Travelling light is the key to trouble-free cycling. More gear means more weight, slowing you down and increasing the risk of breakages. In Europe you can generally buy supplies and replacements en-route so take less than you think you need. If you have packed too much then bin it or post it home.
A typical bike will weigh 15kg and gear up to 25kg. This, plus your body weight, puts enormous strain on a conventional bike. The rear wheel is typically the worst to suffer. Broken spokes are a common problem so try and get weight distributed forward on the bike.
There are basically three types of touring setup (four if you consider recumbents):
– Road bike touring (expect 100-200km/day). Using 700C wheels with mid or low volume tyres. These are lightening quick on-road but fraught with hazard off-road where punctures and a firm ride make the experience unpleasant.
– Multi-purpose touring bikes(expect 50-100km/day). Using 700C wheels with large volume tyres and sometimes equipped with lockable shocks these bikes are ok off-road and ok on-road but great at neither. This is a good option for the Eurovelo 6 where the trail often follows canal towpaths over tree roots and gravel.
– Off-road mountain-bike touring (expect 20-80km/day). Using 26” wheels and having low gearing mountain-bikes are great for rough terrain but cumbersome and slow on roads. The smaller frame and wheels make it difficult to mount conventional panniers where they won’t be hit by your feet while peddling. A solution is a Bob bicycle trailer, but these are heavy and add more rolling resistance.
To strictly follow the Eurovelo 6 trail we recommend a multi-purpose touring bike with large volume tyres and an upright stance. Some will even find benefit in adjustable front fork suspension to cope with the bumpy tracks that are sometimes encountered on the official route.
More expensive bikes typically have better quality components that are more durable and will last longer. Paying a premium for a lightweight frame is of marginal value given the large additional weight of the gear you will be carrying.
If you are happy using the official Eurovelo 6 route as a general guide and finding your own way on roads then a road bike will suffice.
Padded seat and handlebar grips. If you have a firm narrow seat then replace it or consider a padded seat cover.
Wheel mud-guards. Stops water splashing on you and your bags.
Rear pannier rack and bags. 2 X 20L waterproof bags are ideal.
50L hiking bag-liner. This waterproof sack can be used to house your tent or other items on top of your rear rack.
Handlebar top-box. A top-box holds your map and allows you to park your bike and carry your valuables.
Water bottle holder. Mount at least one and preferably two to your frame if space allows.
Optional: Front fork rack and pannier bags. These can be worthwhile but are relatively expensive given their small capacity.
Optional: Small accessory bags. Mounted in the triangle of your bike frame these are useful for getting weight forward.
Basic repair kit. At minimum carry relevant alum keys (for brakes and handlebar headset), a pump (preferably with pressure gauge), a spare inner tube, a puncture repair kit, chain lubricant, a small roll of duct tape, and a handful of cable ties. Note most tyres tubes in Europe have petzel values so makes sure your pump is appropriate.
Optional: major repair kit. Some cyclists will carry spanners, a chain breaker etc. however in Europe you are never far from a bike shop and assistance for more major repairs. Take a spoke tightener and spare spokes if you know how to install them.
Bell or horn. This is vital for giving advance warning to pedestrians and when entering narrow pathways beneath bridges. Some riders swear by cute plastic animal squeakers because pedestrians find them less offensive than bells.
Front and rear lights. Dynamo systems are available but daylight hours are long during the European summer so a battery light will probably suffice for emergencies. Note your rear light will need to be visible with pannier bags attached.
Bike lock. A long ultra-lightweight wire combination lock is handy when parked outside shops or for fixing your bike to a tree next to your tent. A sturdy chain or D-lock is useful if you plan on parking for lengths of time in big cities.
Compass. A key-ring style one located somewhere near your map will suffice. This is invaluable when you end up off the trail.
Cycle computer. This allows you to check distances against your map and local signs. It is also useful to gauge progress between rest stops.
A basic clothing setup contains two sets of cycle clothes and two sets of regular clothes. It is easy to wash a set of cycle clothes in the shower each morning and hang them on the bike to dry.
Synthetic cycle tops. This encourages moisture to wick away and evaporate.
Cycle pants. Made of spandex or lycra to keep you cool and allow you to swing your leg over onto the bike. Wearing underwear beneath your cycle pants encourages chafing.
Fluorescent waterproof cycling jacket. Excellent for warmth and visibility in bad weather or low light. Buy a breathable version if you can afford to.
Waterproof overshoes. These can also make life far more comfortable in rain or through puddles.
Lightweight plastic sandals. A luxury for use in the evening or camp shower.
Bright cycle gloves. Cushion handlebar vibrations, keep skin on if you fall, and making your hands more visible when you indicate your turns.
Helmet. Brightly coloured.
Sunglasses or some form of eye protection. Use to avoid glare and bugs at high speed.
Optional: Clip-in shoes. These allow you to deliver power to the bike during the upstroke as well as the down-stroke; they also encourage your feet and legs to remain in an efficient riding position. The downside of clip-ins is twofold: when you fall you are attached to a very heavy bike so you go down hard, and the shoes are typically stiff and uncomfortable for walking. Your ability and style of riding will affect your decision on the use of clip-in’s. ‘Toe straps’ and hard soled shoes are not as efficient as clip-in shoes but offer some improvement over sneakers on normal pedals.
Tent. You will need to trade-off between weight and comfort. We recommend you choose a tent for the number in your group and add one space for your bags i.e. a 3-person tent is most practical for a couple. If you travel with an ultra-light, ultra-small tent then consider taking a thin tarpaulin to rig-up as shelter from the elements while cooking etc.
Down sleeping bags. These offer excellent warmth for their weight and size, making them ideal for touring.
Silk sleeping bag liner. Provides additional warmth to your sleeping bag, can be used by itself on warm nights, and is easy to wash and dry.
Inflatable mattress. New low volume mattresses such as the Exped 7.5 are lightweight, compact, easy to inflate and fantastically comfortable.
Picnic rug. Some cyclists carry collapsible chairs but a simple picnic rug will suffice for impromptu stops, cooking dinner or collapsing onto at the end of a rewarding day.
Gas cooker, pots and utensils. The small cookers that fit valve-topped 230gram cylinders are ideal. Gas canisters are readily available in French hypermarches and sports stores. Gas is harder to find in Germany and further east. Germans prefer wood or coal cooking; it is impractical to carry such fuels while touring, it is however often possible to stumble across barbeque facilities and enough wood in the surrounding area to get a cooking fire going. We recommend carrying some gas as a back-up and using wood where possible in the eastern sections of the trip.
Microfiber towel and toiletries.
Optional: Plastic lunchboxes. Brilliant for storing food in pannier bags.
Optional: Citronella candle. Keep bugs at bay and provide illumination outside at night.
Optional: Camping Carnet. These international camping cards can be purchased through your local automobile association. Cardholders often received a discount of around 10% and usually won’t need to hand over passports at check-in.
Waterproof spray. Use a waterproofing spray on your tent, jacket, shoes etc. It makes the water bead off and helps your gear to stay dry. This makes life more comfortable in rainy conditions and in morning dew when camping.
Tablet or smart phone. Access to internet along the route is surprising haphazard. Some campsites have a computer for guests that can be free or used for a modest price, expect to queue. Internet cafes situated in major cities can be difficult to find and have limited opening hours. Wi-Fi is more prevalent, and is available in all McDonalds in France and many small cafes so consider carrying tablet or smart phone. Wi-Fi is often free but you may need to buy a token at some campsites and tourist hotspots. 3G roaming is available in France but purchasing a local sim-card can be an exercise in bureaucracy.
Batteries. Consider how your mobile device will be charged. Solar rechargers we have tested lack the grunt to be useful for charging phones, GPS and other high drain devices. Alkaline batteries are expensive but readily available at supermarkets.
Mosquito repellent and sunscreen.
Travel insurance. Check the particulars as some insurance policies don’t cover cycle touring.
Personal identification and contact details for next of kin. Carry these in your top box or pocket, especially if riding solo. Copies of important personal information should be left behind with someone you trust. If your valuables are taken they can cancel bank cards, passport etc.