These are some of our favourite accessories for your touring bike.
1. Ergon Handlebar Grips
For longer trips, it’s essential to have handlebars that give a variety of riding positions. This helps to prevent conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tingling hands. We’ve used Ergon Handlebar Grips since 2009, specifically the GC3 model. They have a supportive rest area for your palms and – with the extensions – offer plenty of options for different hand positions. Also worth considering are traditional, simple bar ends (the cheapest option and by no means a bad one) and butterfly bars – a large figure-8 shaped handlebar.
2. Mudguards or Fenders
Unless you plan on touring exclusively in the desert, you’ll want mudguards or fenders. A good set protects you and the rider behind you from the grit and dirt being kicked up off the road. We use SKS Mudguards. They come in several sizes, to fit almost any bicycle, and they’re incredibly durable. After 50,000km of use, ours were still in good shape (there was a small crack on one of the mudguards).
Feeling creative or just out of money? You can also make your own mudguards out of things such as plastic bottles. Search online for directions and many examples of cyclists who’ve done just that.
One small warning about mudguards: if you’re hauling your bike through a wet field or down a muddy road, mudguards can quickly become clogged with mud, and this stops the wheels from turning. cleaning the mud away from your wheels is a messy, time consuming job. The lesson? If you see roads covered in thick clay-like mud, take the mudguards off first.
Mudguards can become completely clogged if you ride down a wet dirt road. Sometimes it’s better to stop and take them off first, before your bike reaches this point and becomes unrideable.
3. A Loud Bell
Every cyclist needs a bell, and the louder the better!
We like the DingDong Bell – a very popular choice among Dutch cyclists. As its name suggests, it gives a classic sound and is one of the loudest bells on the market.
Your bell can be used to alert cars and pedestrians to your presence, to communicate with other cyclists if you’re riding in a group (for example, to signal that you’re stopping), and to ‘sing’ hello to people by the roadside. A bell also attracts great attention when you stop by the roadside. It’s often the first thing people touch. If you’re inside a shop you merely have to listen for your bell being rung by local folks, to know that your bike is still where you left it and hasn’t been stolen!
Lights aren’t just for night riding. They’re also for navigating through dark tunnels and improving visibility in fog and rain. For a back light, we’ve fallen in love with the Planet Superflash light. Don’t be fooled by its small size. The Superflash has LED bulbs that blink bright enough to be seen up to a mile away. It also lasts a long time – up to 100 hours – on two commonly available AAA batteries.
For front lights, our choice is the Supernova E3 Pro but it requires a dynamo hub such as the SON. If you want one that runs on batteries, try the Cateye HL-EL530 LED front light.
From left to right: the Cateye HL-EL530 front light, the Planet Superflash back light and the Supernova E3 Pro front light.
5. A Comfortable Saddle
You’re going to be sitting on your saddle for several hours each day so it’s worth getting a decent one. Despite the importance of this accessory, many bikes come with terrible saddles. Expect this to be one of the first things you upgrade.
Brooks leather saddles change shape to fit your bottom over time and fans of Brooks saddles evangelise about how comfortable they are. The most popular model for touring is the Brooks B17.
Not everyone fancies the long break-in period. On the other hand, not everyone finds it as painful to wear in a Brooks saddle as you might imagine from the online chat forums! We found ours comfortable from the first outing.
Terry saddles are also popular, especially their women-specific models, such as the Terry Liberator X Gel saddle.
Whichever saddle you go for, remember the counter-intuitive rule that harder is better. Softer saddles are actually less supportive than their firmer rivals.
Like saddles, the pedals that come with most bikes tend to be cheap. happily, it doesn’t cost much to upgrade to a better pair. Deciding which type to buy is a little more difficult. Ideally you’ll want something with a bit of grip, that helps your feet stay firmly in place on wet days. Friedel is currently using Ergon PC2 pedals.
They come in a regular and a large size, and have a sandpaper-like surface that helps ‘stick’ your feet to the pedals. SPD pedals are another common option. They require you to wear special shoes with cleats, which ‘click’ into place on the pedals, locking your feet firmly in place.
When you need to stop, you twist your foot slightly to release the lock.