Tom Allen of Toms Bike Trip has recently published an ebook dedicated to providing advice for cycle tourists who need to kit themselves out. It’s a fantastic resource and chock full of hard earned knowledge.
Now, before buying a self-published ebook, you might be a little hesitant about the quality of such a publication but Tom’s book is a thing of beauty. It looks infinitely more professional than most “professional” publications, and the aesthetics alone make you want to turn to the next page.
Crucically, for me, Tom is careful to avoid just telling you what kit he think is good and is at pains to appreciate that different people want different things from their bike tours and will thus want different bits of kit. Some will have tight budgets and others will have very tight budgets. Some will be fast and furious blitzes across a country; others will be long, loping tours of the world. This is not a one size fits all approach and is all the better for it.
The section of the book on ‘Myths’ is nice, especially since the first myth he busts is that “Good gear is critical”. Tom, who spent several years cycling around the world and met his wife along the way, recognises that touring is not about equipment, it’s just a necessary hurdle.
After that, Tom covers in detail every bit of kit you can think of from the obvious stuff such as the bikes you might consider, to the tents that best suit your needs, the various stove options (you don’t necessarily need multi-fuel) and the panniers on offer. But also more niche topics on which it’s harder to find good information like the best racks, different types of pedal and those little bits of maintenance kit.
As someone who has cycled a few thousand miles it has been interesting to read the book myself. Some of the recommendations were exactly what I would have suggested such as the best base layer for cycle touring being a simple cotton shirt. It’s what I’ve used for the last year in preference to any clever synthetic base layer or merino top.
Other recommendations were news to me and I wished I had read them before setting off. For example, I’d always been of the assumption that disc brakes weren’t a good idea for long tours into less developed countries because the hydraulics would be a pain to fix if/when they went wrong. It turns out, however, that you can get cable operated disc brakes these days, a fact I’ve since given repeated thought to everytime I squeeze the rim brakes of my heavily loaded bike on wet descents.
The truth is that this is a great book for people who, like me, are really interested in kit because it allows you to indulge your interest, educate yourself and make more informed decisions about the things you love.
And the truth is that this is a great book for people who, unlike me, are not interested in kit because it will save you time, money and effort searching shops and the internet for information about something you find deadly boring. Instead, you can just scroll to the appropriate page, digest a couple of paragraphs and make an informed decision.
So, if you’re planning a big bike trip and need some kit then my message would be simple: whether you love kit or hate it, the few pounds you spend on this book will pay you back in dividends.