Bicycle Touring Equipment Distribution


Bicycle touring equipment distribution or how I place my gear across my bike to ensure that I have a balanced center of gravity, oft used items are easily available, and items that are used together are grouped together.

I’ve got three boxes of bicycle touring equipment and I need to start deciding what will go on my next adventure. This is a painstaking process of packing up, test riding, unpacking, repacking, more test riding, until I am comfortable with my bicycle touring equipment distribution.

Regardless of how I spread the weight around the first day or so on a tour comes with a learning curve. The first big climb and descent are treated with the utmost respect. I think about this until the bike, gear, and effective handling become second nature. It impacts the gears I ride in, braking, shifting, and how I change positions on the bike.

The opposite is true when I find a place where I will shed the bags for a couple days and ride around ‘naked’. The bike instantly handles different and before I start ripping around I take a moment to run through some ‘drills’ to get a feel for the bike and it’s new found handling.

bicycle touring equipment distribution

Bicycle Touring Equipment Distribution Step 1 – Grouping Equipment

When I pack up I create four piles of gear to survey the whole of my bicycle touring equipment. The four groups will become smaller and smaller as I pack and unpack. I use this exercise to eliminate unneeded items, place priority on oft used items, and to pack evenly. Let’s look at my four groups:

  1. Most often used bicycle touring equipment while on the bike
    These items include water, rain gear, maps, camera, patch kit, sunglasses, sunscreen, pump, 1 spare tube, road snacks, money, and anything that might be needed quickly. They are kept handy so that I do not have to dig through my bags to get them. They are right there for me when I need them and I’m back on the bike 5 minutes later. In some cases I don’t have to even stop riding.
  2. Least used bicycle touring equipment
    This group contains things I do not want to travel without but hope I never have to use. They get buried in the bottom of the bag because if I need them it means I have an issue that I need to solve before I can ride again. they include: spare cables, heavier tools, spare tires, emergency items, maps I am not using, back up spare tubes and patches. Chances are if I am using one of these items I am stopped and have the time to root through my bags to get them.
  3. Heaviest bicycle touring equipment
    Keeping the heaviest items at the lowest part of the bike makes a lot of sense in keeping a low center of gravity. This gets a bit difficult for me because I will be using bikepacking bags that ride a bit higher than pannier bags. It still makes sense to group and distribute this equipment by weight if possible.
  4. Bulky bicycle touring equipment that require space
    Things like a sleeping bag or mattress pad don’t weigh a lot but have a mass that cannot be ignored. Sometimes things need to go where they will go and that is that. You can’t fit a sleeping bag in a small pound under the saddle [yet] so overall mass needs to be respected.

Pretty simple so far but we still need to apply a convenience factor into the bicycle touring equipment distribution. If you need a group of items all at once it makes sense to have them in the same bag.

bicycle touring equipment distribution

Bicycle Touring Equipment Distribution Step 2 – Proximity issues

  1. Proximity of bicycle touring equipment that is used together
    Group things that are used together next to one another. Every time I set up camp I will need my tent, sleeping bag, thermarest mattress, and sleeping clothes. Every time I cook a meal I need my stove, food, and cleanup equipment. Doesn’t it make sense to have all of this in one goto bag or place? In these cases the proximity of bicycle touring equipment is paramount. Who wants to dig through and open many bags to find your camp set up or kitchen when the mosquitoes are buzzing about versus stashing the bike and grabbing one bag. Voila! Keep it all together when you can.

Bicycle Touring Equipment Distribution Step 3 – Knowing where everything is

  1. The system of knowing where everything is
    When I leave on tour I have a really good idea of where everything is. This is a process that may see things shifting around as you pass through different climates and geography. As I ride this gets dialed down to perfection. Bicycle touring is a good practical application of project management.

In conclusion I try to keep the heaviest of things lowest but I also take into consideration what I need while I am on the bike. If I don’t need it often I bury it somewhere. If there is a probability that I need it often I keep it somewhere where I can get to it without much effort. If it is used in conjunction with other items I try to respect that.

Each tour is a puzzle to put together; however, puzzles come with a set number of pieces. A lot of tourers fall into the trap of bringing too much. My next tour will be rackless using a number of revelate designs bags further limiting what I can carry. I look forward to the above exercise.