When we began our bicycle tour, I didn’t think the way I approached our journey would be very different from my husband.
After cycling for so long, through so many different countries, however, there are a few packing tips I’ve learned and would like to share with other women.
#1. Take A Good Moisturizing Lotion.
I’ve never been one for ‘lotions and potions’ (even before our trip I hardly ever wore makeup) but a small bottle of face and hand lotion goes a long way to making you feel better after a few nights of camping. If you want to go even further, you might also add some mascara and lip gloss. Then you’re set for a meal out, if you stop for some city sightseeing along the way.
#2. Get A Mooncup.
I could not survive without my Mooncup. It makes every month so much easier. No searching for bulky pads and tampons, and no need to worry about what to do with them afterwards when you’re camping in the wilderness. With the Mooncup, there’s no garbage to dispose of and you can wear it all day without worry of Toxic Shock Syndrome. I use it even when we aren’t cycling but it’s a particular godsend for when we’re on the move. If you are planning a trip and haven’t used one before, make sure you have two or three cycles to get used to it. The Diva Cup is a similar alternative.
#3. Get A Nice, Fitted Rain Jacket.
You have to get a good rain jacket for a bike tour, so you might as well get a nice one with a flattering cut. There are some really good women’s jackets on the market. I’ve had a few Gore-tex jackets (they make cycling-specific ones) and been pleased with them, for example the Gore Power II Lady (£188.09 from Wiggle).
The MacPac Prophet rain jacket is slightly less flattering but it’s by far the best Friedel has tried to date. It’s terribly expensive if you have to buy it new (we picked it up for a fraction of the normal retail price at an outlet sale).
#4. Consider A Peeing Device.
Some women also really love the devices on the market that let you pee standing up. I had the chance to review the pStyle, the Whiz Freedom and the Go Girl. Other cyclists have something to say too:
“I recently got back to the U.S.A. after spending one year touring the world by bicycle for my honeymoon! One thing I really really loved during my trip and couldn’t have survived without is the WhizAway. It’s sort of a little purple rubber funnel that fits against your crotch and allows you to pee while standing up, or into a bottle. I found this hugely useful in roadside peeing situations, times when we were stuck in the tent because of bug attacks, and in super dirty bathrooms.” –Sarah, Erck.org
#5. Think About Pacing.
If you’re cycling with your boyfriend, husband or partner, talk about pacing. Nothing will make life more miserable than if he wants to race ahead and you want to take it easy. Also, consider asking him to take some of the heaviest luggage. This is assuming of course that you are a bit less strong than he is! If it’s the other way around, reverse this advice. In the end, no matter which way you do it, each person should be carrying just the right amount of stuff so that you both go at the same speed. This might mean a 60-40 split or even a 70-30 split, depending on your individual strength.
#6. Take Extra Pairs of Underwear.
On a shorter trip, you can just about get away with 3 pairs of underwear but you have to be strict about cleaning a pair every day. Since underwear aren’t heavy, and having more pairs gives you freedom from having to do a wash every day, I usually carry 5-6 pairs on longer journeys.
#7. Have A Dress-Up Outfit.
Sure, you’re going to be on the bike and camping out most of the time, but once in a while you’ll spend time in a city or be invited out to dinner. It’s nice to have an outfit for these occasions. I’m not suggesting you pack a pair of high heels and a hair dryer, but consider 1-2 pieces of clothing that are a bit nicer than your cycling tops and cargo pants. Three things that have really caught my eye are the Icebreaker Roma Dress (you can also wear it as an extra layer on cooler days), the Macabi Skirt and the Terry Stretch Mini Skirt.
According to bike tourist Peli, the Terry skirt is genuinely useful on a bike tour.
When cycle touring in New Zealand it was comfy, practical and downright invaluable! I wore it over shorts or 3/4s, when getting changed, just after a shower, and – best of all – to sleep in. When sleeping in a tent, responding to a midnight call of nature can be a really irritating faff, but less so if wearing a handy little skirt. You can work it out. That’s possibly too much information.
Linen trousers might be another good option, as one of our Twitter followers pointed out:
@travellingtwo Linen trousers+shirt all the way for me- easy to carry- and a nice shawl-looks smart and keeps you toasty at other times too!
— Dawesfan (@dawesfan) June 17, 2011
What to wear with your dress-up outfit? A pair of travel sandals such as those made by Keen or Teva should do the trick for most semi-casual outings, and you can also wear them on the bicycle during hot, summer days. If you have extra room in your bags, you could pack a pair of strappy, lightweight sandals but don’t expect to use them much, unless you’re really planning to hit a lot of cities. They might be your one luxury item (everyone has at least one!).
#8. A Colourful Scarf Is Good Too.
Tara of GoingSlowly.com suggests picking out a colourful scarf that can serve double-duty, both as an accessory to your dress and to protect you on windy days when there’s a lot of dust and dirt in the air, or during a cold snap.
26th March 2011 at 11:46 pm #
Thank you for these useful feminine tips 🙂
I am considering going on a long bike tour, and I have a question concerning calfs and thighs… I already happen to have rather muscular legs, and I am kind of worried that I might come back home with thighs like wheelbarrows and calves like balloons…
Do you have any advice to offer on how to preserve my limbs from this unfortunate fate?
Thank you so much!
27th March 2011 at 8:03 am #
Tough one Lili… obviously the act of pedaling all day, every day is bound to build muscles. The only thing I can think of is to get a bike that is hand-powered (some recumbents are like this) but then maybe you just move the problem upwards. I’m not sure. Let us know if you find a solution!
25th June 2011 at 10:01 am #
In my experience your legs are not growing bigger, they just grow firmer But hey maybe I’m lucky?
1st October 2011 at 3:47 pm #
Hi Lili! I’ve found that having clipless pedals helps. With clipless you’re not only pushing down on the pedals, but pulling up as well. That means you’re working not only the fronts of your thighs, but also the backs- which translates into more balanced looking (and better performing) legs. Hope that helps and isn’t too late! Enjoy your tour!!
25th June 2011 at 9:57 am #
Hi Lili and Friedel, my solution to “sturdy” legs is a long skirt when you wnat to look smarter. As my DH says , if I didn’t have the legs I have , I wouldn’t be able to cycle so far and long. Just be thankful for strong legs. I’ve been hung up about my legs since I was a child, but no longer.
BTW Friedel, do you know when you will be coming to the UK.
25th June 2011 at 9:58 am #
This is the first time ever I heard of a mooncup!
27th August 2012 at 6:42 am #
Yeah! I’m not sure about it… Would it be comfy?
10th February 2016 at 5:10 am #
They are amazing! Life changing for sure. And yes, comfy too. After the first cycle you don’t notice it, once you know how to put it in.
25th June 2011 at 2:33 pm #
This is the second time you’ve made me think seriously about getting a Mooncup. It has nothing to do with bike touring; I just think that it sounds like an ingenious and environmentally friendly idea.
25th June 2011 at 11:28 pm #
For dress up clothes I used a sari that I picked up in Singapore. Just wrapped it around like a long skirt – worn with sandals and a smart shirt (I have a couple of mountain hardware t-shirts that both look nice and never stink). I actually wore the outfit to a wedding! Not totally formal, but an easy way to dress up without carrying a lot of weight – the sari can double as a wrap over bike shorts when you get off the bike during the day (also handy at times)
26th June 2011 at 8:37 am #
here in the Uk , Avon reps have little samples of lipstick in tiny tubes. I carry one of those for the odd time I want to look better LOL. I also think lip balm is an essential and my DH never needs it.
26th June 2011 at 11:54 am #
The sarong works for me Friedel. It has so many other uses – shawl, headscarf(in Iran), picnic tablecloth, beach spread (travel towel is too small), extra sleeping layer, sunhade over tent. Mine’s a dark, viscose-type material which doesn’t show the dirt and creases drop out easily.
6th July 2011 at 12:53 am #
Great tips – thanks Friedel! I’ll be taking a Merino dress and leggings plus a pair of ballet flats as my off the bike outfit for our upcoming tour of Italy & Switzerland. It’s a relief to put on normal clothes and feel a bit dressed up after a long day in the saddle. I usually wear a bit of makeup too so instead of bringing mascara I’m going to get my lashes tinted before I go. One less thing to pack!
19th October 2011 at 1:04 am #
I am so sick of seeing Tevas and Keens recommended as semi-casual sandals. They are beyond casual. Unless you are hiking up a river or making a quick run to the outhouse at night, Tevas are a no-no! Can you imagine wearing Tevas into a cafe in Paris? Try packing a pair of ballet flats as Rowena mentioned. They take up LESS room than Tevas and actually look cute with a dress or skirt.
31st January 2012 at 10:32 am #
Good tips, even for an errant tomboy like myself.
Everyone should have a mooncup. It holds a lot of liquid compared to a tampon so there is (virtually) never that sinking feeling when you have mis timed and have no where to make a toilet stop, its cleaner as once you have the hang of it there is no leakage AND no string chafe.
Im not so sold on the peeing devices. Ive tried a shewee and its narrow funnel meant that it was really difficult to use, especially after a return from the pub.
9th March 2013 at 5:40 pm #
Crocs actually make some really comfy ballet flats that weigh next to nothing, and most importantly, nobody will know they’re crocs! You can also wear them in the shower, which eliminates the need for thongs. The models I’ve tried are called Prima (sold out but you can find a pair if you’re lucky on eBay), and Carlie.
10th March 2013 at 8:59 pm #
Thanks for this tip!
15th November 2015 at 12:44 am #
Amen. Horrible looking. There are so many cute inexpensive flats and flipflops, really there’s no excuse.
24th January 2013 at 12:34 am #
Can anyone reccomens the best underwear to use for a long cycle tour. Are seamless pants any good and would you advise using padded shorts or leggings?
19th February 2013 at 11:11 pm #
Well, padded cycling shorts are designed to be worn without underwear – no seams rubbing against you as you cycle. (That said: I have used boyshort-style synthetic underwear made by Patagonia, which is very stretchy and thin, under my bike shorts before and didn’t chafe.)
I cycle with padded bike shorts, and you can get leggings with chamois in them but I just pull on a pair of insulated running tights over my bike shorts if I need something warmer and that works fine. (Or, you can do shorts + thermal leg warmers.) Bring underwear to wear under your camp clothes, don’t wear it in the shorts, and rotate between 2+ pairs of shorts, spot cleaning the other pair(s) when you’re not wearing them.
28th June 2017 at 9:23 pm #
It’s a good idea to split up the gear according to how strong each person is. My husband is a bit stronger than me, so we should probably do a 60-40 split like you suggest. We haven’t actually planned anything yet, but we both like to bike. We think that going on a bike tour could be lots of fun for the both of us. I don’t really want to plan it though and neither does my husband, so we should look into somewhere that offers bike tours.
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