can either be clipped together, as with a regular drybag, or clipped into a carry strap which then secures to the front of the pannier via a retaining tab near the bottom edge. For additional peace of mind when overloaded, another short strap can be fastened over the top of the closed pannier.

Other useful features include a small handle attached to the rack mounting points for easy attachment and removal of the pannier to the rack, and a removable pouch attached to the backing plate on the inside of the pannier for flat items such as travel documents and diaries.

The current version of the Plus panniers makes use of the QuickLock2.1 attachment system, which is an updated version of Ortlieb’s original system with broader compatibility with the range of racks on the market today (this includes the popular Tubus racks, if you’re wondering). With this system, the hooks are locked in place by sprung retainers, which are released when you pull up on the grab handle for easy removal. Inserts are supplied for different rack tubing diameters to ensure a secure, rattle-free fit.

What distinguishes the Plus series from the Classic series (see below) is the fabric used in their construction: a high-grade Cordura-branded nylon weave which is laminated on the inside. This makes the outer surface almost as abrasion-resistant as a canvas pannier, while remaining waterproof due to the laminated inner. As weave is less dense than laminate, the Plus is therefore slightly lighter than the Classic; 840g per rear pannier as compared to 950g.

  • Buy Ortlieb Sport-Roller Plus panniers online in the UK from Evans / Tredz / Amazon / eBay
  • Buy Ortlieb Sport-Roller Plus panniers online in the USA direct from Ortlieb.com

Ortlieb Sport-Roller/Back-Roller Classic (Global, €110/€130)

A full set of well-worn Ortlieb Classic panniers, having made it from the UK to Thailand.

Slightly heavier, cheaper and less abrasion-resistant, going for the wipe-clean Ortlieb Sport-Roller Classic and Back-Roller Classic will save you a few days’ food budget whilst still giving you the sleep-easy feeling of ‘having Ortliebs’. As noted above, the fabric used in construction is a lighter and slightly more basic double-laminated polyester. Besides this, every other aspect is the same.

(It’s worth noting that I have never heard of anyone buying the Classics and then later wishing they’d bought the Pluses. Apart from that guy in the comments. There’s always one.)

Ortlieb ‘Pro’ Variants

The Ortlieb Sport-Roller and Back-Roller Plus/Classic panniers above are available in a further variation: Pro.

What makes them ‘professional’? They’re bigger. Instead of 40 litres per pair, you get a whopping 70 litres of capacity.

Can your rack handle that amount of weight? Does your bike have enough heel clearance? Do you need an extra 30 litres of pannier space? 

Truth is, the people who’d benefit most from these panniers would be tandem riders (which is who they’re made for), and perhaps people biking in deep winter. The rest of us can just strap a 30-litre drybag to the rear rack and only fill it when necessary.


Carradice Super C (UK, £95/£120 front/rear)

A pair of Carradice Super C rear panniers soaking up the dust in the Sudanese Sahara.

Carradice’s Super C range is a classic line of British hand-made bags and panniers, the designs changing little in decades. (I’ve had a pair of the rear panniers hanging off my own touring bike for 12 years and counting.)

Stitched from heavy-duty waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas of the type used for military kit and old-school tents, they’re far more resistant to abrasion than waterproof panniers with laminated fabrics or even synthetic canvas. You’ll hear stories of pairs of Super Cs being used for upwards of 30 years, by which time Ortliebs will be straining your tea, so if it’s pure longevity you’re after, they’re some of the best panniers going.

The front (or ‘universal’) panniers have a capacity of 28 litres per pair and, aside from the removable fixtures, are symmetrical in design, with one large main compartment and a small outside pocket in which I might be tempted to store a few snacks. The rear panniers have a capacity of 54 litres per pair, with an outside pocket at the rear. Both sizes have buckled lids with adjustable straps, in addition to a drawstring for the main compartment.

Carradice’s attachment system, based on two self-locking hooks along the top inside edge of the bag and with a retaining tab on the rear, has proven its durability on many a round-the-world tour. The fixtures are very adjustable, making them compatible with a wide variety of racks (adapters are available for rack tubing thicker than 13mm), and enabling them to be shifted back a long way for heel clearance. These fixtures are removable – always a good idea when transporting the panniers on planes, trains and buses.

What they are not is 100% watertight. Although the waxed canvas will keep any amount of rain out, it will eventually absorb water if fully immersed, and the lidded closure system will never be as watertight as a roll-top pannier, as discussed above.

Despite this, they are supremely durable receptacles for the (drybagged) gear you’ll keep inside, and I’ve never come across anyone who regretted buying them.

As an example of an ultra-durable canvas pannier, the Carradice Super Cs are certainly the best in the UK, with one of the longest heritages of any pannier on the market.


Vaude Aqua (Europe/Canada, £110/£120 front/rear)

Vaude’s full Aqua bicycle luggage line on display at Eurobike 2014.

Part of a bigger line of commuter and messenger bags, German manufacturer Vaude make the very nice 100% waterproof Aqua touring panniers in front and rear variants.

These are strikingly similar to the Ortlieb Classics (see above), and not just superficially: they are also made in Germany, also come with a 5‑year guarantee, also have a versatile one-handed attachment system, also have inside pockets and shoulder straps, and also have a (smaller) following of satisfied users who’ve taken them round the world by bicycle.

The biggest difference is that they’re slightly larger (despite being about the same weight), with a rated capacity of 28/48 litres front/rear compared to 25/40 for the Ortliebs.

If you’re concerned about your environmental impact (and obviously you should be), you might be interested in the fact that the Aqua panniers are ‘climate neutrally manufactured’, ie: all manufacturing and shipping emissions have been carbon offset, and are fully PVC and PFC free. Indeed, Vaude have put a great deal of emphasis on their green credentials in recent years.

Why don’t more people don’t buy them, then? Simple: they’re not Ortliebs.


Arkel GT-54 (Canada, CAD$470 rear)

Arkel are a small Canadian outfit established in 1988 whose panniers’ reputation (and price) exceeds even that of Ortliebs. Their top-end GT-54 classic touring panniers come from an entirely different line of thinking, full of pockets and sections and zips and straps and other finery – consider them the Rolls Royce to Ortlieb’s Land Rover.

There are plenty of riders out there who would claim that these panniers are, in fact, the very best in the world.

Slightly more affordable – and perhaps easier to get hold of if you’re based in Canada or the USA – is their Orca line of waterproof panniers, which are of the simpler roll-top design.


Still struggling to choose?

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Bonus: The Great Pannier Waterproofing Debate

There are lots of noisy opinions on the internet about pannier waterproofing. Discovering this ‘debate’ can be worrying for people who are spending two or three hundred pounds/euros/dollars on a full set of panniers, and planning to put a lot of stuff inside them that they really don’t want getting wet.

The debate boils down to whether you should buy fully waterproof, roll-top, seam-sealed, drybag-style panniers and never worry about rain or river crossings ever again, or whether there’s any other type of pannier worth considering.

The time a pannier detached itself and floated off downstream during a river crossing in northern Mongolia. We’ve all been there.

Here’s my take.

Although the 100%-waterproof option looks appealing, I haven’t met a long-term rider (ie: who’s spent years on the road) whose 100% waterproof panniers have stayed 100% waterproof.

This is nothing to do with quality. It’s because no piece of fabric can survive an unlimited amount being bashed into things, falling off the bike, being trodden on, tripped over, tied to sharp metal roof racks on buses and taxes, thrown into aircraft holds and pickup trucks, or ripped apart by hungry bears hunting for the smell of toothpaste (true story).

Some riders anticipate this and prepare for it by bringing a repair kit. Some don’t, and then criticise their expensive panniers for not being 100% waterproof. A lucky few somehow manage to avoid getting a single hole in their panniers, and claim this as evidence that they’ll be ‘bomb-proof’ for everyone else. They won’t.

If very heavy rain and wading through rivers is likely to be a regular feature of your trip, then drybag-style panniers and a patch kit is probably the better option. 

If you don’t mind a little extra ‘pannier admin’, however, there is another legitimate approach: waterproof what’s inside the pannier as and when you need to.

Canvas panniers looking good on a piece of freshly-laid asphalt in the Sudanese Sahara.

For a little extra effort, this approach will allow you to exploit the many advantages of breathable, canvas panniers:

  • Wet gear (and smelly gear) can be isolated from the remaining contents and allowed to dry during a day’s riding,
  • Fuel bottles and other potentially messy items can be prevented from contaminating other contents,
  • In hot weather, perishable food can be kept longer in a breathable pannier than inside a sealed drybag,
  • Canvas panniers are easier to repair with a needle and thread or by giving them to a local tailor or cobbler,
  • Top quality cotton canvas is, all else being equal, more abrasion-resistant than laminated synthetic fabric, and on a long tour this will bear the brunt of the punishment while the drybags inside remain protected.
  • Canvas looks cooler. The odd hole here and there will simply add to a pannier’s character.

The extra ‘pannier admin’ involves putting your gear into drybags inside the pannier (good ones are made by Seal Line, Exped, Sea to Summit, Alpkit and many other brands); either one large drybag used as a pannier liner, or lots of smaller ones for organisation and selective waterproofing (or a combination of the two).

Mongolian river crossing, take two – this time with the panniers removed from the rack!

Either approach will carry your gear and keep it dry if you know the strengths and weaknesses of each and have a packing routine to match.

I’ve used both types myself on long-term rides in all conditions, from a free pair of shopping panniers for a rainy spring ride through England to heavy-duty canvas bags across the Middle East and Africa to roll-top waterproof panniers and canvas bags together in Mongolia. Analysing which of these systems is ‘best’ is not something I feel the need to spend any more time discussing, because all of them can be made to work.

The truth is that most long-term riders use roll-top waterproof panniers – in particular, the Ortlieb ones mentioned above – because everyone else does. It’s a conformity thing. Non-conformists might prefer the tramp-like image engendered by dusty canvas. If you can’t decide, flip a coin.


Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty burned out from discussing the minutiae of bags with hooks on them. Time to grab whatever’s lying around and hit the road!

Categories
Equipment

What’s The Best Tent For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking?

Last updated in January 2021. Happy New Year!

Perhaps the biggest challenge in choosing the right tent for your cycle tour or bikepacking expedition is the fact that there’s no industry-standard category of tent specifically made for cycle touring or bikepacking.

Instead, you’re left to wander through hiking and backpacking departments looking at ultralight tents, freestanding tents, 3‑season and 4‑season tents, double wall and single wall tents, tents with or without awnings or footprints – and at prices from next to nothing up to hundreds (even thousands) of pounds or dollars. Which of these tents is appropriate for a two-wheeled adventure?

Given this bias towards people with backpacks rather than panniers or frame luggage, it’s natural to look for recommendations from other riders when choosing a tent for cycle touring or bikepacking. 

But before you get bogged down with what other people think is the best tent (which often seems to be the first one they bought or the latest one their sponsors gave them), here’s one important thing to remember:

‘Best’ means nothing outside the context of your bike trip. Every ride is different.

So before you go any further, take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Are you looking for a long-lasting tent for a transcontinental trip, or something simple for a short summer adventure?
  • Are you a couple who like plenty of living space and room for your luggage, or a minimal solo rider?
  • Do you have racks and panniers to take bulky and heavy loads, or are you bikepacking with ultralight gear?
  • Do you plan on staying at nice campsites, or wild camping in the woods after dark?
  • Are you planning a fair-weather ride, or will all-season and/or winter use be involved?

There are a few tried-and-tested tents for cycling adventures that have proven themselves on a massive range of journeys.

But if you want to delve any deeper, you’ll find there’s no real ‘best tent for cycle touring or bikepacking’ until you know the answers to the basic questions above.

If you haven’t asked them of yourself, now’s the time to do so. Perhaps read my posts on the what, where, when, who and how of cycle touring. Then come back to this post.

Know what kind of bike trip you’re going on? Great! Read on…

What Types Of Tents Are Good For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking?

I’ve spent a long time – too long, probably – looking at the trends over the last 14 years or so. 

And I can tell you that the most popular kind of cycle touring or bikepacking tent for one rider is a freestanding, double-walled, two-berth, three-season tent in an inconspicuous shade of green, weighing 1–2.5kg (2–6 pounds), and strapping nicely to a rear rack or a handlebar harness, with room inside for the rider and the most important bits of their luggage.

For a couple, it’s the three-berth model of the same tent.

And for a solo ultralight bikepacker, it’s the one-berth model.

If you were short of time and you asked me to pick just one range of tents that ticks all of these boxes, it would be MSR’s Hubba NX range, which is available in 1- to 3‑berth models. (Click here to scroll to the full details and photos).

I’ve used and abused many tents in the Hubba range over the years, including a 2014 two-berth Hubba Hubba NX, a 2012 one-berth Hubba, and a 2010 three-berth Mutha Hubba HP. I still own and use all of them regularly.

If you don’t have any super-specialised requirements and you’re looking for a top-quality tent you can simply grab and ride out the door with, the MSR Hubba NX range is what I’d recommend.

How Do Tents For Cyclists Differ From Tents For Hikers & Backpackers?

Before we start listing off the best cycle touring and bikepacking tents, I feel it’s important to explain how the priorities for cyclists differ from walkers, and how that might affect your choice of tent.

The single biggest difference is that packed weight and volume is usually less of an issue for cyclists.

On a bike tour, you have a two wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle to carry your gear, rather than shouldering the burden yourself. This means – generally speaking – that you can safely consider slightly bigger, heavier tents that will allow you to live more comfortably, fare better in bad weather, last longer, and possibly cost less too.

Long-distance thru-hikers in particular are concerned with minimising their loads. Unless you’re an ultralight bikepacker, you probably won’t be sharing that concern. (But in case you are, there are several suggestions below for ultralight tents for bikepacking too.)

A second difference is that cyclists tend to camp close to roads, not in the backcountry. 

This brings with it totally different priorities when it comes to visibility.

Many hikers prefer to be as visible as possible in a mountain landscape in case of needing assistance. Cyclists, on the other hand, typically want the opposite: to be able to wild camp undetected, close to civilisation.

A third, possibly marginal difference is that hikers have access to ultralight shelters which use hiking poles for structure. Although some of these shelters may seem to offer a fabulously lightweight and packable solution for a bikepacking expedition, you’ll have to bring an additional set of poles to set them up. These poles will have no other use, which kind of defeats the point. If reducing your luggage is really your top priority, consider using your bike to support a simple tarp shelter.


The Best Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Tents For 2021

The following tents are specifically recommended for those travelling by bicycle, and include examples from manufacturers the world over.

These recommendations are drawn from my interviews with highly experienced riders who have spent countless miles and years road-testing these tents. The listings are fully updated to reflect the latest models and prices for the 2021 season.

We’ll start with low-budget tents for short and simple trips, move on to the most popular tents in the mid-range for general cycle touring and bikepacking use, and work our way up to the most durable lightweight tents ever made for world-ranging rides of months or years.

We’ll finish by looking at specialist tents suited to the weight and pack size restrictions faced by bikepackers with frame luggage planning rides in wilder country.

For each tent, you’ll find links to manufacturer’s websites where you can get detailed, up-to-date specifications. I’ve also included links to online retailers in the UK, USA and Canada offering the best deals I can find (affiliate links are marked with an asterisk; you can find out more about my affiliate policy here).

These are not the only tents that’ll do the job.

But I can promise you they represent the very best of what the global cycle touring and bikepacking community is using successfully today.


Vango Banshee Pro 200/300 (UK, £155/185)

UK manufacturer Vango’s range of 3‑season Banshee Pro tents are at the upper end of their scale in terms of quality and features, but still represent good value for money. They come in a natural shade of green for wild-camping in the temperate zone and provide ample living and storage space while remaining light enough for a fully-loaded cycle tourer to consider. Two- and three-berth versions are available under the 200 and 300 model names. The 200 is ideal for a soloist at 2.39kg, and the 300 at 2.82kg is good for a couple.

(The same naming scheme is used for other tents in Vango’s range, of which the Soul is recommended as a budget option and the Mirage at the higher end.)

Being a British brand, Vango is very well represented in the UK, both on the high street and online. Their tents may be harder to find elsewhere.

As an alternative, the Coshee range by Wild Country (see below) is similar in design, name and price point.


Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 (UK, £220)

Wild Country is the budget marque of the premium British manufacturer Terra Nova. The 1.95kg Zephyros 2 takes more than a little inspiration from Hilleberg’s Akto, a favourite high-end tent for minimalists since it was popularised by TV outdoorsman Ray Mears. It requires staking out at each end, but you get a lot of interior space for a reasonably low weight and with a single pole supporting a single-pitch structure. 

The new Compact version, updated for the 2020 season, features shorter pole sections for a more convenient packed shape for bikepacking luggage and small panniers.

There’s also a 1‑berth version which weighs in at 1.65kg, but in my opinion – especially given the small awning – the 300g you’d save isn’t worth the loss of interior storage space for your gear, unless minimising weight is your number one priority.


Alpkit Ordos 2/3 (UK, £230/270)

Direct retailer Alpkit has made a splash in the bikepacking and cycle touring scene, with the Ordos 2 and Ordos 3 tents now almost as popular as MSR’s Hubba series (see below). I used one myself on a traverse of the central highlands of Armenia. Alpkit is UK-based but offers global delivery.

With 2- and 3‑berth models available and a choice of a red or green fly, the lightweight yet affordable Ordos tents – just 1.4kg for the 2‑berth and 1.7kg for the 3‑berth – are roomy, practical, well-ventilated, easy to pitch, and very reasonably priced, with the wedge design echoing the long-standing Vaude Hogan (see below) and Big Agnes Seedhouse. Not quite freestanding but close enough for almost all real-world purposes, they do well in warmer weather.

  • Order the Ordos 2 or Ordos 3 direct from Alpkit in the UK or with worldwide delivery, or try eBay for second-hand options

REI Quarter Dome SL1/2 (USA, $299/349)

If your tour is beginning in the States and you need a new set of camping gear, you’d do well to head to the nearest branch of REI. This well-known outdoor co-op manufactures a range of top-rated gear and sells it without the third-party mark-up, so you get a lot for your money.

Their ultralight, semi-freestanding Quarter Dome SL, available in 1‑berth (1.3kg) and 2‑berth (1.7kg) versions, was the most popular cycle touring tent among Stateside riders in my most recent survey. Expect plentiful headroom, excellent build quality and one of the best warranties you’ll find in the outdoor equipment industry. The mesh inner can be pitched fully freestanding for warmer weather and stargazing, with the rainfly needing just a couple of (included) stakes.

  • Get the one-berth Quarter Dome SL 1 from REI.com in the USA
  • Get the two-berth Quarter Dome SL 2 from REI.com in the USA
  • Alternatively you can buy the Quarter Dome range from any of REI’s 132 retail stores in the lower 48.

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t mind a little extra weight, and still want the REI brand assurance and warranty, check out the cheaper Half Dome 2 Plus.


MEC Spark 2.0 (Canada, CAD$420)

Looking for a suitable tent for a bike trip originating in Canada? Look no further than the Spark 2.0 dome tent from Canadian gear co-operative MEC.

The 1.75kg, 2‑berth Spark will house you and your partner, or just you if you want a bit of space, at a very reasonable weight for the price. With two doors and two vestibules for easy access and extra storage, the 3000mm waterproof, 30D polyester ripstop fly will protect you from the most obnoxious of North American springtime downpours. And because the Spark 2.0 is designed in-house by Canada’s largest gear co-op, it also works out considerably cheaper than similar-looking tents from better-known brands, and is covered by MEC’s famous ‘rock solid’ guarantee.


MSR Elixir 1/2/3 (Worldwide, £215/265/320 / $200/250/300)

If saving weight is not of utmost importance, and you’re looking to save money, but you still want a quality tent from a reputable brand, the MSR Elixir range (Europe/USA/Canada webpages) is a very good bet.

These tents have a very similar freestanding dome structure and the same range of 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth variants as the much-loved Hubba range (see below) – but for significantly lower prices. Why? They’re considerably heavier: 2.77kg compared to 1.76kg in the case of the 2‑berth Elixir versus the 2‑berth Hubba. That’s almost 60% heavier, although we’re still only talking the weight of a 1‑litre water bottle.

Slightly more spacious, and with a more complex pole structure, you can probably expect the Elixir tents to last even longer than their more expensive brethren. As such, they’d be an excellent choice for fully-loaded riders heading off on long-haul trips for whom maximum durability is key.

As with the Hubbas, European markets get a choice of green or grey rainfly while Americans are stuck with grey.


MSR Hubba NX 1/2/3P (Worldwide, £385/445/650 / $380/450/550)

The MSR Hubba NX range (Europe/USA/Canada webpages) is possibly the all-time most recommended series of tents among global cycle tourers and bikepackers, as mentioned in the introduction.

Riders love the generous headroom, the inner mesh pockets, the vast luggage awnings, and the low packed volume and weight.

The range, which features 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models, has been updated several times over the last couple of decades as tent technology evolves, and today strikes a balance between weight and longevity. In other words, they’re neither the lightest nor the longest-lasting tents in this list, but you’re unlikely to find fault with either characteristic.

msr_hubbahubbahp_fly_door_open_eu_l

The North American models all come with a grey rainfly, but in Europe green rainflys are also available. I’d recommend this for more inconspucious wild camping.

Most solo fully-loaded cycle tourers go for the 1.7kg, two-berth Hubba Hubba, which may also suit those bikepacking in pairs.

Couples with a full luggage setup tend to prefer the spacious 2.3kg three-berth Mutha Hubba.

Ultralight solo bikepackers usually go for the 1‑berth Hubba with a minimum packed weight of 1.1kg.

(There has in the past been a 4‑berth variant called the Papa Hubba, but this is not part of the current season’s range.)

Expect MSR tents to last many years if well looked-after, with top-quality weatherproofing, well-designed ventilation, superb build quality, and super-easy setup, with a variety of pitching options for different climates, including inner-only and fly/footprint-only.

By all accounts you should avoid the now-discontinued Tour variants, which suffered from a variety of well-documented issues.


Vaude Hogan UL (Germany, £430)

Another tent that has stood the test of time, German brand Vaude’s classic Hogan UL 2‑berth tent was, back in 2007, my first decent tent of any kind. I rode across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Mongolia with it for four years, so I guess you could say I’ve put it through its paces (read my original review here). Then my brother inherited it and subjected it to another few years of abuse. It’s still standing 14 years on.

It’s not the lightest, nor is it truly freestanding, but it is extremely durable, waterproof, and stable in bad weather, with a decent-sized porch and a nice natural shade of green available for the fly, and it’s pretty portable at 1.9kg.


Terra Nova Voyager (UK, £600)

terra-nova-voyager

A British design that’s been doing the rounds for decades, the semi-freestanding classic Voyager is a long-term favourite among round-the-world tourers from the UK, in part because Terra Nova don’t feel the need to change the design of or discontinue perfectly good tents at random (like certain other manufacturers seem to do), allowing the tent to build up a second-to-none reputation.

Weighing in at 2.2kg, top-class construction, weatherproofing, liveability and extreme durability is the order of the day here.


Hilleberg Nallo 2/3/GT (Sweden, £765–970)

hilleberg-nallo-2

The most lusted after (and expensive) tents for long-haul trips for which durability is the key consideration are undoubtedly those in the Nallo range from Swedish tentmakers Hilleberg.

They’re not the most lightweight, nor the best choice for hot climates, but they do have an unmatched reputation for quality and longevity. Hilleberg have long resisted following the trend for ever lighter and more flimsy materials: these tents are among the most tried and tested in the world and will last – literally – for decades.

The Nallo 2 (2.4kg) is recommended for solo tourers, with the Nallo 3 GT (3.1kg) delivering luxury on-the-road living for couples and their luggage.

Other Hilleberg tents often seen on the road include the minimalist 1.7kg Akto for soloists and bikepackers (also see the Wild Country Zephyros above) and, for couples, the freestanding and spacious 3.3kg Allak 2. The Swedish brand predictably makes excellent winter tents, with the 2.4kg Soulo standing out.


The Best Ultralight Bikepacking Tents For 2021

The following tents are included in this list as examples of shelters that have either been developed with bikepacking in mind or crossed over from backpacking and thru-hiking circles – in any case, tents that have found favour in the bikepacking community.

You’ll also find some of the lighter tents from the list above – such as the Alpkit Ordos, the MSR Hubba NX, and the Hilleberg Akto – making their way onto bikepacking kit lists, possibly in stripped-down form.


Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (USA, $200)

Weighing just 680g (that’s the same as a full, standard-sized cycling water bottle), the single-pole, single-wall Lunar Solo relies on being staked out and requires you to supply your own pole (it’s designed to be used with a trekking pole). It’s never going to be as comfortable as a double-wall tent with a geodesic structure – but if you’re OK with that, it’s difficult to imagine a more minimal shelter that isn’t a bivvy bag.


Terra Nova Starlite (UK, £595)

New in 2018, the Terra Nova Starlite series, available in 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth options, was one of the first British tents designed with bikepacking in mind. Aside from striking a great combination of weight and weather-resistance, the 2‑berth Starlite 2 weighs just 1.5kg and, thanks to a reduction in pole section length, has a packed length of just 29cm. This means it’ll fit easily into a small pannier, or strap to your handlebars using the stuff-sack’s integrated webbing loops.

Some might consider its non-freestanding design a negative, but in the type of climate and terrain it’s designed for, staking it out really shouldn’t be a problem if you choose your pitch accordingly. Once up, it’s as roomy as you’d expect from a tunnel tent and very stable. That the optional footprint extends to cover the awning floor is a nice bonus.


More Tents For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking

If that’s not enough of a selection, try the following, which have also been recommended by readers of this blog:

I have also happily cycled the length of England with a Tesco Value tent I rescued from the local household recycling centre, because remember: you don’t actually need any of this fancy gear.


Which tent(s) have you successfully used on tours or bikepacking trips? Let us know in the comments.

Still struggling to choose?

How To Hit The Road is here to take the pain out of researching and buying equipment for a long bicycle adventure, with contributions from over 50 veteran riders. Available now as a low-price ebook or print-on-demand paperback.

Click here to learn more →

Categories
Bikes

What’s The Best Touring Bike? (2021 Edition)

Last updated in January 2021. Happy New Year!

The vast range of touring bikes on the market can be bewildering. So it’s no surprise that the single most frequently-asked question I get asked through this blog is some variation of this:

“Help! Which touring bike should I buy?”

Trouble is, it’s one of those questions which is meaningless without context.

In other words, the demands of your ride should dictate your choice of touring bike – not the other way round.

So before we start listing the best touring bikes in 2021, let’s pin down some critical details about your upcoming cycle tour, so we have a clearer idea of what ‘best’ actually means.


1. Exactly what kind of cycle tour are you planning?

Resist the temptation to go deeper into your research until you’re clear about exactly what kind of cycle tour you want to go on. Most bike trips fall somewhere on the following spectrums:

  • Do you want to ride fast or slow?
  • Are you travelling short-term or long-term?
  • Will you be going ultralight or fully-loaded?
  • Is your route mostly on-road or off-road?

These are the questions that will help determine your choice of touring bike. If you’re not clear on the answer to each of them, it might be time to stop reading about bikes and go back to first principles.

A lot of cycle tours land somewhere in the middle of these spectrums. That’s why the big bicycle manufacturers tend to offer a single do-everything touring bike. The only specialisation of these bikes is that they are generalists, catering for a wide range of bicycle travel scenarios, as manufacturers strive to sell enough bikes to break even in the small and not-very-profitable niche of cycle touring. 

Being distributed alongside much more popular categories of bicycle from the same brands, mainstream touring bikes are relatively easy to find for a test ride at your local bike shop. Cycle touring is a conservative niche, with specifications changing little year on year, meaning many of these touring bikes are well and truly tried and tested.

We’ll be looking at the most often-recommended examples of these touring bikes a little later on.

Slow, fully-loaded, long-term cycle touring occasionally looks something like this.

2. What’s your budget?

Short of cash? It is possible to use any bike for touring, as long as it’s about the right size. You will (eventually) get from A to B on the rusty heap that’s been sat in the garage for the last decade. 

This isn’t just rhetoric: read how I put together a complete touring bike (plus gear and luggage) for £25.17.

Got a bit of cash but still on a minimal budget? Good quality touring bikes can be bought new for under £1,000 (USD$1,200). Bikes at this price point are considered entry-level. They are similar in design to their more expensive siblings, but with cheaper components and fewer touring-specific accessories to hit the design goal of affordability.

Got a budget for a serious new bike? Accepted wisdom is to get the best quality bike you can afford without compromising your overall trip budget. This is the domain of the premium touring bike or expedition bike, in which the top design priority is durability, using higher-quality components and build principles to achieve that goal – often at any cost.

If all you can afford is a €20 bike from a local scrapyard for an impromptu cycling adventure, go for it – you won’t be the first to do so!

OK! Let’s have a look at the most tried-and-tested touring bikes throughout the range of budgets.


The Best Entry-Level Touring Bikes In 2021

If you’re getting started, there’s a growing range of cheap but good-quality touring bikes, luggage-enabled and ready to roll, that can be had for less than £1,000 (around USD$1,200). A lot less, in some cases.

These bikes are characterised by having cost-saving aluminium frames; cheaper, heavier and less refined drivetrain components (ie: gearing systems); rim brakes; and perhaps a basic rear rack to get you started. They are nevertheless designed and built specifically for touring, often sharing a frameset with models at the higher end of the budget spectrum. 

Bikes at the entry-level are often prime for future upgrades for longer and more demanding tours – perhaps after you’ve tried your hand at a short cycle tour a little closer to home.

Here are some of the most highly recommended budget touring bikes that have proven themselves over time and miles:


Adventure Flat White (UK, £440)

Currently the cheapest off-the-peg touring bike I know of, the Adventure Flat White from UK company SportLine has a lugged steel frame with a full set of touring-specific frame features (three bottle cage mounts plus rack mounts front and rear), a basic but solid 14-speed road-oriented drivetrain, mudguards, and a rear rack to get you started with undemanding, lightly-loaded tours close to home.

Launched in 2015, it’s still a relative newcomer to this very conservative market, but is gaining a number of positive write-ups as time goes by. Add your favourite saddle and a couple of rear panniers and you’re away.


Dawes Galaxy (UK, £700)

Dawes Galaxy 2020 Touring Bike

Note that Dawes have discontinued the Galaxy line for 2021, citing several years of declining in sales. The below information relates to the 2020 Galaxy.

The entry-level touring bike in long-running UK firm Dawes’s well-known range was the Galaxy.

Previously known as the Galaxy AL (the AL stood for “aluminium”), it was built on the same design principles as the more expensive models in the range such as the Super Galaxy and Ultra Galaxy. The regular model had a basic 3×8sp Shimano Claris mountain bike drivetrain, 36-spoke wheels, and Schwalbe Marathon tyres, which reinforced this bike’s intended use as a heavy-duty, durable and versatile tourer for asphalt and gravel.

  • The Dawes Galaxy was one of the most widely available touring bikes in UK high street bike stores, so you may still find a few 2020 models for sale. Check out this list of touring bike specialists for some starting points.

Fuji Touring LTD 2021 (Worldwide, £1,050/€900)

Japanese manufacturer Fuji’s entry-level touring bike, the Touring LTD, features a Reynolds 520 cromoly frameset with classic touring geometry, and is the only bike in the budget category with flat handlebars, which may appeal to those with a hybrid/city or mountain-biking background.

Strong 36-spoke 700C wheels on Shimano Deore hubs, plus a durable Shimano 3×9sp chainset from the middle of their mountain-biking range, point to high ambitions in a good-value package aimed at riders who want to take their time and explore in comfort on a bike that can tackle a wide range of terrain. The Vittoria Randonneur tyres may not be the longest-lasting, but at 40mm (1.6″) in diameter they’ll be comfortable on asphalt and gravel alike until you make the upgrade.

The Touring LTD does feature some throwaways, like toe clips and frame-mounted pump pegs (really?). Far more valuable is the fact it comes in no fewer than seven frame size, allowing more precise fitting, and fewer compromises for short or tall riders.

The more recently introduced (and more expensive) Touring Disc LTD features the well-regarded TRP Spyre cable disc brakes, and switches from flat bars and a mountain bike chainset to drop bars and road gearing, making it an altogether sportier and more performance-orientated bike than the standard Touring LTD, with a different kind of rider in mind.


Ridgeback Tour 2021 (UK, £850)

The Tour – the cheapest of UK manufacturer Ridgeback’s touring bike range – has much in common with its high-end sibling the Panorama (see below), but with a cost-saving aluminium frame, rim brakes, and a basic Shimano Claris/Acera 3×8sp mountain bike drivetrain.

Ridgeback have improved the specification of the Tour over the last few years, putting it today at the upper end of the entry-level category. If you were looking at the Dawes Galaxy before, this is probably the closest UK-designed tourer in terms of design, specification, price, and availabilty.

The 2021 model is identical in specification to the 2019/2020 models, but gets a £50 price increase and a new paint-job.


The Best Premium Touring Bikes For 2021

Most experienced cycle tourists are not breaking records, but they do want to feel like they’ve got somewhere at the end of a day. They’ll carry all the essentials but pack a few personal luxuries too. Roads will comprise the majority of their trip, but they might find themselves on a dirt or gravel track every now and then. They’ll usually travel for a few weeks, make a few shorter trips closer to home, and occasionally go for a Big Ride of months or more.

This broad space is the domain of the premium touring bike.

Almost all cycle tourists could conduct their travels successfully on any of the following bikes. They’re all mature, capable machines, tried and tested and with sensible price-tags, in need of nothing more than some luggage and perhaps a nicely broken-in Brooks B17 saddle – and, of course, an intrepid rider.

Expect to spend between £1,000–2,000 (USD$1,250–2,500 / CAD$1,750–3,500) on a new, fully-featured premium touring bike. It will last a lifetime if well cared-for and handle most touring scenarios very well.


Kona Sutra 2021 (Worldwide, £1,500)

Kona have long inhabited the left-of-centre in cycling. The Sutra, too, is progressively-minded. It was one of the first mainstream touring bikes to make the switch to disc brakes back in the early 2010s. Since then, Kona have adopted the stiffer and stronger bolt-through axle standard (another first amongst bikes in this list), and tightened up the frame geometry to produce a nimble and sporty cyclocross-inspired steel frameset, which is shared with the firmly gravel-oriented Sutra LTD but remains a touring bike at its core.

Mountain-bike 3×9sp gearing on road wheels and drop bars, plus mixed-terrain Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres and a Brooks B17 generously fitted as standard, all point to the happy blend of on-road and off-road use increasingly preferred by riders going on shorter, wilder adventures, as opposed to world-ranging epics. Where others have moved to integrated shifters and brake levers, Kona have (wisely, in my opinion) stuck with bar-end shifters; perhaps less ergonomic but certainly more durable.

The Sutra comes in six fine-grained frame sizes. Fenders and a decent rear rack are fitted as standard, but following the common trend, you only get the mounts for a front rack or lowrider.

As with many other bikes in this list, the 2021 specification is essentially unchanged, but a weaker pound means the price tag in the UK is a little higher than in previous years.


Ridgeback Panorama 2021 (UK, £1,500)

The Ridgeback Panorama is a UK-designed, Reynolds 725 cromoly-framed, disc brake-equipped, premium touring bike with a durable selection of 3×9sp drivetrain components from both road- and mountain-biking ranges. Its traditional, road-oriented frameset is prime for being built up into a fully-loaded, long-haul, asphalt touring machine. As with other bikes in this list, only the rear rack is fitted as standard, with lowrider fork mounts provided for later upgrade.

Weak points on the Panorama include the integrated shifters/brake levers, which break away from the principle of separating potential points of failure – and although you could theoretically swap them out for bar-end or even downtube shifters, it wouldn’t be the simplest task. The wheelset components are also nothing to write home about; get the spokes re-tensioned before taking this bike on a long-haul tour.

In spite of these question marks, the Panorama has been around for a long time and is very much tried and tested: read Tim & Laura’s detailed guest review of the Panorama after a 6,000-mile road test, after which they completed their round-the-world trip on the same bikes.

The 2021 Panorama gets a fresh, bright-red paint job and a £100 price-tag increase, but is otherwise the same as the 2020 model.


Surly Disc Trucker 2021 (Worldwide, £1,600 / $1,750 / CAD2,450)

Back in 2012, when the jury was still out on disc brakes as a reliable choice for long-distance touring, Surly produced a disc-specific version of their legendary Long Haul Trucker (see below), cunningly naming it the Disc Trucker, which has evolved into one of the most versatile and tried-and-tested touring bikes on the planet. Racks and mudguards are excluded, the intention being for you to retrofit your own according to your needs.

The Disc Trucker platform has had a major update for 2021, about which more detail on the Surly blog. Wheel diameter now complements frame size, ie: bigger wheels suit taller riders and the vice-versa, for a whopping 11 frame/wheel size combinations. Similarly to the Kona Sutra (see above), performance tweaks such as bolt-through axles and touring/bikepacking versatility improvements have been implemented to match the kind of wilder, mixed-terrain rides for which the Disc Trucker is increasingly used.

The garish yellow paint option of the 2021 Disc Trucker won’t be for everyone, but Surly tell us that it’s also available in hi-viz black.


More Globally-Available Premium Touring Bikes

The following bikes from have been recommended by my blog readers as also fitting this category. Some of them are on the budget end, some straying into the top end, but I’ve listed them for the sake of completeness:

How to choose between premium touring bikes?

If you’re having trouble choosing between the premium touring bikes listed above, the reason is probably that – on paper – they are basically all the same bike.

They’re all priced within a couple of hundred pounds/dollars of each other. They all have steel frames, wide gearing, drop bars, non-aggressive riding positions, pannier racks or at least rack mounts, and hybrid drivetrains cut from the middle of Shimano’s mountain-bike and road-bike ranges. They’re all built primarily for paved roads, but could handle a dirt track or gravel road if need be.

So how to choose between them?

The answer is actually very simple. Go to your local bike shop and take a few for a test ride. You’ll quickly feel what’s right for you.


The Best Expedition-Grade World Touring Bikes In 2021

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to the existence of ‘expedition’ bikes, as opposed to ‘touring’ bikes. It’s by no means an industry standard term, but it’s a distinction I think is worth making.

The majority of cycle touring takes place relatively close to home, in the developed world, and for limited periods of time (a few weeks at most). That’s what the bikes in the premium category above are for.

But occasionally a bike will need to survive for months on end in parts of the world where modern Western parts, spares and mechanical help are simply unavailable.

This particular set of touring circumstances is the specialised domain of the expedition bike.

These bikes are usually characterised by having 26-inch wheels for maximum compatibility with the tyres, tubes and wheel parts ubiquitous in the developing world, allowing for much fatter tyres to be fitted for unpaved roads, using old-fashioned standard components such as 8- or 9‑speed drivetrains, square-taper bottom brackets, V‑brakes rather than disc brakes, etc, and having steel frames built for even heavier duty service in the long haul.

They don’t necessarily cost more than a top-end touring bike, but they have a slightly different focus in mind.

Does this apply to you?

(If yes, you might also want to check out my Massive List Of Expedition Touring Bikes For Round-The-World Rides.)


Ridgeback Expedition 2021 (UK, £1,100)

Launched in 2014, tweaked in the years since and now thoroughly tested on longer trips, the Ridgeback Expedition is a strong contender for best value expedition touring bike on the market.

The 2021 model has the same wide-range 3×9sp mountain bike gearing, chunky 26-inch wheels, and the same upright riding position as the original version, but now comes with flat bars and cable disc brakes as standard. Upgrade the rear rack, add a front lowrider and your favourite saddle, and you’ll be ready for the most remote of the planet’s backroads.


Surly Long Haul Trucker (Worldwide, £1,400 / $1,350 / CAD1,950)

Note that Surly have, in the F.A.Q. for this bike, quietly mentioned the discontinuation of the Long Haul Trucker “for the time being”. Let’s hope this is a temporary measure. 

The Surly Long Haul Trucker is perhaps the most legendary of the bikes in this list owing to the proliferation of American riders hauling it around the globe. Since its launch in the mid-2000s, it’s proved itself a supremely versatile and well-balanced world touring bike at an affordable price.

A pure-bred world tourer – as opposed to its sportier sibling the Disc Trucker – the Long Haul Trucker is still proudly fitted with rim brakes, which is no bad thing if you’re riding it round the planet. You’re left to fit your own racks and mudguards, putting the Trucker halfway between an off-the-peg tourer and a configurable platform for a wide range of global adventures.

All sizes of previous years’ framesets were available to fit both 26″ and 700c wheel diameters. This thinking has been updated for 2021 on the basis that ‘fit comes first’, with the 42–58cm sizes made for 26″ wheels, and the 56–62cm frames designed for the 700c standard, with a slight overlap in the middle of the range. Tall riders who want 26-inch wheels for reasons not related to fit should probably look elsewhere.


Thorn Sherpa (UK, from £1,368)

thorn-sherpa

Thorn’s 26-inch steel tourer, the Sherpa, starts at well over a grand and depending on specification could be double that, but the Somerset-based company have established themselves as creating ultra-reliable expedition bikes on an individual basis. They also make the Rohloff-equipped Nomad.

  • To buy one, you’ll need to book an appointment with St John’s Street Cycles in Bridgewater to get yours specified and fitted to your needs.

Oxford Bike Works Expedition (UK, from £2,299)

Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike

Originally a one-off ‘ultimate expedition bike’ built to my exact specification, Oxford Bike Works have been refining and custom-building the Expedition to order since 2015, and many have now circled the globe.

As standard, each bike features a hand-built Reynolds 525 cromoly steel frame, a choice of 26″ or 700C hand-built wheels, Tubus racks, rim or disc brake options, thumbshifters, and tons of other expedition-specific touches. 

Oxford Bike Works are currently moving all frame production to the UK, minimising shipping emissions and allowing yet more individual tailoring.

  • To get one, start with a (free) Zoom consultation to determine your needs and preferences. All the details are on the Oxford Bike Works website.

More Globally Available Expedition-Grade World Touring Bikes

There is a narrow but surprisingly deep market for the kind of bicycle that will take you on a once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world cycling adventure. As well as the popular choices above, I’ve collected all the bikes I can find that fit this description into a massive list of expedition-grade world touring bikes, which currently features no fewer than 52 such bikes from manufacturers in nine different countries (and counting), all in one nicely-organised table.


This is part of a series of in-depth, continuously-updated blog posts about equipment for cycle touring. Check out my advice & planning page for tons more seasoned advice on every aspect of planning a cycle tour.

Still struggling to choose?

How To Hit The Road is here to take the pain out of researching and buying equipment for a long bicycle adventure, with contributions from over 50 veteran riders. Available now as a low-price ebook or print-on-demand paperback.

Click here to learn more →

Categories
Equipment

12 Crucial Qualities Of A Bicycle Traveller’s Perfect Tent

Interested in why bicycle travellers tend to prefer certain types of tent? Let’s explore in detail a few of the key criteria – I’ve identified twelve, to be precise – that might cause a cycle tourer or bikepacker to choose one tent over another in this overly crowded market.

The perfect tent, of course, does not exist, because there is no such thing as perfection! But if it did, it would probably…

1. Weigh as little as possible

The less weight you’re carrying, the nimbler and more enjoyable to ride your bike will be while you’re on it, and the more manageable it’ll be while you’re off it.

In the old days, tents were built of heavy canvas, wood and steel, and weighed as much as a bicycle. Modern tents, by contrast, are now absurdly light. 

The ideal touring tent would, therefore, weigh as little as possible when packed – particularly important for bikepackers.

The Terra Nova Starlite 2 tunnel tent manages to sleep two people in a compact, lightweight package.

2. Last as long as possible

The importance of durability increases in parallel with the length of your journey. Modern tents do have a limited lifespan and on an ultra-long tour can almost be considered a consumable item, most multi-year journeys involving a series of tents. 

Common points of failure include zip sliders wearing out, floors losing waterproofness, poles fatiguing and snapping under stress, and flysheets shrinking through prolonged UV exposure. 

Long-term riders especially therefore tend to choose tents whose durability has proven itself over time.

This Vaude Hogan UL 2P wedge tent has been through two sets of poles and zippers but is going strong.

3. Pitch anywhere

Especially when wild-camping, perfect pitching conditions can never be guaranteed. As well as this, a long tour may well incorporate a variety of environments.

The perfect tent would go up anywhere, regardless of the availability of flat, level ground, and with or without the ability to use pegs/stakes.

That is, rather simplistically, why cyclists tend to choose freestanding tents, in which the poles support the whole structure, or tents requiring minimal staking out.

Even a £20 tent from Tesco can satisfy many of a cyclist’s needs.

4. Blend into the background

Successful wild-camping is largely about avoiding detection. Part of this is having a tent that does not stick out like a sore thumb in a landscape.

The ideal tent, therefore, would exhibit chameleon-like properties, blending perfectly into the surroundings. Tents with green or neutral-coloured flysheets are therefore a good bet, while bright orange or yellow mountaineering tents are less than preferable in this regard.

Stealth-camping with neutral green tents in a park on the outskirts of Huntingdon.

5. Go up quickly

Once a suitable pitch has been found, the last thing a cycle traveller wants is to waste time pitching or tweaking an overly complicated tent, particularly in bad weather or when stealth-camping under cover of darkness.

This, again, is one of the reasons why cyclists tend to prefer freestanding tents with simple, ideally one-piece, pole structures, which are pitched in a few seconds, all stakes and guy lines being optional.

The 1‑berth MSR Hubba’s inner tent could barely be simpler to pitch.

6. Keep you dry in a monsoon

Any tent worth its salt will keep its occupants dry. The best tents will do so in a torrential downpour and on waterlogged ground, and many riders will have to anticipate such conditions. 

In practice, this means choosing a tent with an additional footprint to provide extra waterproofing to the floor, an adjustable fly sheet that can be cinched down closer to the ground to avoid splashback, and a good level of protection around the edges of the inner tent as well. It might also mean a footprint that extends to cover the space beneath the awning where your gear is being stowed.

The wedge design of the Vaude Hogan UL was adept at shedding water in even the heaviest of Mongolian thunderstorms.

7. Stand up in a hurricane

Extreme weather, by definition, is the exception rather than the norm. But the longer the trip, the higher the chances of being exposed to it. 

The ideal tent would take stormy weather in its stride, remaining firmly planted even whilst houses, pets and automobiles are being blown clean away.

So-called ‘geodesic’ and tunnel tents tend to do well in strong winds when properly pitched and oriented, while wedge-shaped tents are among the worst performers in this sense.

The tunnel design of the Terra Nova Starlite holds up well in high winds, even if a few more stakes and guylines are required.

8. Ventilate in all climates

Climate control is a perpetual concern for the camper. Condensation in particular can contribute far more to a soggy night’s sleep than rainfall itself.

The ideal tent would feature adjustable ventilation options for all circumstances, including plentiful mesh panels on the inner so it can be pitched alone in hot weather and allow a good breeze to come through.

Even the best-ventilated tent will never perform as well as a good camping hammock such as the Hennessy.

9. Provide a view when you want it

Tents are enclosed and often claustrophobic spaces designed to isolate and protect from the elements. But when the elements are at their most desirable, the ideal tent will provide a viewing platform from which to drink all that natural beauty up. 

This usually means choosing a tent with an awning that can be tied right back and a mesh panel on the inner door to look through, if not a full mesh inner tent.

Some tents provide better views than others, though it also depends on where you pitch them!

10. Give you privacy when you need it

Sometimes, after a long day on the road, all you’ll want to do is retreat to a save haven. The ideal tent will feel as secure, safe and impermeable as a padded cell. 

If you think it’ll be warm and dry enough to pitch only the inner tent without the rainfly, a full mesh inner will afford no privacy whatsoever. A tent with a combination of mesh and fabric panels, on the other hand, may strike a better balance.

The MSR Mutha Hubba HP strikes a good balance of visibility, ventilation and privacy for a couple on tour.

11. Allow room for all your luggage

Tents being necessarily restricted in size for practical reasons, it’s usually possible to bring some of your belongings inside, but often it’ll be necessary to leave at the very least your bicycle to brave the elements overnight. 

The ideal tent provides space for everything to be brought inside or stowed in the awning – perhaps even the bike.

Interior view of a folding bike and luggage inside the awning of an MSR Hubba 1-berth tent
Perhaps it’s cheating to use a folding bike, but even a minimal solo tent like the MSR Hubba can provide ample storage space in the awning.

12. Provide space to live

In a similar vein to the above, tents are more or less well designed for doing anything other than sleeping. 

The ideal tent will exhibit Tardis-like qualities, providing space to unpack, rearrange, work, play, get changed, entertain guests, repair bicycles and more, in addition to simply sleeping.

Even ultralight shelters like the Zpacks Duplex can provide a surprising amount of living space.

In reality, there is no single tent that ticks all of the above boxes. Choosing the right tent for your bike trip is about knowing what compromises you can safely make, and when you should stick to your guns.

Many of these compromises are common to a lot of riders, which is why a small handful of tents have emerged as long-time favourites among cycle tourers and bikepackers.

Anything I’ve missed? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Categories
On The Road

20 Hard-Earned Survival Tips For Cycling In Winter

“There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing”, Sir Ranulph Fiennes once said. I don’t imagine he got the idea after a winter bike ride, but the same holds true: there’s nothing stopping you pedalling through darkening days and sub-zero temperatures, as long as you dress for the occasion – and bear a few other key points in mind.

I learned all this the hard way when I spent a memorable February cycling and camping my way through Norway and Sweden, across the Arctic Circle and into Lapland (click here to watch the 2‑minute short film on Vimeo). After a very steep learning curve, it proved to be a magical experience, and one I constantly refer to when encouraging others to give winter cycling a try.

Rejoice, then, in the fact that you do not need to go to such extreme lengths as I did to enjoy yourself on two wheels this winter. Here’s how to survive the season:

1. Layer Up

Inappropriate clothing will leave you shivering, sweaty, or both. While you can simply crank up the pace to stay warm in autumn, winter requires a different approach. Combine warm yet wicking long-sleeve baselayers – ideally merino – with breathable microfleece midlayers, windproof shell jackets, and insulated winter tights. Versatility is key.

2. Vent Moisture

The harder you ride, the more you’ll sweat, and if sweat accumulates in your clothing at sub-zero temperatures you will literally freeze in your saddle. Good quality breathable and wicking clothing can only do so much, so ensure that your windproof outer layer has plentiful venting options, such as a full-length front zip, armpit zips and adjustable cuffs.

3. Drop Your Pace

You can reduce sweat build-up in another way: by slowing down. If you’re used to a nippy fair-weather pace, it’s often tough to change your habits, but the last thing you want is moisture freezing in the fibres of your clothing. Use the winter as an excuse to take longer, slower rides and work on endurance.

4. Control Exertion

Exertion and moisture isn’t just about pace, and other factors are amplified in winter when the equilibrium is more delicate. Pay attention to gradients, speed and windchill, sunlight and shade, cold sinks at the bottom of valleys, and time of day; all of which will affect your body temperature. Anticipate and adjust your exertion and layering appropriately.

5. Protect Extremities

Fingers and toes are vulnerable to cold with little blood flow. Prevent the worst by wearing ‘two-fingered’ mitts, woollen socks and neoprene overboots. If it’s really Arctic, wear plastic bags between liner socks and thick socks (I’m not joking), and consider ‘pogies’ for your handlebars. Your ears and neck are superconductors, so wear a beanie and a neck gaiter. Male riders shouldn’t forget that ‘other’ extremity – a spare glove or sock works well…

6. Winterize Your Bike

Clean and lube your drivetrain after every ride – particularly if you’re riding after the gritting trucks have been out, as salty road-spray will eat it for breakfast. Use a synthetic winter lubricant. Treat any exposed steel with anti-rust spray. Make sure cables are well-sealed and uncontaminated. You don’t want brake cables freezing up on icy roads.

7. Break Out The Winter Accessories

Mudguards may be unfashionable but they’ll keep your drivetrain and backside untarnished while you’re riding in slush or on salted roads. Consider thermal wraps for your water bottles, or bring Thermos flasks instead – or, if it’s stupidly cold, wear a Camelbak under your outer layer. A nice warm saddle cover might feel like a good idea after your first couple of sub-zero rides, too.

8. Don’t Slip (Or Sink)

Drop your tyre pressure for better traction in slush or on wet roads. Skinny tyres often cut through slush and snow better than fatter tyres and make better contact with the tarmac. If it’s truly iced up, however fit studded tyres, which work extremely well, as I discovered in Sweden while riding across a frozen lake. On the other hand, if there’s deep snow outside your window, high-volume tyres float best. (That’s why fatbikes were invented.)

9. Don’t Stop (For Long)

It’s easy to forget that the colder the air temperature, the more rapidly that hard-earned body heat will be sucked away from you. Keep rest breaks short, and never stop at the top of a long, shaded descent! Watch out for ice patches when dismounting, too – your studded tyres may not slip, but you yourself may end up a sprawling pile of limbs if you’re not careful.

10. Protect Your Lungs

In seriously cold conditions, a neck-warmer serves an important dual function as a membrane through which to breathe and protect your lungs from cold, dry air, which can cause respiratory problems and even nosebleeds in the unprepared.

11. Protect Your Eyes

A white snowy landscape under direct sunlight will divert far more UV rays towards your eyeballs than even the brightest of summer days. Protect your eyes appropriately with wraparound sunglasses with UVA/UVB filtered lenses. Some consider orange tinted lenses to help with contrast in snowy environments. Extreme cold may even call for goggles over glasses.

12. Understand Sunlight

Particularly further north, you’ll notice that the sun hangs lower in the sky as a result of Earth’s tilted axis. When planning a ride, consider where the sun is going to be at different times of day. You don’t want to be pedalling into a setting sun at rush hour, for example, when both your and other drivers’ abilities to see what’s ahead is seriously impaired.

13. Understand Moonlight

A full moon above a snow-covered landscape at night is a thing to behold, and the glow is quite enough to ride by. This is one of the greatest draws of the otherwise faintly ludicrous idea of winter night-riding: you will see familiar landscapes quite literally in a whole new light, one that is quite magical. Don’t forget lights for visibility of course; on which note…

14. Get Lit Up

Winter days mean a higher likelihood you’ll need lights to see and be seen – whether because the sunlight is weaker, or because there’s a chance you’ll misjudge the short daylight hours and be caught out in the dark. When choosing, remember that lithium batteries don’t like cold weather. Consider an inexpensive set of backup lights, and always check everything’s fully charged before you set out.

15. Get Fuelled Up

Your body will burn more calories to keep your core warm, as well to keep your legs spinning. This, of course, means eating ever bigger slices of cake during your breaks. If you take snacks with you, keep them in an inside pocket so they don’t harden or freeze. Finally, don’t forget to hydrate – even if cold water is the last thing you feel like drinking, you still need it.

16. Avoid The Verge

Otherwise rideable hard shoulders become a frozen mess of slush and debris in winter, meaning you’ll do well to stay further away from the edge of the road than you might be used to. It’s better to force motorists to give you a wide berth than to put yourself in a dangerous position, so don’t be afraid to take the lane – as many drivers will expect you to do in winter anyway.

17. Revisit Old Routes

Blankets of snow and the long shadows of winter give even the most familiar landscape a magical shroud, and you can’t beat a good ride to make the most of it. Not only that, but the roads will be much quieter than you’re used to as the fair weather cyclists stick to their turbo trainers – and you’ll discover new places to stop that really come into their own in wintertime.

18. Explore New Routes

Of course, there’s nothing to reinvigorate the senses than exploring somewhere new, and again, given the right preparation, your bike can take you places nobody else would think to ride or drive on the coldest and snowiest of winter’s days – even more so on icy roads with spiked tyres.

19. Camp Out!

I’m aware this will convince very few, but I really don’t think cycle touring is restricted to fair weather any more than road riding is. Wait for a clear, fine night; throw an extra-thick sleeping bag, a couple of woolly hats and a hip-flask of single malt into your panniers; then ride up to that excellent look-out point and bivvy out under the stars – better with company, of course.

20. Endure The Cold, Enjoy The Warmth

Above all, go forth and pedal in the knowledge that even if your water bottles do freeze solid, your toes go numb, and you make most of your descents on your backside rather than in the saddle, you’ll never be far away from a hot shower, a cup of tea and a massive slice of cake – which will all be that much more satisfying for the misery you endured while earning them.

Anything I’ve missed? Add your best winter cycling tips in the comments!