choosing the right gear for your cycling tour

the best panniers We recommend Ortlieb front rollers and Ortlieb back rollers.   We're very satisfied with our choice of panniers and they're still holding up fairly well after three years of wear and tear.  Be sure to buy a repair kit (aquaseal works well) and check regularly for any holes.  Some people claim their clothes start smelling musty in waterproof panniers, but we haven't noticed any problems,--or maybe we're just used that smelly-sock odor permeating everything we own. Some cyclists go for the lighter weight panniers, but this usually turns out to be a mistake for anyone traveling for a long period of time, because the material simply doesn't hold up as well.  Deluxe models with easy access outside pockets might be convenient, but could look tempting to curious children and petty thieves.

Check out the gear we're using on our cycling tour around the worldReturn to resources page for more practical information on planning your cycling tour.
the right racks We recommend the sturdy carrier systems made by Tubus.

choosing the right tent If you're planning a long cycling tour,  you'll probably be spending a considerable amount of time in your tent.  This will be your home, and as a home you'll want it to be comfortable. That's why it's best to do some thorough research before you purchase your touring tent.

Here are some factors you'll want to consider before buying:
  • Ventilation.  A double entry tent is an absolute must in hot climates.  If you're thinking of cycling in Africa, don't budge on this one.  Single entry= sleepless nights.
  • Large vestibule for storing all your gear and preparing meals when it's raining.
  • Neutral color that blends in easily with the surrounding nature.  This is a must if you plan to do any sort of stealth camping. You'll want to hide yourself amongst your surroundings, so fluorescent pink just won't do.
  • Stand alone tent not requiring pegs.  Great for those times when you pitch up inside an empty classroom or on the veranda of a restaurant.
  • Lightweight and easy to assemble.
And don't forget about floorplace.  Cyclists tend to carry lots of gear and you won't want to be snuggling up with your panniers.  Maybe you're familiar with the sizing differences between American and European clothing? An American size small is a European extra-small.  And what people in the US buy as a medium is marketed as a small to Europeans.  

The same principle applies to tents.  American-made tents that are sold as two-person tents are generally larger than European two-person tents.  Maybe not as big as a European 3-person tent, but still there is a difference in average floor place so look carefully at dimensions. Most cyclists prefer to carry a little extra weight and have a more spacious tent. So do we. Cycling through Africa, our choice was a Big Agnes three-person, double entry tent.  it was just right for us and our gear. Big Agnes impressed us with their excellent customer service and our tent held up very well under tough conditions in Africa.  Using a footprint (groundsheet) will extend the life of your tent and give you a little added insulation.

Salewa is a leader in outdoor gear.The next tent we'll be trying out is Salewa's lightweight version of the tried and trusted Sierra Leone. Judged “Outstanding” in a test review carried out by the German magazine “Outdoor” in April 2005. The weight has been systematically reduced by combining light materials with super light poles. The inner tent can be pitched on its own.  We'll let you know how the Sierra Leone fares as we test it out when we ride across the USA.

There are many tents on the market and obviously we can't test them all, so here are a couple more that fellow cyclists have recommended.

A fine tent for cyclists.The Vaude Hogan XT 2 Man Tent was designed with cyclists in mind.  The tent weighs less that three kilos and by simply removing the front wheel, two bikes can be safely stored in the vestibule.

Another tent that gets good feedback is the Hubba Hubba from MSR.  It's a highly popular, freestanding two person tent.  At 1.8 kilos it's lightweight and has two full sized doors for good ventilation.

Return to resources page for more practical information on planning your cycling tour.Check out the gear we're using on our cycling tour around the world