I am going on a long distance bike tour and I am looking for advice as to the kind of equipment / bike set up I should use? I don't have a huge budget so what are the absolutely critical aspects I should invest my budget into?

(edit) I have a mountain bike modified for touring, with XT running gear, Sunn Rhynolyte rims, Brooks saddle. But I want to get lighter wheels, more comfortable bars, and I'm considering a hub gear box.

I am planning on cycling across East China to Japan.

Would mostly be on the road, with some diversions down small side tracks.

Budget is about £3500.

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    What kind of long-distance tour? How long? Over what kind of terrain? Are you camping or staying at hotels and hostels? Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 16:33
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    What do you define as "don't have a huge budget"? What equipment do you already have? From the wording of the question it looks like you want to buy a bike as well, If so, this question may be too open ended.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 16:37
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    where are you starting from? I mean, do you have a bike yet? (You imply not.) Do you have any cycling clothing or would you be looking at getting that from scratch? How far are you planning on travelling? For how long will you be travelling? in what type of accommodation will you be staying? etc. etc. Basically as it stands your question is very general, therefore you can probably only expect general answers. The more specific you can be, the more specific the advice people will give you.
    – PeteH
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 16:37
  • Add-on to @GarethRees are you going by mountain bike, road bike, trekking bike? Are going to stay in civilization or will you go somewhere into the wild where you are some hours or days away from medical help or a bike store? Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 16:38
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    @CareyGregory Here's a simple solution to crossing the Sea of Japan. (youtube.com/watch?v=Hy8usNAf33Q)
    – Kibbee
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 21:02

4 Answers 4


Your question is very general but I can start the ball rolling by telling you about a short-distance tour I did over a couple of days last summer.

Think is was about 350km in the end, on tarmac roads, over 2 1/2 days, staying in hotels overnight.

Bike was a road bike, but was an audax bike rather than a racer. It had mudguards, a rack and I had SPD clipless pedals on it. These were good on the bike but also allowed me to walk when not on the bike.

As a start point, I had it equipped with what I normally take out on every ride. This is basically a saddlebag containing mini toolkit, mini first aid kit, spare tube, CO2 gun and a couple of spare cartridges. Also the usual bidons, helmet, Garmin, mitts etc. etc.

I took a single pannier. I bought the pannier especially with smallness in mind. Bear in mind I was able to do this because of the short duration of my trip.

The pannier contained:

  • some more tools, I can't remember exactly what but it would probably have included a couple of wrenches, a quality chain tool. Also a couple more spare tubes, a spare tyre and a high-pressure pump. The minature stuff in my saddlebag is great for what it is, but I wouldn't use it if I had a choice...
  • spare cycling kit. One pair bibshorts, one jersey. For emergency use only. Bear in mind this was summertime so my clothing requirements were minimal. My first task as I got to the hotel each night was to wash my gear and try and find some way of getting it dry for the next morning. Good luck on this one if you're going to be camping! I reckon I must have had a long-sleeved jersey in there too, and a rain jacket.
  • something to wear in the evening. A pair of undies, a pair of socks, a t-shirt and the most lightweight trousers I could find. Oh and a pair of espadrilles
  • Odds and sods including a USB charger to keep the phone and the Garmin happy. Relied on these for my mapping, and for storing my (pre-planned) route. Also a lightweight D-lock for when I left the bike to visit a museum etc.

Obviously because I stayed in hotels, I was able to forget about toiletries etc., not to mention did not have to worry about any camping stuff, e.g. a tent. I think I might have taken a razor and some deodorant, but that would have been it. Also because the trip was so short, I got away with a single set of clothes. I wouldn't have been particularly comfortable with that (probably neither would the people at the next table!) had I gone for any longer.

I don't pretend that this is anywhere near a complete answer but should give you some food for thought and an indication of some of the things you'll need to consider....

  • very interesting answer for a short tour.Did you find that you had enough stuff with you, or was there anything extra you wish you had taken? Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 17:44
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    slight mishap was I should have taken spare glasses - I dropped them and broke the hinge. Things I'd maybe do differently... day one I felt good so didn't stop where I'd planned for lunch, by the time I was feeling hungry there wasn't really anywhere decent to stop...also plotted the route beforehand via Google and ended up doing about 20km on a main highway - sharing with trucks etc. But I think you make these mistakes once and learn from them. Had no mechanical issues but of course to leave the tools behind is a big risk.
    – PeteH
    Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 20:45
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    Interesting answer, @PeteH. I've been trying to talk myself into doing a few multi-day rides, and I like your definition of essentials.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 29, 2014 at 23:38

For cycling across China you want a reliable bike that is unlikely to give you trouble, and which can be repaired with "local" resources if it does.

Forget about "lighter" wheels -- you want reliable wheels, and a pound less weight (if that) from a lighter wheel will not make any difference. And I'd stay away from a geared hub, unless you can find one that you know is popular in China.

You do need a comfortable bar, but that's a personal thing and quite relative.

You should take at least two spare tubes, maybe a spare tire (see Sheldon Brown for how to fold it), patch kit(s), boots, and a good frame pump (don't rely on a "compact" model, and remember that you may have 20 flats, so going with CO2 alone is risky). You should have some extra chain links and a chain tool (and make a crib sheet on how to use it), and maybe 2-4 "master links" of your favorite brand. A few carefully chosen tools -- wrenches to fit seat bolt, crank arms, wheel axles (if not QR), etc. And several spare spokes -- you generally need 3 sizes -- at least 2 of each. Also, it's good to have the minimum tools needed to remove the cluster, in case you need to replace a spoke on that side. (Assume that you can borrow, eg, a pipe wrench or some such to operate a cluster wrench.) And don't forget the spoke wrench -- get a good quality one, not the one-size-fits-all ring thing.

Sun lotion, bug lotion, at least some "emergency" food, and a "road rash" first aid kit. (Cortisone cream for bug bites is also often very handy, though toothpaste will work in a pinch.)

And whatever camping gear and clothing you need, based on how you will be traveling. And, of course, maps, money (stashed several different places), lock for the bike (with extra cables to secure panniers), etc.

You might want to bring along some sort of trinkets to give to the locals as you meet them. Simply some shiny new quarters would likely do, or you may have some other idea.

  • going with c02 alone is risky... ;) I think so... Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 21:21
  • Surely I can find light weight wheels that are still strong...? Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 21:21
  • @AndrewWelch -- How much lighter do you think they will be? You don't want to reduce spoke count, you don't want a lighter duty rim. Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 23:26
  • What's wrong with a compact pump? Sure, it might take a bit longer, but a minute or two here or there isn't going to be important. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 12:19
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    @GarethRees - Maybe. I've tried several and they've never gotten over 50, despite advertising to the contrary. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 13:28

My first priority is reliability, the second is comfort.

I spend 3-5 hours a day in the saddle, day after day.

Light components are not a priority, I get reliable ones.

  • Wheels: Ryde/Rigida Andra are very strong ones.
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon puncture proof
  • Saddle: Brooks are good, or SQ Lab - comfort is very important, try before you go
  • Handlebars: Ergon Grips, or butterfly bars with gel tapes (I use the latter)

Gel tapes add more comfort/money vs. suspension forks.

Check out this article: http://cyclingabout.com/index.php/2013/09/build-a-round-the-world-touring-bike-on-a-budget/


If you are planning for a loaded tour, lightweight equipment is the opposite of what you want— the bike is a relatively small proportion of the total weight of bike + gear.

Strong wheels are one of the most important components, since failures are difficult to repair and have potential to end the trip— overbuilt wheels with a high spoke count for redundancy are what you want.

Different handlebars are a good modification— trekking bars are a common setup used on mountain bikes used for touring.

Hub gears other than the Rohloff generally aren't used for loaded touring, since hauling a bike with 50 pounds of gear up a mountain pass requires very low gears, and high gears are fun for bombing down the pass on the other side. The Rohloff also seems to have the best reputation for reliability for a touring bike. But they are very expensive, and work best with frames with dropouts specifically designed for the hub.

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