Clothing For Your Bike Tour

In this series about bicycle touring, we have looked at the types of cycle tour and sleeping and shelter issues. In this article the question of clothing is examined.

The Mountain Equipment Mistral like the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie is versatile, lightweight, windproof and stowable.
The Mountain Equipment Mistral like the Salomon Fast Wing Hoodie is versatile, lightweight, windproof and stowable.


The order of the day is versatility. Versatile clothes are essential when space and weight are important, Zip-Off Trousers are ideal when travelling light as they can be worn as a pant or shorts. Wicking items can be easily layered, washed and dried.

Wind Proof Jackets

It is a good idea to take a windproof jacket. For example, jackets such as the Mountain Equipment Mistral at 90g or the Salomon Fast Wing Windproof with roll away hood, will stuff into tiny stuffsacks and have enough style to be used on or off the bike. Dependent on the weather, it is also an idea have some lightweight waterproof clothing.

Cycling Shorts

A must for cycling is to protect yourself and your derrière from chafing. Cycling shorts with their padding, stop chafing and provide shock absorption and wick away moisture.

Now I know that  cycling shorts might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and while Lycra shorts as worn by professionals are the traditional image of cycling shorts, they are not the only option. Increasingly popular today are baggy cycling shorts which have a padded Lycra inner and a baggy outer that look like regular shorts. You can also purchase padded underwear and wear your own shorts or pants, so you can get protection without feeling conspicuous in what you wear.

I suppose if you don’t want to wear shorts you can use raw meat as a cushion as professionals did in the early 20th Century, but you may find your circle of friends reduced. 😉

Zip-Off Trousers

Many cycle tourists have commented on the usefulness of Zip Off Pants, they can be used as shorts and trousers. This enables you to use them when it is warm during the day as shorts for example and at night when cooler as trousers. When purchasing Zip-Off Trousers or Convertible Pants it is worth remembering that whilst they are usually slightly more expensive than standard trousers you do not need to buy a pair of shorts as well, so often they work out cheaper. There are many Zip Off pants in the market but when Cycle-touring a pair that have a high UPF/SPF protection rating would make sense as they would reduce the effects of the sun when cycling.


In the UK it is not compulsory to wear a helmet, although it is recommended for all, especially for children. If travelling elsewhere it is a good idea to check local laws as they may differ.

For cycle touring I believe that a Buff is a extremely useful and handy piece of head gear. Originally designed for motorcycling, Buffs can be used in different ways such as a scarf, mask, bandanna, hat or under a helmet etc. Buffs are versatile can be bought with SPF or Thermal ratings, they come in many different designs and are lightweight and pack away easily.

Some Ways To Wear Your Buff - Ideal For Cycle touring
Some Ways To Wear Your Buff - Ideal For Cycle touring

Cycling Footwear

Cycling shoes increase the amount of power when pedalling. Therefore cycling long distances will be easier as your body is more efficient. In recent years manufacturers have released cycling shoes that have recessed cleats, that can be used to ride and explore and have the benefit of looking like walking shoes, trainers or sandals.

Having multi-purpose shoes allows the cycle tourist to reduce weight, gain versatility and have higher pedalling efficiency, an online search of cycle touring shoes will give you an idea of what is available.

Cleated cycle shoes require special pedals, sometimes called SPDs (Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) that physically connect the cycling shoe and the pedal. A less expensive alternative is to use toe clips and regular trainers. Toe clips also increase the amount of power transmitted from your legs into forward motion.

The Lowe Alpine Houdini offers the versatility that a cycle tourist needs, by folding into its own stuff sack, Source Lowe Alpine
The Lowe Alpine Houdini offers the versatility that a cycle tourist needs, by folding into its own stuff sack.


It is not sensible to ride your bike for long distances with a rucksack on your back. You will need bike panniers to carry your gear. However, you may not wish to ride your bike everyday. You may wish to go hiking or for a walk around a town or city. When off your bike and exploring, a rucksack could be used to carry your clothes, camera, water etc, the Lowe Alpine Houdini Pack folds into its own stow pocket when not in use, and has a carrying capacity of 16L and is well worth a look.

If you think you may need a larger rucksack then Salomon provide a range of 20 and 25L rucksacks for runners, which are of great interest to cycle tourists as they are customisable, with additional water bottles and pockets. The Salomon XA 25 WP Rucksack is also waterproof.

And Finally

There are lots of items that I have not included here such as utensils, torches, hydration sacks or first aid kits etc., this article is not to provide a list but to make you question what you think you may need, we are all different, the underlying message through out this post and my other cycle touring posts  are adaptability and  versatility.

If you look at Kevin Shannon’s round the world cycle kit list as compared to John Houseago’s for holiday cycle touring you will see how they differ, and why you need to think about what you need.

Happy Cycle Touring!


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