How to Pack for Bike Travel

Stuff these items into your carry-on and you’ll be gliding safely and stylishly from museum to monument to Michelin-star restaurant.

Bicycle Travel, Denver International Airport

Denver International Airport, photo by Richard Masoner

Whether packing for Perth, Prague or Poughkeepsie, every traveler needs a checklist. How else will you remember your passport, toothbrush and helmet? When travel plans include tooling around on two wheels, you’ll want to tote more than just your toiletries. Stuff these items into your suitcase and you’ll be gliding safely and stylishly from museum to monument to Michelin-star restaurant.

The Bike

For their instant mobility, convenience and independence, folding bikes are a traveler’s best friend. The Rolls-Royce of all foldies, the Brompton offers a high-tech ride and coat-check convenience in one ridiculously compact package, practically eliminating the need to carry a lock. But there are also a number of fantastic folding bike options at lower price points for any two-wheeled traveler. If you’re set on taking your full-sized bicycle along for the ride, check out the Adventure Cycling Associations instructions on Boxing Your Bicycle, and Guide to Shipping & Bike Cases for longer trips. Going the ultra-light route? Investigate your destination’s bike-share options by visiting its municipal transportation website.

The Lock

The Kryptonite Evolution Mini is the smallest mid-high-security U-lock currently on the market, and the Abus Bordo is a compact, lightweight high-security folding lock the size of a pencil case. Either one is a fantastic option to keep your ride safe and your bags light!

The Helmet

Research ahead to see if there is a mandatory helmet law in your destination region. Australia, for example, has a mandatory helmet law across the entire country, while a number of cities, states and provinces in North America enforce regional laws. If you’ll be cycling a lot on bike share or on your own bicycle, it makes sense to pack your own helmet along to cut down on costs and trips to the rental shop.

The Clothes

Your sartorial mantra should begin and end with “layers.” Technical undergarments that wick away sweat are a good foundation, but it’s the final layer that matters most. If rain is in the forecast (check online before departure day), pack a synthetic, water-resistant jacket that covers the thighs – consider a Cleverhood to keep you dry on any occasion – or go the budget route with a plastic rain poncho that costs less than a fiver at most bike shops.

The Eyewear

Keep midsummer sunshine out of your eyes with a sturdy pair of impact-resistant, UV-protective lenses. Oakley’s offerings span the spectrum from sporty to dinner-with-the-queen appropriate.

The Lights

In some cities – Paris, for one – you’re legally obliged to light up your bike after dark. Pack a pair of lightweight, compact, USB-chargeable (for example, Planet Bike) lights to play it safe and legal, wherever you roll.

The Bag

A mesh-backed backpack does double duty by equally distributing weight across your back while keeping it perspiration-free. Deuter and Ortlieb offer designs that lean toward the sporty-but-über-functional side. Po Campo’s Bike Share Bag is specifically designed to fit securely into North American bike share baskets, or try a style-forward pannier with straps or handles from brands such as Hill and Ellis or Linus to move easily between on-bike and off-bike functionality. If you’re unsure about the basket/ back-rack capacity of the bike you’ll be riding, it can never hurt to pack a bungee cord or two to strap down your valuables.

The Shoes

With standard pedals, the shoe style is less important that the sturdiness of its sole. Pack footwear that offers a solid stride for walking and you’ll get the same firm feel on your bike. Shoe lines such as El Naturalista and John Fleuvog maximize quality without minimizing fashion. Treating your shoes with a weatherizing product will help repel water in inclement weather, and stuffing them with socks and other soft items makes the most of your suitcase space.


This article was originally published in 2012 and has been updated by Momentum staff. 

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