20 Bike Tour Tips

To help you make the most of your Cycle the Erie Canal ride, Buzz Gamble, a long-time ride volunteer, created this list of packing tips. Humor aside, this is a valuable reference for cyclists will all levels of touring experience.

From Buzz - "The following suggestions are some of the techniques and equipment I have employed over the years on supported, multi-day rides like Cycle the Erie Canal. The small amount of weight added to your handlebar or rear pack are worth it when you consider the convenience and time saved over the week. Even for long distance self-contained bikepacking this gear is invaluable. Most of the camping items can be obtained from stores like L.L. Bean or REI, and you may find them at sale prices if you look several months prior to the trip."


  1. Canoe Pack ($100 approx.) that is rubberized and waterproof. Pack your sleeping bag and clothes in it. Even in a downpour, your gear will stay dry. Pack items like your tent, ground cloth, and sleeping pad in any medium sized duffel bag.
  2. Dry Bag. If a canoe pack is not in your budget then get a 30 to 40 Liter Dry Bag ($20 approx.). This bag is similar to a “stuff sack” but it has a sealed enclosure. Use this for clothing and place the bag in the center of one of your duffel bags away from sharp objects.
  3. Plastic sheet, either 4 or 6-mil thickness, from your hardware store. Use as a ground cloth beneath your tent. Cut to fit the tent's foot print or fold under itself.
  4. Plastic tarp sized 5’x7’ with grommet holes, available from your local hardware store ($5 approx). To provide:
    1. Protection for a small party in a rainstorm on the road.
    2. Bike cover in camp.
    3. Extra rain protection from tent fly leaks or to use as an extra ground cloth.
  5. Flip-Flops
  6. Pillow-case to stuff spare clothes in for sleeping.
  7. Small flashlight: If you forgot to pack it you can use your clip taillight on continuous mode for late night walks to PortaPotty.
  8. Dawn dish soap. If susceptible to Poison Ivy, wash arms and legs with it for the week.
  9. Clothes line or twine and several clothes pins. Why hang your favorite jersey on a rusty chain link fence?
  10. Butt Balm or Vaseline if you are not acclimatized to your bike seat.

On the Bicycle

  1. Air pump. Attach to your bike frame and make sure it has the correct valve (Presta or Schrader) for your tubes ($15-$35).
  2. Spare tube sized for your tire ($5) and tube patch kit ($2 to repair a punctured tube).
  3. Small Tupperware container for your favorite treat between meal stops.
  4. Multi-tool. A pen-knife sized tool that has most of the basic wrenches and drivers to service your bicycle ($20). If you are a beginner your local bike shop person will review it with you and fellow tourists will be happy to help you.
  5. Duct tape. Wrap 2 feet around an Advil/Tylenol bottle. Can be used for anything from tent stake repair to wrapping a loose sneaker sole.
  6. Zip Ties (assorted sizes). These are plastic strips that you can use to reattach a broken rear rack or a toe clip to pedal without the original bolt.
  7. MINI-MINI first aid kit. Several 2x2 inch self adhering gauze pads 4x4 Gauze pads. (Remember, you already have duct tape and pain reliever).
  8. 3x5 card list of important phone numbers and ID numbers (like Insurance, AAA number) stored separately from your wallet, in case it is lost.
  9. Rain gear. Use a lightweight rain shell and for sudden drops in temperature, place a lightweight poly-pro long underwear shirt in a 1 qt. zip lock bag and put it in the bottom of your bag. A hotel shower cap for bicycle seat or GPS in the rain.
  10. Bicycle Upkeep. Check your bike DAILY for:
    1. Loose nuts, especially for your handlebars, pedal cage and rear rack.
    2. Loose spokes can be checked by rotating the wheels through your fingers, SLOWLY!
    3. Functional brakes
    4. Functional drive train. Rotate pedal several times and listen for rubbing, skipping or squeaking.
    5. Bike chain lubrication. Moderately saturate a 6”x6” terry towel with bike oil and place in small zip lock bag. Then place two 6x6 terry towels and oil rag bag in a second zip-lock bag. You should use this on a daily basis by simply running the clean rag over the chain first then the oil rag. This saves bringing a big bottle and works just as well!

The daily maintenance is not rocket science. After Day 3 on the road you will be ripping through this check in 5 to 7 minutes. Then go have fun on the trail!

Buzz Gamble has spent 30 years directing year-round residential environmental education and adventure programs. His spare time is spent, cross country skiing, canoeing and bike touring in the United States and Europe with his family.