Clothes and shoes

Bike clothes for touring are pretty much the same as what you’d put on for a day trip at home. With a few exceptions, of course, or there would be no need for me to write this section. 🙂

First, get a pair of bike shorts with as thick padding as you can find. You may end up with a sore butt after a day of biking at home, and it might hurt much worse after completing the 300 km Vätternrundan in Sweden. But all of that pales in comparison with what I experienced five days into my bike trip from Bilbao to Barcelona in the Pyrenees. The whole day was a pink haze of pain. I even tried padding my saddle with a folded up T-shirt. Sometimes the pain is caused by wrinkled up underwear, but if that isn’t the case, the only real solution is to wear in your butt with many many km of biking. Yeah, it sucks, but luckily that is also how you get in great bike shape!

Don’t go biking without a pair of good bike gloves with gel padding on the palms! You’ll rest your hands on your handlebars for hour after hour, day after day, so there’s a high risk that you’ll end up pinching a nerve in your hand. It has happened to me, and it is quite painful.

Bike glasses are also a must! Not to look cool (I just look corny myself), but to shield off insects. I’ve had big insects of unknown species hit my forehead with a big whack! You don’t want anything like that whacking straight into your eye!

A bike jersey might also be a good idea, with back pockets for your phone, camera and wallet. Unfortunately such jerseys get quite sweaty, so not always the best place for wallets and phones. These days I prefer to have my wallet in my front bag and my phone attached to the handle bar.

For cold weather, early mornings and evenings, I always bring with me a micro fleece sweater. Don’t go without something similar! You’ll regret it! You should always expect rain, so a rain-proof jacket is a must. A pair of long johns over your bike shorts is perfect for cold mornings or if there’s a risk for cold rain. Putting them on in public might give you some long stares at Moroccan mountain villages, but whatever! A pair of proper cold weather bike gloves is also a good idea if you expect grim weather. Plus a buff under your helmet. But now we’re getting into freezing temperatures. You really don’t want to bike under such circumstances anyway!

I must confess – I normally use the same bike clothes for several days in a row! Hand washing bike clothes at the hotel each evening hasn’t worked for me since they haven’t dried till the next morning. I’ve read about people who step into the evening shower with sweaty bike clothes on and use soap and shampoo to clean them. After the shower, they wring as much water as possible out of them, next wrap them tightly like a burrito into dry towels a few times to get them dry till next morning. Using a hairdryer should speed things up too. I might try this on my next trip. So far I have brought a few sets of bike clothes, plus a set of evening clothes, then visited a laundromat every week or so.

To reduce the bulk of clothes, I sometimes strap rubber bands around them before I cram them into my bags. I suggest you do the same, but why not experiment a bit at home to see what works for you?

Compacting shorts with rubber bands

I have MTB shoes which work well for medium length walks, so I don’t bring along any extra shoes at all. The drawback is that when you go for dinner in the evening, you’re wearing the same set of damp shoes again. I sometimes also bring along a spare shoe cleat (the metal thing under MTB shoes) in case one breaks or is worn out.

And of course you need a bike helmet. I wear it at all times, except in steep uphills when I hang the helmet on the handle bars. The speed uphill is often around 10 km/h. Sure, you can still be rammed by a car, but in such cases I don’t think your bike helmet will save you anyway.

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