Here’s my list of eight really useful cycle touring items that are sometimes overlooked. They’re the kind of tiny understated bits and bobs that make life on the road that bit easier or better but aren’t always significant enough to make it onto the average kit list:
First up are zip ties; zip ties are perhaps an obvious tool for the cycle-tourer, but in case you didn’t know these cheap and tough little fasteners come in handy for all sorts of repair jobs. I’ve seen racks and bottle holders reattached, cycle computers re-secured and they can be even used as anti-theft devices by securing the wheels of the bike to the frame, or the frame to some other fixed object. That’s quite wasteful though and wouldn’t really be good environmental practice but it may get you out of a fix if you had no alternatives. I also use them for binding parts of the bikes together before taking them on a flights, such as the pedals, handlebars and seat posts and a really clever thing I have seen others do with them is tie them around the tyres and rims of their bike wheels to help with traction in snowy and icy conditions, brilliant!
Handlebar camera mounts, such as the one made by Minoura; it’s great to take videos and pictures as your ride but it can be hard and dangerous to hold a camera at the same time, so solve this problem I used a camera mount that attaches to the handlebars of my bike, it can also be attached to other items of similar thickness like branches and other parts of the bike.
Strips of velcro tape are really useful for attaching things to the bike frame whether it be a pump, a lose bottle or a broken bottle holder, it can be used to bind tent poles, attach things to branches or tidy cables. The great things about it is that it’s cheap and often sold by length which allows it to be later cut to size depending on what you’re using it for. It’s surprisingly strong and durable stuff, I use mine to attach my solar charger and further secure my frame pump to my bike.
Waterproof cases are a great way to protect your electronics from moisture and dirt damage. In particular I find that my phone can become very cold at night when camping and when I go to use it the moisture from my breath and other sources condenses on the phone making it wet, this has caused problems in the past, especially with touch screens, so now I always keep my phone sealed in a watertight case, apart from when charging which I make sure is done in a dry environment such as in the daytime.
The humble reflective snap band is a great way to be seen and also a great way to prevent your trousers being chewed up and dirtied by your chainrings, what more can be said… I think they’re surprisingly expensive but a good functional safety item none the less. They can stored almost anywhere on the frame of a bike when not used on your ankles and can be attached to looped around straps on panniers and rucksacks too.
Small and light dry-bags are great for keeping the things in your panniers grouped together rather than loose, it can keep your used clothes comfortably separate from clean and means that when you inescapably have to dive down the bottom of your panniers you only have a few bags to remove rather than heaps of small lost and forgotten items. I use Alpkit’s Airlok bags, they’re cheap, lightweight and well built but I’m sure there are many others too.
If you haven’t used a pair of good binoculars before then this is something that I really recommend. I was amazed at how fun and interesting it was to see things around me so close and in such fine detail; as with taking photos (with care and attention to composition) you really see things properly by studying them through a lens. Perhaps it’s because you lose peripheral vision and your concentration is focused but I remember more detail about my surroundings when I study them through my binoculars than just looking about without them. It’s also affords a different viewing experience because, with animals for example, you can watch them closely without disturbing their natural behaviors and so they’re not simply reacting to your presence. If you use a good pair of binoculars I’m sure you will agree that you see more and retain more of the world around you than without.
Bungee cords; this may be the least necessary item to mention, but it’s so useful that I could hardly leave it absent from this list. Besides there is something important to say on the matter; all bungees are not equal. Things that I think make a good bungee cord are plastic or rubber coated hooks, so they don’t rust or scratch your racks, and the cord must be reasonably thick and the overall design strong. I always carry a few different lengths, thicknesses and colours with me which makes them more versatile and I easily know where each strap goes on my bike. Bungee cords are really incredibly useful of course for attaching things to your rack, they have the benefit over velcro of being elastic and thus tight fitting and more secure, they’ll also stretch to accommodate things being added to whatever load they’re securing such as a coat that may used intermittently throughout an inclement day or a French baguette that can be shoved under until your next meal, etc.