Gear to Pack
Try this! Swing by an outdoor outlet and purchase a 120 liter pack. Shove everything inside. Full-sized bike pump. Roomy tent. Frying pan. After a few hundred kilometers, your legs and shoulders will scream for mercy.
So keep it light. Take out the frying pan and return the survival pack. Visit an urban clothing shop and buy a shoulder bag. Drop in your wallet, water bottle, and some prayers.
Pop! Oh no. Flat tire.
What’s the middle ground? How can you pack for bike troubles and free your body from pain? Glad you asked. Here are the essentials for bike trips of all kinds.
Core Gear introduces essential bike tools and gear for bike trips. Bring them along. They can save you from catastrophe.
Extra Gear explores more accessories that can keep your bike running and body feeling great. You don’t need them. But they make up for their weight in usefulness.
Hex Wrench Tools
Need to adjust anything on your bike? You’ll need a hex wrench (Allen key). These are the same six-sided screwdrivers Ikea gives you to build bookcases.
With a 4mm, 5mm, or 6mm size hex key, you can take most of your bike apart.
Stiffen your brakes? 5mm bolts hold the brake cables. Adjust your seat post height? A 4mm bolt holds the collar. Take your pedals off? Many screw on with 6mm keys.
Multi-tool? Isn’t that just a fancy name for a Swiss Army knife? Yes. But multi-tools can’t open wine bottles, spread cheese, or give manicures.
What can a multi-tool do? Fix broken things, like adjust a derailleur’s limit screws or pull a cable tight. So stuff one in your pack.
You can find multi-tools with nineteen tools in one foldable package. That’s good and all. But a seven tool set with a sturdy pair of pliers, slot and Phillips-head screwdrivers, and a sharp edge takes care of most of your needs. Don’t let the smorgasbord of options weigh you down.
I know. You’re saying, “Two folding tools? Can’t someone combine the essentials into one?”
Well … Yes. Some designers did exactly that. They took all the essential bike tools and jammed them into a single foldable multi-tool.
Bike multi-tools are a model of innovation. Some go lightweight and offer a few hex wrenches and screwdrivers. Some go big. They fill every sliver of space with hex wrenches, tire levers, chain tool, spoke wrenches, and quick link storage.
The nightmare of a flat tire haunts bikers’ dreams. Don’t lose sleep, though. With proper gear, you can change a flat quick and get back on the road.
(Tubeless tires withstand punctures more than inner tubes. But if they lose pressure, you’ll need more expertise and resources to fix it.)
Inner tubes fit specific wheel diameters. However, they inflate and conform to the inside of a tire. So they work with a range of tire widths.
For example, a typical road bike inner tube reads 700C x 18-25 mm. 700C (633 mm) describes the wheel’s diameter. 18-25 mm refers to the width of the tire.
Say you have 700C wheels. For some odd reason, you have 23 mm tires installed on your rear wheel and 18 mm tires on your front. The above tube will fit both wheels like a glove.
Take nothing for granted, though. Double check your wheel and tire size before buying inner tubes.
And, if you’re going on a long trip, don’t just bring one inner tube. Stuff two or three in your pack. Your friends will thank you.
Tire, tube, and wheel. They’re interchangeable in the layman world. In the bike world, however, they have specific meanings.
- Tire (tyre) — the rubber that meets the road
- Inner tube — the piece of rubber inside your tire that inflates
- Wheel — all the metal parts, including the spokes, hub, and rim.
What to learn how to change a flat tire? Read this.
Bike Mini Pump
You changed your flat tire? Good job! How’re you putting air in that sucker? A portable bike pump.
Portable pumps come in all shapes and prices. You have cheap, plastic doohickeys that’ll break midway through your first pump. And there are sturdy ones made of metal that’ll force a ton of air through a mosquito’s straw. Guess which one we recommend?
You’ll find most pumps between 16-24 cm (6-10 inches). Many even come with a mounting bracket. So stick it to one of your bike’s bottle cage mounts and never worry about leaving it at home.
Some pumps feature pressure gauges. They’re a useful feature, but not accurate.
Worried about getting the right amount of air in your tires? Lean on the handlebars. Pump in more air if your tire flattens on the asphalt. Let a puff out if the tire feels harder than the road.
Some portable pumps fit both Presta and Schrader. Some don’t. So check.
Mini bike pump too bulky for your pack? CO2 Tire Inflators offer a lot of air in a smaller package (2.5 cm x 10 cm; 1 in x 4 in).
CO2 Inflators are two pieces of equipment: a nozzle that attaches to your tire, and a cartridge filled with compressed air (carbon dioxide).
You’ll find a variety of nozzles. Cheaper units puncture the CO2 cartridge and release all the compressed air at once. Better systems allow you to regulate the amount of air released through a trigger or other mechanisms.
CO2 Tire Inflators are smaller and lighter than mini bike pumps. They inflate a tire in only a few seconds with minimal effort.
However, while the nozzle is reusable, each CO2 cartridge holds a set amount of air. A 16 gram cartridge will inflate one touring or road bike tire. A 36 gram inflates a MTB tire. Once the CO2 goes, it’s gone.
Before Steve Jobs, there were maps. After Steve Jobs, there were smartphones. Without one, your vulture meat. You can’t find food, shelter, or which continent you’re on.
So bring an external battery for your phone. You won’t find outlets on the bike paths.
If you don’t mind carrying extra weight, bring a 20,000 mAh power bank. This will charge your phone, your friend’s phone, all your bike lights, and any other power hungry device.
If your motherland’s outlets differ, you can find simple converters in many convenience stores and online. Plug in your whatever and stick it in the wall.
Remember high school physics, though. Korea’s electricity comes in at 220 V, with a 60 Hz frequency. If you plug your American-made, 120 V hair dryer into Korea’s grid, your hair will dry in half the time, then catch fire.
If your charging needs only include a phone or computer, don’t fret. Most of these devices have AC adapters or converters built into their power cords. (It’s the little brick or box in the middle or end of the cord.) They take whatever comes from the wall and convert it to the correct voltage for your device. All you need is a simple adapter.
For all other appliances, buy a voltage converter.
In Korea, legend portends two-ton metal dragons hunt upon the roads when night falls. They roar, with two piercing eyes and liability insurance, they rush bikers and drive them into bushes.
Your front light has two functions. It’ll warn cars of your presence and can light your way on dark rural roads.
If you ride the Saejae Bike Path at night, you’ll find nary a street light on those farmer roads. So buy a front light that packs a punch: something over 1,000 lumens and a powerful battery. You don’t want to miss that tree limb strewn across the pitch black path.
In the city, plenty of street lights illuminate your path. So set your front light to strobe. This will set you apart from the countless other lights littering the roads.
Your brain is 1.3 kg (3 lbs) of jello. Your skull protects it from trips and other oopsies. But it doesn’t hold up against a slab of asphalt and 20 km/h of momentum.
Helmets will save your life. Korea hasn’t made it law, yet. Forget that! The law of physics holds jurisdiction over the universe, including Korea.
Safety abounds in Korea. Compared to other industrialized nations, they have some of the lowest crime rates. Don’t get complacent, though. Criminals exist in every nation.
So bring a lock.
However, the most fortified U-Locks weigh up to four pounds (2 kg). After a couple hundred kilometers, it drags like an anchor.
Folding bike locks offer adequate security, though less than a U–Lock. They fold and attach to your bike and weigh one to two pounds (0.5 to 1 kg).
In Korea, a simple cable lock will deter most criminal minds. Though they are the least secure, their weight won’t slow you down on long trips. Need to grab a bite or go for a short hike? Snake a combination cable lock around the wheels and bike frame and forget your worries.
How Much Pack
Life is balance. So is packing for a multi-day bike ride. If you pack fresh clothes for every winter day, your backpack or panniers will overflow. If you renounce all things material, including fresh underwear — well, let’s not think about that.
Pack two or three sets of clothes, with fresh socks and underwear for each day. Rotate throughout your trip and visit a laundromat (빨래방) when restaurants forbid your entrance.
Don’t worry about peak freshness. You’ll get gritty. Everyone understands.
Clothes manufactured for bike riders can lend a bit of comfort and performance to your trip. Bike jerseys strap down flapping bits, cutting wind resistance. They also keep your arms and neck out of the sun and let cool air in.
For comfort, many bike shorts stitch padding into the seat. This, along with a saddle cover, will keep your butt happy and extend your ride.
You need not like an Olympic athlete to ride long distances. For most occasions, exercise clothes won’t slow you down.
In summer, bring breathable layers. To keep the sun off your neck and face, bring a baseball cap or scarf. For your exposed arms, use long-sleeve Ts or slather sunscreen.
When winter rolls around, you won’t need to wrap yourself in a heavy jacket. But we recommend layers. Pull on a few long sleeve shirts that keep heat. Top it off with a windbreaker to keep out cold air. A simple rain jacket works.
Gloves are necessary in the cold. If you forget a pair, within thirty seconds you’ll rethink your trip.
With long paints, beware of the hungry chain monster. It gobbles up loose pant legs. So slap on some ankle-hugging pants.
For falls, scrapes, or soreness, bring a pain reliever of your choice.
Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofen
What’s the difference? Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen relieve mild-to-moderate pain, they do so by different means.
Acetaminophen increases a person’s pain threshold and reduces their core temperature. This makes it great for fevers.
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug. It can help with pain and soreness by reducing swelling from prostaglandins.
Ibuprofen affects your gastrointestinal tract, including your stomach. And acetaminophen harms your circulatory system, like your liver.
Both work well when dealing with soreness. But ibuprofen might have a slight edge with bikers and athletes because they reduce swelling after exercise.
Band-Aids and Gauze
Small, adhesive strips, like good old fashioned band-aids, cover abrasions on arms and legs.
If you get a boo-boo on a moving body part, like a knee or elbow, small strips won’t work. Apply a cotton pad and wrap it with gauze.
Before applying a dressing, don’t rinse your wound with peroxide or rubbing alcohol. It kills bacteria. But it also damages raw tissue. Instead, use clean water to wash out the gunk.
No matter the season, if the sun shines it burns. So pack sunscreen. Anything not covered by cloth, slather a thick layer of cream.
The higher the SPF, the more protection you’ll receive. But reapplying SPF 30 five times a day works much better than applying SPF 200 once in the morning. By the afternoon, sweat will remove all protecting, leaving you at the mercy of an unforgiving sun.
Bikers In the Sun
The breeze created by riding a bike plays a trick. You’ll think, “the sun isn’t too strong today.” However, the sun penetrates moving air just as much as still air.
Cover your legs, face, neck, and forearms with sunscreen. In the summer, your bare skin forever faces the sun. So apply a layer on your snack breaks.
Face masks offer two types of protection. An N95 (or K95) mask filters out particulate matter. And during respiratory pandemics, it’ll stop the spread of viruses and other infectious diseases.
Even if a viral pandemic isn’t raging, face masks are common on subways and crowded streets. If someone’s sick, they’ll wear a mask to avoid spreading what they’ve got. It’s just polite.
Water & Snacks
Here’s a complete list of food to pack while biking in Korea:
- Water (물; mool)
In the summer, you’ll sweat. Wintertime, if you wear the right clothing, you’ll sweat. Spring and fall bring pleasant weather. But you’ll sweat. So bring water. Lots of it.
You might spot a few water fountains at rest stops or well equipped campgrounds (캠핑장). But convenience stores or marts (마트) are a more reliable source of clean drinking water. Korea tucks them in every nook and under every rock.
But remember, deep into the day, water becomes scarce right when your body’s well runs dry. So when you find a clear, 7-Eleven spring, top off your reserves.
Oh. And don’t forget the snacks. Though not as essential as water, a boost of energy between meals can help you power through exhaustion.
We promise. No one will judge if you pull out a bag of gummy bears. Food equals energy.
Plan to camp while biking? You’ll need a tent, sleeping bag, cooking gear, and more. Fit everything into an 80 liter hiking pack and throw it over your shoulders. After a few kilometers, you’ll ask yourself, “is there another way?” Yes.
A set of bike panniers are two bags that hang from a rack mounted above your wheels. The pannier bags sit next to the front and rear wheels of your bike (four bags in total).
Lightweight, waterproof materials form high-end panniers. Less expensive panniers tear easier, but get the job done.
When buying panniers, look at your bike. Many rear pannier racks mount using eyelets on the frame of your bike.
While touring bikes come with these little holes, high-end road or mountain bikes don’t. You’ll need a clamp that attaches to your seat post or frame.
When you install panniers, think about balance. Too much weight on your rear wheels makes your tire ripe for a blowout. Too much on the front, steering becomes tricky.
Don’t have enough gear to fill four bags? Filling four panniers halfway is better than overloading your rear wheels. It distributes weight and creates a smoother ride.
Manufacturers create a plethora of packs that attach to your bike. Saddle (seat) packs hang below your seat. Frame packs fill the space in your bike’s frame. And handlebar packs — you guessed it — hang from your handlebars.
Like panniers, you get what you pay for. Expensive packs come built better, including waterproof materials and zippers.
Even if you’re not packing for an epic camping journey, small saddle packs can solve a timeless problem: forgetfulness.
Don’t buy a large saddle pack. Too much weight under your seat can strain your rear wheel. If you need to carry more, buy a frame pack.
Frame packs fit in the triangle in the center of your frame. They’re larger than saddle packs and place weight center mass. This balances your load.
Half frame packs hang from your top tube and allow you to install a water bottle cage or pump on one or both cage mounts.
A full sized frame pack will fill the triangle space. Depending on the size of your bike, they hold between 6 and 14 liters of gear. If you pack light, it might carry all your essentials.
Handlebar packs attach to the front of your handlebars. While bike campers use this space to roll and store their tent, bike outfitters make bags that strap onto your handlebars. Pack sizes range between large (7-10 liters) and small (1-4 liters).
Don’t go big! Handlebar packs are best used as spillover storage once all other packs are full. If you place a lot of weight on your handlebars, you’ll wear down your front tire and disrupt your steering.
Check out more information about bike bags here.
This guide gives tips on how to pack your bike for balance.
Don’t want to camp? Plan on crashing in motels? You can stuff all that you need for a multi-day bike trip — clothes, tools, batteries — inside one backpack.
However, hiking backpacks bring a tad more comfort and practicality.
Manufacturers design hiking packs for balance and comfort. They’re built with frames to balance your load, a rain cover to keep out water, and ventilation to cool your back.
Hip and sternum straps redistribute the weight of the pack off your shoulders and onto your waist. Because your hips rest on your seat, your bike carries the real load. This small shift adds up by the end of the day.
Don’t buy a 100 liter backpack, though. You might as well attach panniers. Look for a hiking pack between 5 and 20 liters. It forces you to pack smartly.
Manufacturers build road bikes for speed. They trim away the fat, including suspension and a comfortable seat. The results: you’ll get where you’re going faster. But you’ll butt will suffer.
Saddle covers (seat cushions) solve the hard seat conundrum. If you carry your pack on your back, a little more padding will save your tailbone and the meat between.
Keep two criteria in mind when buying a saddle cover. Make sure it straps firmly to your saddle. If it wiggles a bit, you’ll squirm all day to keep it in place.
Second, get a saddle cover with sturdy gel. If the padding flattens, you’ll lug around a butt paperweight.
Chain Breaker & Quick Links
A chain breaker is a small little tool that punches out broken links. Quick links provide an extra chain length to rejoin your severed chain.
Check out our guide to fixing a broken chain.
If you head out on an epic cycling journey, throw a small bottle of chain oil or lubricant in your pack. Applying a fresh coat of lube when necessary will keep everything running smooth.
Manufacturers make wet lube for rainy or snowy conditions. With a high viscosity (sticky), it won’t wash away. However, it sucks up grit, which can damage parts.
For dry conditions (sunshine), use dry lube. It has a low viscosity, watery texture, which makes it kinder to your chain and gears. However, it’ll vanish in a sprinkle.
If you use dry lube, apply every 80-150 kilometers (50-100 miles). On the 660 kilometer Cross-Country Bike Path, you must apply four to eight times. More for rain or snow.
Read our guide to chain maintenance.
New to changing flat tires? The first thing you’ll learn, fresh tires stretch over your wheel with minus three millimeters of clearance. The joints in your fingers will scream as you try to get that last bit of rubber over the rim.
Is there a better way? Yes. Get a set of hard, plastic tire levers. They’ll both hold the tire in place and pry the tire bead into place.
Most tire levers are light and fit into a saddle pack. Cheap ones will break. So buy a quality pair.
Never remove your tire with a metal tool. Metal shards will splinter from your rim and puncture your new inner tube again. And again. And again.
Resealable Plastic Bags
You can buy rain covers and wrap everything in a tarp. But if it rains, water always finds a way in.
Cord & Tape
What’s one tool that never goes out of style? Something to wrap or bind. Whether it’s electrical tape, elastic cord, or velcro straps, having something to tie something to helps when you least expect.
Imagine your rear derailleur hanger snaps in half. You can remove your derailleur, but you don’t have a chain breaker tool. So you can’t roll forward without the chain and broken bits snagging on the cassette.
What do you do? Take out a roll of electrical tape and wrap everything to the frame of your bike. You can’t pedal. But now you can coast. (Writing from personal experience.)
Electrical tape can also fix punctured tires or wrap a wound if you’re low on gauze.
If you’re biking and camping, elastic cord helps tie down sleeping bags, tarps, and more. Cord can also tie things to your backpack or bike frame. Use your imagination.