Categories
Equipment

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

Last updated on October 19, 2022, adding more detailed retailer information.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in choosing the best tent for your cycle tour or bikepacking trip is the fact that there’s no recognised category of tent for two-wheeled adventures.

Instead, you’re left to browse the hiking, backpacking and mountaineering tent selections, which are filled with ultralight tents, freestanding tents, 3‑season and 4‑season tents, double wall and single wall tents, tents with or without awnings or footprints, tarp tents that don’t even have a floor – and at prices from next to nothing up to hundreds (even thousands) of pounds or dollars. 

Which of these tents is right for your upcoming two-wheeled adventures? The truth is that you’ll be lucky to find a tent designed specifically with cycle tourers or bikepackers in mind.

And why the industry bias towards people with backpacks rather than bicycles? Simple: the market is much bigger. This is where the money is. We cycle tourers and bikepackers sit on the margins, and are lucky if we get more than a quick mention in the product description.

Given that, it’s natural to look for recommendations from the community when choosing a tent for cycle touring or bikepacking.

But before you get bogged down with what other people think is the best tent, here’s one important thing to remember:

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

Inspect the camps of larger groups of riders and you’ll start to see common themes emerging in tent choice and design.

Before you go any deeper into tent research for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip, then, take a moment to ask yourself:

  • Are you investing for a long-lasting tent for a transcontinental bike tour, or angling for a bargain for a short summer adventure?
  • Are you a heavyweight touring couple who like plenty of living space and room for luggage, a minimalist solo weekend warrior, or somewhere in between?
  • Do you have racks and panniers to take bulky and heavy loads, or are you bikepacking with frame luggage, handlebar harnesses and fork cages alone?
  • Do you plan on staying mostly at nice campsites with perfect pitches, or wild camping in the woods after dark?
  • Are you planning a nice, fair-weather ride, or will all-season, winter or high-altitude mountain use be involved?

As I mentioned, 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…

Wild-camping on the Outer Mongolian steppe with two Vaude Hogan UL wedge tents.

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 15 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, 2‑berth, 3‑season tent in an inconspicuous shade of green, weighing 1–2kg (2–4 pounds), striking the perfect balance between comfort, durability and weight, and strapping nicely to a rear rack or a handlebar harness, with room inside for the rider and the most valuable bits of their luggage.

For a couple or pair, it’s the 3‑berth model of the same tent.

And for a solo ultralight rider, it’s the 1‑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 Hubba range, which is available in 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models.

(Click here to skip down to the full details, photos, and manufacturer links for the MSR Hubba Hubba range).

I’ve used and abused many tents in the Hubba Hubba range over the years, including a 2014 2‑berth Hubba Hubba NX, a 2012 1‑berth Hubba, and a 2010 3‑berth Mutha Hubba HP. They’re heavily patched-up with seam seal and repair tape, but I still use all of them regularly (see the photos above).

If you don’t have any highly specialised requirements and you’re looking for a top-quality tent you can simply grab and ride out the door with, the MSR Hubba Hubba 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 important for cyclists.

On a bike trip, 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 often concerned with minimising their pack weight, and for that reason sometimes carry single-skin shelters propped up by trekking poles that weigh just a few hundred grams. Unless you’re hoping to win an endurance bikepacking race, you probably won’t be sharing this obsession. (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 slightly 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 (or stealth camp) undetected, close to civilisation. For that reason, the colour of the pitched tent often limits the range of appropriate choices.

This is less of a concern for remote, off-road riding in wilderness areas where you’re going to be a long way from people. But many bikepackers tend to combine that with road tours and stealth camping, and therefore want a tent that can serve well in both situations.

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 tarp shelter.


The Best Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Tents For 2022

The tents in the following list are specifically recommended for cycle touring and bikepacking, and have been extensively road-tested by the community at large.

Items in this list come from manufacturers across the English-speaking world, so whether you’re reading this article in the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada, or elsewhere, there’ll be options here you can buy locally, as well as online.

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, and will soon be updated for 2022.

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 service, 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. Wherever possible, I’ve included links to online retailers in the UK, USA, Australia, 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.


Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 (UK, £230)

Wild Country is the budget marque of the premium British manufacturer Terra Nova. The 1.85kg Zephyros Compact 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 in 2020, 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 (UK, £220)

Direct retailer and manufacturer Alpkit have made a splash in the UK bikepacking and cycle touring scene with their Ordos ultralight 3‑season wedge tents. I used one on a traverse of the central highlands of Armenia, and I’d still be using it if it hadn’t later been trampled by a herd of cattle.

With 2- and 3‑berth models available and a choice of a red or green fly for the style-conscious rider, the lightweight Ordos tents – just 1.4kg for the 2‑berth and 1.7kg for the 3‑berth in their most minimal configurations – are roomy, practical, well-ventilated, easy to pitch, and reasonably priced, doing best in warmer weather.

The classic wedge design echoes long-standing tents such as the Vaude Hogan (see below) and Big Agnes Seedhouse. It’s not quite freestanding but close enough for almost all real-world purposes, requiring a minimum of four stakes for a good pitch.

Bikepackers will be interested to know that the most recent versions of the Ordos feature short-section collapsible poles, making the 42cm-long pack shape and size as handlebar harness-friendly as possible.

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

REI Co-op Quarter Dome 2/3 (USA, $350/400)

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, available in 2‑berth (1.5kg) and 3‑berth (1.8kg) 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 two-berth Quarter Dome 2 from REI.com in the USA
  • Get the three-berth Quarter Dome 3 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.

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 retailer MEC. Formerly Mountain Equipment Cooperative, the organisation was bought out in 2020 and now trades as Mountain Equipment Company.

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 retailer, 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 more popular Hubba range (see below), European markets get a choice of green or grey rainfly while Americans are, for unknown reasons, stuck with grey.


MSR Hubba Hubba 1/2/3P (Worldwide, £385/445/650 / $410/480/580)

The MSR Hubba Hubba 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 features 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models (all three of which are pictured above – can you spot the differences?), and has been updated several times over the last couple of decades as tent technology evolves. Today, the MSR Hubba Hubba range aims to strike that finest of balances between weight, comfort and durability. In other words, they’re neither the lightest, biggest, nor longest-lasting tents in this list, but you’re unlikely to find fault with the end result.

As pictured above, the updated-for-2022 North American models now come with a “Sahara” yellow-tan rainfly, replacing the light grey of previous iterations. 

In Europe (where the range still goes by the old ‘NX’ naming scheme), grey and green rainflys are still available. If you have a choice, I’d recommend green for more inconspucious wild camping.

Most solo fully-loaded cycle tourers go for the 1.5kg, 2‑berth Hubba Hubba (known before 2022 as the Hubba Hubba NX), which may also suit those bikepacking in pairs. If I’m running out the door and don’t have time to choose the perfect tent from my stash, I’ll always grab this one.

Couples with a full luggage setup tend to prefer the spacious 1.7kg 3‑berth Hubba Hubba (known before 2022 as the Mutha Hubba NX). This is my and my wife’s go-to tent when we ride together.

Ultralight solo bikepackers usually go for the 1‑berth Hubba Hubba (known before 2022 as the Hubba NX) with a minimum packed weight of 1.1kg. I took one of these down the US West Coast a few years back and wrote this review.

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 real high-quality 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, £660)

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 2.15kg, top-class construction, weatherproofing, liveability and extreme durability is the order of the day here.


Hilleberg Nallo 2/3/GT (Sweden, £910+)

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 heavyweight 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 lighter 1.7kg Akto for soloists and bikepackers, and the freestanding and spacious 3.3kg Allak 2 for couples and heavyweight tourers. The Swedish brand of course makes excellent winter tents, with the 2.4kg Soulo standing out.


The Best Ultralight Bikepacking Tents For 2022

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 2, the MSR Hubba 1P, 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, £655)

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? (2022 Edition)

Last updated on May 2, 2022. I regularly update this post with the latest details of all the touring bikes mentioned below as new information becomes available from the manufacturers.

Choosing from the huge range of touring bikes on the market can be bewildering for the uninitiated. So it’s no surprise that the most frequently-asked question I get asked on 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 for 2022, let’s pin down some critical details about your upcoming cycle tour, so we have a clearer idea of what ‘best’ actually means.


1. There are as many ways to go on a bike tour as there are riders. Where does your trip fit in?

It’s critical to resist going too deep 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 touring short-term or long-term?
  • Will you be cycling 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 think harder about what kind of experience you want to have.

A lot of cycle tours land somewhere in the middle of these spectrums. That’s why the major bicycle manufacturers – Trek, Kona, Surly, Cube, Fuji, etc – tend to offer one do-everything touring bike.

The Kona Sutra (2012 model pictured) is a good example of a generalist, do-everything touring bike from a relatively major manufacturer.

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-fashionable niche of cycle touring. 

Being distributed alongside road, commuter, mountain and gravel bikes from the same brands, mainstream touring bikes are fairly easy to find for a test ride at your local bike shop. 

It’s important to know that cycle touring (as opposed to bikepacking) is a very traditional and conservative niche, with specifications changing little year on year. This is good, because it means many of these touring bikes have a strong tried and tested heritage.

We’ll be looking at oft-recommended examples of mainstream touring bikes a little later on. But first…

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, rode it the length of England to prove it worked, then passed it on to another rider to continue pedalling. It’s since been ridden across Europe and Asia and was last seen somewhere in Vietnam.

Got a bit of cash but still on a minimal budget?

Capable touring bikes can be bought new for under £1,000 (USD$1,200 or CAD$1,500).

Touring bikes at this price point are considered entry-level. These bikes usually differ from their premium siblings by having cost-saving aluminium frames; cheaper drivetrain components (ie: gearing systems); rim brakes; and often only a basic pannier rack. They are still designed and built specifically for touring, often sharing a frameset with models at the higher end of the budget spectrum. 

Entry-level touring bikes 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.

(Note that several once-popular budget touring bikes have been discontinued in recent years, including the Adventure Flat White, Ridgeback Tour, Dawes Galaxy AL, and the Revolution Country Traveller, to name a few. You may find leftover stock of these bike still being sold today at a bargain price, and you can be sure they’ll do just as well as any of the other bikes in this list.)

Got a budget for a serious new touring bike?

Accepted wisdom is to get the best you can afford without compromising your overall trip budget.

This is the domain of the premium touring bike, or expedition bike. The top design priority here is durability, using higher-quality components and construction principles specific to the rigorous demands of touring.

There’s a rich selection of bikes at this price point, and almost all cycle tourists could conduct their travels successfully on any of them. 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 £1,500–2,000 (USD$1,600–2,200 / CAD$2,000–2,800) on a new, fully-featured premium touring bike. It will last a lifetime if well cared-for and handle most touring scenarios very well.

(Note that we will not be discussing bikepacking rigs – a shapeshifting category where no two bikes are the same and the trends change every week.)

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, enough with the basics. Let’s have a look at the most tried-and-tested touring bikes throughout the budget range.


Cube Touring 2022 (Worldwide, £750 / USD$760 / CAD$1,090)

The entry-level touring bike range from major German bike maker Cube is the very affordable and simply-named Touring. It’s one of the cheapest off-the-peg touring bikes on the market in 2022.

If you’re used to the sight of British or American designed tourers, you’ll notice some big differences, such as the flat handlebars and adjustable stem, the upright riding posture, and the front suspension fork, as well as other details like a kickstand, a hub dynamo, and LED lights as standard. 

These are all typical features of touring bikes from central Europe, and if you’re not coming from a road-cycling discipline, this kind of added comfort and convenience may prove attractive to first-time tourers.

In an effort to cater for a diverse customer base, the Cube Touring comes in several frame variations and sizes, including the classic diamond frame (5 sizes), women’s specific with a sloping top-tube (3 sizes) and a step-through frame for riders with decreased mobility (3 sizes), all in a choice of two colour schemes for 2022.

The ‘semi-integrated’ rear rack, which is held in position by the mudguard/fender, is admittedly a bit wacky. Together with the front fork’s lack of rack mounts, buyers who are looking for a bike that can be upgraded for heavyweight expeditions will need a rear rack with optional seatstay clamps, such as the ever-popular Tubus Logo, in the absence of standard mountings.

The rest of the specification is pretty standard at this price point. The Shimano V‑brakes and entry-level drivetrain components are sensible but won’t win any awards. The saddle will almost certainly be discarded, and the pedals – well – you can’t sell a bike without them. It’s the law.

All that said, perhaps the bike’s strongest selling point is the price, with the recent disappearance of several popular entry-level touring bikes leaving a gap at this end of the market that Cube seem more than happy to fill.


Decathlon Riverside Touring 520 2022 (UK/Europe, £800/€800)

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the success of Decathlon’s big-box, no-frills approach to designing, manufacturing and selling sports and outdoor gear. The Riverside Touring is the entry-level model in Decathlon’s relatively new foray into touring bikes, and for many riders will be a welcome addition to the sparse options at the budget end of the market.

The Riverside Touring 520 is built up on an aluminium frame, whose geometry sits somewhere between the old-school rigid mountain bike and today’s trendy gravel/hybrid rides. The frameset sports a raft of mounting points for more or less any luggage configuration you might imagine, including a front lowrider or fork cages, a traditional rear carrier rack should the semi-integrated stock rack not be to your tastes, and no less than five bottle cages.

The riding position of the Riverside Touring leans towards relaxed and upright, with the sloping top-tube helping with mounting and dismounting, and flat bars with so-called ergonomic grips and bar-ends atop a stack of head-tube spacers, all pointing to a bike designed with the casual or newcomer rider in mind, though there’s certainly no reason for an experienced cycle tourer to dismiss it. Comfortably wide 1.75″ tyres will be equally content on asphalt and gravel at the 700C (28″) wheel diameter.

The progressively-minded design extends to component choice, where Decathlon have specified a 1×11 drivetrain (ie: a single front chainring driving an 11-sprocket rear cassette). The hydraulic disc brakes are also an unorthodox choice for a touring bike in many of the markets in which this bike retails. Both will have some touring purists up in arms, citing increased chain wear rates and the difficulty of repairing hydraulics on the roadside.

There may be a certain amount of validity to such criticisms, but the real-life consequences will have much more to do with the rider’s approach to preventative maintenance and problem-solving than the components themselves – and if you’re really not happy, you can always “upgrade” to more standard touring components.

There are only four frame size options, however, and taken together with the wheel size this may prevent those with particularly short body lengths from finding a good match with the Riverside Touring 520.

In summary, while Decathlon have leaned pretty far into the crossover between touring and hybrid/gravel, there’s precious little to find fault with at this price. Indeed, for buyers looking for an entry-level bike not just for touring but also commutes and weekend spins, this may be just the ticket.

  • Buy the Riverside Touring 520 2022 in the UK from Decathlon
  • The bike is also available from Decathlon branches across Europe.

Fuji Touring Disc 2022 (£1,200 / USD$1,500)

With the departure of the rim-brake-equipped Fuji Touring, the major Japanese manufacturer’s entry-level touring bike for 2022 is now the Fuji Touring Disc, featuring a Reynolds 520 cromoly frameset with classic touring geometry.

The Fuji Touring Disc features the well-regarded TRP Spyre cable disc brakes and drop handlebars, making it a sportier bike than the standard Touring used to be, with classic road-bike styling.

The bike features strong 36-spoke 700C wheels on Shimano Deore hubs, plus a durable Shimano 3×10-speed chainset from the mid-level ranges of the mountain-bike series of components, pointing to high ambitions in a good-value package aimed at a rider who wants to take their time and explore in comfort on a bike that can tackle a wide range of terrain.

The Fuji Touring Disc 2022 comes in no fewer than seven frame sizes, allowing precise fitting and fewer compromises for short or tall riders.


Kona Sutra SE 2022 (Worldwide, £1,600)

Kona have long inhabited the left-of-centre in cycling. The Sutra range, too, is progressively-minded. The original Sutra 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.

For 2022, Kona have further diversified the platform into regular and SE models. 

The standard Sutra goes in a sportier, more multi-purpose, and (dare I say it) trendier direction, swapping the rear rack for a Tubus lowrider, switching to a road drivetrain and cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes, and speccing retro Brooks bar tape to match the retro leather saddle. 

The Sutra SE remains the ‘traditional’ touring bike of the bunch, and is the model I continue to recommend here as the bombproof, ready-for-anything tourer the Sutra always was, with a specification essentially the same as the 2021 Sutra but with a new name and a silver-blue metallic paint job.

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 well as world-ranging epics. Where others have moved to integrated shifters and brake levers, Kona have (wisely, in my opinion) stuck with bar-end shifters for the Sutra SE; perhaps less ergonomic but certainly more durable.

The Kona Sutra range comes in six fine-grained frame sizes. Fenders and a decent rear rack are fitted as standard.


Ridgeback Panorama 2022 (UK, £1,600)

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. Newly for 2022, both a front lowrider and a rear rack are fitted as standard – Tubus lookalikes, not the genuine articles, but still a welcome addition for fully-loaded riders who are just getting started.

Potential weak points on the Panorama include the integrated shifters/brake levers, which break away from the principle of separating possible 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.

Aside from the addition of a front lowrider, the 2022 Panorama got a fresh teal paint job, a kickstand, and a £100 price-tag increase, but was otherwise the same as the 2021 model.


Surly Disc Trucker 2022 (Worldwide, £1,600 / USD$2,000 / CAD$2,700)

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.

It has since evolved into one of the most versatile and tried-and-tested touring/adventure bikes on the planet. 

The Disc Trucker platform had a major update in 2020, 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. If, having tried all the Disc Truckers for size, you still can’t find a good fit, you should probably visit a bespoke framebuilder.

Geometry has been tightened up, and gear shifters are now integrated with brake levers. This won’t please everyone, but will certainly please riders looking for a performance boost over the uncompromising durability often seen in the expedition bike niche.

Similarly to the Kona Sutra above, Surly have made additional tweaks such as bolt-through axles, spare for fat tyres, and touring/bikepacking versatility improvements such as multiple fork mounts for fenders, cages or lowriders, to match the kind of wilder, mixed-terrain rides for which the Disc Trucker is increasingly used.

As ever with Surly, racks and mudguards remain excluded, the intention being for you to fit your own according to your needs.

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


More Globally-Available Touring Bikes

The following bikes have also been recommended by blog readers:


The Best Expedition-Grade World Touring Bikes In 2022

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 mainly marketed 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 specialised set of touring circumstances is the 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, and allowing for much fatter tyres to be fitted for unpaved roads. They often use somewhat old-fashioned components such as 8- or 9‑speed drivetrains, square-taper bottom brackets, V‑brakes rather than disc brakes, etc, simply because these systems are often easier to maintain on the roadside over months and years. Finally, the steel frames almost always used for expedition bikes are 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, though it’s currently a couple of years out of date. I’m working on it.)


Ridgeback Expedition 2022 (UK, £1,350)

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 2022 model has the same wide-range 3×9sp mountain bike gearing, chunky 26-inch wheels, and upright riding position as the original, but now comes with flat bars and cable disc brakes as standard (the first incarnation had drop bars and V‑brakes).

The Ridgeback-branded integrated grips and bar-ends are modelled on the very popular but expensive Ergon range. The 2022 update of the Ridgeback Expedition also sees a brazed-on kickstand mounting plate added to the non-drive-side chainstay (though not an actual kickstand).

In many ways, as well as being excellent value for money, the Ridgeback Expedition is one of the most full-featured off-the-peg bikes in this list for extremely demanding trips where comfort and durability over time are paramount.

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 / USD$1,350 / CAD1,950)

In 2021, Surly stated that ‘there are no future productions planned for Long Haul Trucker bikes or frames’. Let’s hope this is a temporary measure for this otherwise legendary bike.

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 (above) – 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.


Oxford Bike Works Expedition (UK, from £2,789)

Oxford Bike Works Expedition Bike

Originally a one-off ‘ultimate expedition bike’ built to my own specification, Oxford Bike Works have been refining and custom-building the Expedition to order since 2015 from their workshop in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England. Many have now circled the globe. This is my personal expedition bike of choice. It’s not cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for.

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

From a baseline specificaion, each bike is custom-built to the rider’s exact needs and preferences after a consultation and in-person fitting session at their workshop. This means that no two Expeditions are ever the same.

Oxford Bike Works are currently moving all frame production to the UK, minimising shipping emissions and allowing yet more individual tailoring – especially attractive for diverse riders who may find that the off-the-peg bikes in this list don’t cater well for their needs.


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. Yes, it does need a bit of an update. I’m getting to it.


But How Should I Actually Choose A Touring Bike?

Now I’m going to tell you a secret. 

It’s something other bloggers won’t tell you, because they’d prefer you to click on their affilliate links, buy a bike online, and earn them a commission:

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

They’re all priced within a few hundred pounds/dollars of each other. Most of them have steel frames, wide gearing, 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.

Forget buying a touring bike online.

Instead, go visit a local touring bike specialist and take a few models for a test ride.

In doing so, you may discover that the “best touring bike” is actually the one that’s available nearby, matches your budget, and has been selected for you by a professional touring bike specialist who’s taken the time to understand your needs.

Because of all the things you’re going to spend your money on while getting ready to go cycle touring, this is the one purchase you really don’t want to get wrong.


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 Cycle Touring & Bikepacking 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 cycle tour or bikepacking trip, 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 cycle touring or bikepacking 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 cycle touring and bikepacking tips in the comments!

Categories
Philosophy Of Travel Planning & Logistics

There Is No Better Time To Be Planning Your Next Dream Cycling Adventure

Now is probably not the best time to be setting off on a globetrotting bike trip.

But as we’ve all discovered over the last few months, upheavals can create the ideal conditions for change – including changing the way you think.

Amid much uncertainty and, yes, real hardship and trauma, this year has brought with it a priceless opportunity to reimagine the paths we’ve been travelling through life, and to redirect those elements of our futures we can control towards newly-reconsidered destinations.

That’s why – even if your departure date remains to-be-confirmed, and even if the places you’re thinking of going are closer to home – I would argue that there is no better time to be planning your big dream bicycle-mounted adventure.

And if you’ve been sitting on such a dream for some time, it’s likely it has recently resurfaced with a new sense of urgency.

So why not start laying the groundwork right now? Why not get some of those big decisions made, those big questions answered, those big obstacles overcome?

Why not commit to beginning your journey to the starting line?

I am willing to bet that you have, over the last few months, overcome a challenge you never imagined you’d have to face, or solved a problem you previously considered unsolvable. Whether financial, existential, philosophical, or spiritual; the details don’t matter. What matters is that you have experienced the necessity of thinking in a way you’ve never had to think before.

Your mind is primed for doing it again – but this time for something you’ve chosen to do.

What is happening right now should be a source of empowerment; a reminder – if you needed it – that we are all more resourceful and adaptable than the routines of our former lives might have suggested.

It should be a lesson that whatever rationalisations or excuses or pain points have been standing in the way of that dream can be overcome, so long as you make doing so a condition of necessity.

The easiest way to achieve that necessity is to commit. Make a promise to yourself. Ignore those tropes about publicising your goals and having an audience hold you to account. Social media parted ways with reality a long time ago. This should be a deal you make quietly with your soul.

There has never been a better time to do so.

Because you’ve finally remembered that the best time is always now.