A few thoughts and tips gleaned from experience of long-distance bicycle touring. I will update as other thoughts come to mind. Any other ideas very welcome.
Water: Don’t underestimate how much you will need and how hard it might be to come across in rural areas and warm temperatures. Your bike bottle will not be enough. We had 2 x 1.5L bottles as well at all times. Lack of water can be bad for your health surprisingly quickly.
Ear plugs and eye patch: For a good night’s sleep in places with noisy buggers and crap curtains (such as tents).
Paper copies of maps: Your phone may have no signal, run out of battery or get stolen (like mine).
List of contact phone numbers: If your phone does end up out of action for whatever reason, how will you let people know? Most people don’t know other people’s numbers these days.
Pencil for drawing route on map. Rubber for changing it. Pen will just confuse you when it does change, which it will.
Solar charger and/or second battery: Necessary backup for phone if camping and can’t charge it (don’t leave it charging in the toilet block unattended even for a minute!). Keep both charger and phone charged whenever power is available. Sat nav. on a mobile phone uses a lot of juice and will run battery down very quickly.
Washing line and a few pegs. Weighs nothing and can be hung in campsites and hotel rooms anywhere. Washing-up liquid, clothes wash and shower gel are all largely interchangeable if necessary.
Assos Chamois Creme has saved me from serious chaffing on two long distance trips. Keith has never had problem but I always do. Same place each time: top, right-hand thigh.
Dr. Organic Aloe Vera gel: sunburn, chaffing, bites and general moisturiser; this stuff does the lot.
We never saw a cyclist make any hand signals to inform drivers where they were going. We did, but have no idea whether they were understood.
Kettle: If not taking camping cooking gear, I would seriously consider taking a travel kettle for coffee, cuppa soup and couscous. Cold food gets tedious and limited and buying coffee in cafes gets expensive. Most European rooms don’t have tea making facilities. You can boil water in campsite toilet blocks more easily and quickly than with gaz cooker (especially if it’s raining).
Cutlery and plates: Despite being a big Spork fan (I bought 24 of them and gave them to every member of my family and friends for Xmas one year), we used a 3 piece cutlery set from Decathlon which actually does a better job for not much more space. The knife on the Spork is not great. We have Light My Fire plate and bowl sets which we initially thought were a bit style over substance but have proved excellent as the bits fit inside one another and provide a chopping board and sealed tubs. Tea towel and sharp knife also worth taking.
As mentioned in previous posts, spreading the weight across the bike makes sense using both front and rear panniers. Having all the weight on the back makes getting up hills difficult because there is already a whopping great weight on the back of the bike: you. Also, when pushing the bike, having all weight on the rear makes it almost impossible to steer and control without it tipping over.
By far the best place to hunt for inspiration and ideas from some of the many people currently on the road I have found is Go Bicycle Touring, an epic collection of blogs and advice.
Go on, plan a little trip… Just a weekend, with a night out in a tent or a luxury hotel.
You know you want to…