Fresh air, the freedom to follow a whim and the chance to experience local life from a unique perspective – it's easy to see why cycling is a wonderful way to travel.

In this edition of our travel gear reviews, we focus on equipment for two-wheeled trips of all types, whether it's just a day exploring the countryside or a major multi-month adventure.

Once you've got the gear, pick the perfect place to test it with a little inspiration from Lonely Planet's Epic Bike Rides of the World.

The Aquapac Trailproof Drybag is ideal for protecting bulky items © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Aquapac Trailproof Drybag is ideal for protecting bulky items © David Else / Lonely Planet

Aquapac Trailproof Drybag

For camping tours by bike, you need a big stuff sack to protect bulky items like a tent or sleeping bag. The 25L Trailproof Drybag hits the spot. You simply open it up, put your gear inside, then twist and clip the neck to close it. There are strap loops, but the usual method is to fix the drybag onto the back-rack above the panniers.

This Trailproof Drybag isn’t designed for total immersion (other Aquapac bags for watersports are 100% waterproof) but it keeps out dust and rain, meaning protected gear and a comfortable night’s sleep at the end of a day’s cycling.

  • Plus points: tough, straightforward, weatherproof
  • Worth noting: various sizes available (including 15L and 70L), also without strap loops
  • Cost: £16, US$38.95
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: aquapac.net
The Osprey Verve 3 has a slim fit and many handy features © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Osprey Verve 3 has a slim fit and many handy features © David Else / Lonely Planet

Osprey Verve 3

When cycling, heavy luggage goes on the bike itself, but a backpack is useful for small stuff you’ll need regularly, and for keeping valuables with you. The Osprey Verve 3 adds the extra benefit of an integrated hydration bladder and hose so you can drink on the move – ideal for hot climates or off-road adventures in any part of the world.

The Osprey Verve 3 is cut for the female body shape (the male version is the Viper) and specifically designed for cycling. Features include a diagonal zip for easy access to the bladder in the main compartment, a small zipped pocket, and vent slots in the harness and back panel so you don’t get too sweaty. Particularly handy is the magnet that fixes the end of the drinking hose to the harness.

  • Plus points: narrow shape, compact design, clever features
  • Worth noting: this 3L bag has a 2.5L water bag; a larger 9L bag is available
  • Cost: £65, US$80
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: ospreyeurope.com
The Primus Lite+ cooking stove has ingenious design features © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Primus Lite+ cooking stove has ingenious design features © David Else / Lonely Planet

Primus Lite+

For long cycling journeys, kit must be very small and immensely practical. The Primus Lite+ cooking stove is just that. Living up to its name, the burner is indeed light, just 150g, but heats 0.5L of water in under three minutes – ideal for quick meals at night or hot drinks before another day on the road.

The Primus Lite+ comes with its own cooking pot (non-stick lined, of course) which attaches ingeniously straight onto the burner. And even the pot has its own clever features – a plastic lid with drinking slot and canvas insulation sleeve with carrying strap that doubles as a mug handle, perfect for cradling that early morning coffee.

  • Plus points: ingenious design, compatible pot and stove
  • Worth noting: electric spark ignition means no need for matches
  • Cost: £95, €129.95, US$114.95
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: primus.eu
The Velovita Pocket Pack protects your phone from knocks and spills © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Velovita Pocket Pack protects your phone from knocks and spills © David Else / Lonely Planet

Velovita Pocket Pack

The Velovita pocket pack carries your phone, money, cards and other small items you take on a bike ride. It keeps stuff dry and protected from knocks, drops and (should the worst happen) tumbles. Designed with cyclists in mind, the large ring pull means you can open the case when wearing gloves, and one side of the outer case is slightly concave so the pack fits comfortably in the back pocket of your cycling jersey.

  • Plus points: slim, neat, lightweight
  • Worth noting: the ring pull is attached to the zip with a slither of metal that appears fragile; treat with care
  • Cost: £25 (small size; large also available)
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info: velovita.cc
The Vango Pulsar 200 tent offers space and comfort after a day on the road © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Vango Pulsar 200 tent offers space and comfort after a day on the road © David Else / Lonely Planet

Vango Pulsar 200

Vango is a venerable manufacturer of outdoor equipment, with the Pulsar 200 the latest in a long line of tents for multi-day journeys. There’s space for two adults, and it’s ideal for cycle touring as the large porch means you can get all your kit inside (except the bike) and still have room for cooking.

The Pulsar 200 has an inner tent with integrated ground sheet, with the inner and flysheet clipped together so it’s quick to pitch. There’s also a small groundsheet for the porch. Numerous tabs and loops ensure everything is kept in place, while internal tension straps maintain pole position in windy conditions. The whole rig weighs 3.4kg, so not ultralight (you can get it nearer 3kg by trimming non-essential items), but on long trips a bit of extra space at night is worth an extra half kilo on your bike in the day.

  • Plus points:  sturdy, quick to pitch, excellent design features
  • Worth noting: this tent is for two people; larger/smaller versions of the Pulsar are available for solo travellers or larger groups
  • Cost: £170
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: vango.co.uk
The Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack cuts the need for a rack and saves weight © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack cuts the need for a rack and saves weight © David Else / Lonely Planet

Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack

Some long-haul cyclists fit racks to their bike, then bags to the racks. Others skip the middleman and fix bags direct to the bike. The Outpost Seat Pack is for those in the latter camp. It comes in two parts: a cone-shaped stuff-sack and a funnel-shaped pack that straps to your saddle and seatpost. You fill the stuff-sack, compress it, put it into the seat pack, then compress it some more.

The Outpost Seat Pack tips the scales at under 500g so keeps weight to a minimum. The top of the stuff-sack can be rolled and the straps on the pack are adjustable so you can carry large or small items – anything from a spare sweatshirt to a sleeping bag. Once you’re cycling, the protruding bulk isn’t noticeable, although you have to swing your leg a bit higher when getting on and off.

  • Plus points: simple, solid construction, size-adjustable
  • Worth noting: stuff-sack not waterproof; Outpost dry-bag version available
  • Cost: £69, US$119 (dry-bag version)
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 7/10
  • More info: blackburndesign.com
The Commuter bike sandal from KEEN is good for travel as well as riding to work © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Commuter bike sandal from KEEN is good for travel as well as riding to work © David Else / Lonely Planet

KEEN Commuter

In hot climates, cycling is more comfortable with shoes that let your feet breathe. Normal sandals are too flexible, but the KEEN Commuter bike sandals have a stiff sole and good all-round support, so – despite their name – they’re great for tours as much as for riding to work.

Other features of the KEEN Commuters include a sturdy toe-box, piping on the heel that reflects car headlights if you’re night-riding, and a chunky tread. Even better, a recess in the sole accepts two-bolt SPD-style cleats so you can use clipless pedals to make your long-distance cycling efficient and enjoyable.

  • Plus points: tough, rugged, comfortable
  • Worth noting: the sole recess means the cleat is off the ground when you’re off the bike, so walking is no problem
  • Cost: £99, US$115
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: keenfootwear.com
The Montane Minimus 777 jacket combines weather protection, light weight and compact size © David Else / Lonely Planet
The Montane Minimus 777 jacket combines weather protection, light weight and compact size © David Else / Lonely Planet

Montane Minimus 777

If you’re cycling in mountainous areas, the weather can suddenly turn from cold to wet. So you want a shell jacket to keep you warm and dry, but you also want to keep bulk to a minimum when you’re not wearing it. The Minimus 777 Jacket ticks all these boxes. It’s waterproof, windproof and breathable, so (unless you’re hammering up the hills) you won’t build up condensation inside.

Equally impressive is the Minimus 777’s weight and pack-size; it’s just 143g, compresses down almost to the size of a tennis ball, and fits into its own pocket. Other handy features include the close-cut elasticated hood that fits under a bike helmet and turns with your head so you don’t lose side vision.

  • Plus points: extremely light, windproof, waterproof
  • Worth noting: for cycling in seriously bad weather, you’ll need something more substantial, such as Montane’s Trailblazer or Spine jacket
  • Cost: £200, US$298
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 8/10; value 8/10
  • More info: montane.co.uk

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How we review products

Our opinions are by definition subjective. Our testers (male, female, young, old) trial products in the real world, then give their honest opinion and scores for quality, practicality and value: 5/10 = mediocre; 6/10 = fair; 7/10 = good; 8/10 = very good; 9/10 = excellent; 10/10 = perfect. We don’t include anything that scores less than 5/10.

We aim for gender balance, and over a year cover an equal number of male- and female-specific items. We state where kit is available in male and female versions, or for everyone, unless it’s obvious.

Prices are quoted in at least one major currency. Where possible we include other currencies. We take prices from manufacturers’ websites; information was correct at the time of publication, but you may find different prices online or in specialist stores, particularly after a period of time when products are discounted.

Manufacturers supply Lonely Planet with test products for review. We do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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