Welcome to the era of low-cost travel, they said.
It’s a conundrum that we often face in this era of low-cost travel: a quest to maximise your riding trip without blowing your budget by adding bags to the flight.
Travelling light on a biking trip is an art, but alongside the essential pair of cycling shorts and sunnies, we often feel the need to throw in some Birkenstocks and some après-bike chic. Recognise the scenario? Here are NGNM’s top tips for surviving a hand luggage-only cycling holiday*.
*Stay tuned later this spring for our bikepacking packing guide.
# 1 Multi-functional pieces for the win
If the reason for your trip is to ride, and you want to pack as lightly as possible then you need to embrace the mindset that your pre- and post-ride fashion will only be found in multifunctional, multi-use pieces. For each item of casual clothing that you want to take, it will mean less room for the more important clothing – those pieces that you’ll be wearing for the bulk of each day while on the saddle.
Sacrifice fashion and look closely at function: Need a jacket? Why not use your riding one? Is the forecast for chilly evenings? A merino top ticks all the boxes and performs like a pro on the bike, wicking quickly, keeping you fresh and—importantly—doesn’t build up any bad odours. The NGNM foulard represents ultra-compact versatility, looks cute when worn with a casual tee, and comes in useful for early starts and long descents, too.
Pack just one t-shirt in addition to the one you’re wearing to the airport; it’ll cover you for multiple days given you’ll be in your cycling gear for most of the day.
# 2 - Clothing as packing material
If you’re travelling with your bike, you’ve got the upperhand compared to those who are choosing to hire on destination. You can use your bike bag as an extra large suitcase. By dividing your clothing into small pouches—which will protect them from getting dirty—you can use your clothing as packing to protect your bike. A collection of stuff sacks are perfect for this. They allow you to squeeze a lot of clothing into them, whilst protecting your all-important pristine cycling gear from your chain.
However, be aware that it is possible to over-pack bike bags. Airlines have a maximum weight (check this before and after packing), so exceeding that can be an issue. Plus, if you over-pack your bike bag, it will make moving around with it even tougher.
Oh, and we always roll each item rather than folding them; it helps save space and won’t create creases. Try compressive plastic bags or packing cubes: you can squeeze the air out, and thus reduce the overall volume inside your bike bag or low-cost airline cabin suitcase.
# 3.1 Be prepared to wash
With the majority of hand luggage-only cycling trips taking you to a hotter country then preparation for daily washing will mean you can rotate your limited wardrobe and still feel fresh.
Having two pairs of kit is key to this. Washing the one you’ve just used in your post-ride shower will give it the maximum amount of time to dry. Pack a small bottle of dedicated sports detergent as this will be kinder on your kit and helps to ensure the long-lasting performance of the fibres within each piece. If it comes to it, you can use the hotel’s free shower gel or soap (further saving on space), but take care to rinse your chamois thoroughly—bubbles on bike saddles can be quite visible!
# 3.2 … then dry
But it is precisely this that can be the biggest challenge when travelling. We suggest taking some paracord or similar to string up your own washing line, whilst making sure that you wring each piece out as much as possible. The most effective way is to wrap each wet item in a towel and then to wring that towel out before hanging the item up to try. This isn’t particularly kind to your clothing, so try to avoid doing it when not strictly necessary. Always dry chamois-side out.
In the best-case scenario, the sun will be out late and up early so you can dry the items on the balcony and benefit from the natural warmth. Later, you can sneak those hard-to-dry cycling shorts into your bed with you, where they have been known to dry a bit faster. Tuck them in the corner, a little removed from your feet.
Still damp in the morning? Unlucky. But keep trying; you really want to avoid starting the ride in a damp chamois. You’ll have to rely on a hotel hair dryer to work its magic now.
# 4 Laundry service as a backup
Bad weather? Been on the road for a while? Feeling flush? Using your hotel’s laundry service can be an option. Though costly, they can turn around your pieces in 24 hours, leaving you feeling extra-motivated to ride in fresh kit. If you’re lucky enough to stay at a family-owned hotel, there’s a higher chance of being able to use a washing machine. Another option along this path is to find a laundromat close to your hotel. This works best if you have a spare afternoon and are tired of hanging out in the sunshine. A trip to the local laundromat will get your kit clean and dry, and you may even meet some locals.
# 5 Don’t sweat the small things
Think small in volume but big in performance. Pack arm warmers, an air gilet, and a super-packable, multi-functional top like our Fleece Jersey that’ll work on and off the bike. We always travel in a pair of loose, lightweight travel pants that we’re confident we can slip over our cycling shorts if there’s a drop in the temperatures. You’ll also spot us in the airport queues in the very same merino top that we’ll most likely be riding in on the following day.
# 6 Holiday entertainment
We all love reading and we know you’ll be gripped by those hardback books that appear to have found their way into your luggage, but think again. Go for a pair of minimal headphones and download some podcasts or audiobooks on to your mobile phone – forget the ipad :-) this time – to get your cultural fix.
# 7 Essentials
So far, we’ve covered your kit and advised against hardback books. So far, so straightforward.
Here’s a handy checklist of smaller, but no less important items that you’ll be glad you’ve got:
- A battery power bank
- Your HR belt
- Charging cables for phone and bike computer
- Saddle bag and/or handlebar bag inside your bike case
- Multi-tool and at least one spare tube inside your bike case
All NGNM jerseys are designed with three rear pockets so you won’t need a hip pack or backpack; trust in the structure of our gorgeous Italian fabrics to hold your essentials secure as you ride.
Travelling light when going on a bike trip is an art that takes time to perfect. Through practice and experience you can plan what to take better, researching the location where you are riding and the weather you’ll be facing. While always a fun challenge, there are times where you just need to bite the bullet and pay for that extra bag—especially when the weather is changeable or you’re not heading to a warmer climate. Take our word for it, freezing on a bike is really not worth it.