One of the joys of cycle touring is travelling without the clutter of everyday life. Knowing that your maximum pannier load is 4.5×2 kilos creates a wonderful discipline. Knowing that every kilo less than the maximum will feel great on the first climb makes your self discipline all the stronger.
Other joys follow the freedom from clutter: once into the routines of touring you learn the joys of re-purposing and ‘make do and mend’. Here are some of our favourite discoveries from our last tour.
Never leave a napkin behind after a meal. We seem to cycle every kilometre with a drip on the end of our noses and a fresh napkin as a giant tissue is a great treat. And they make great bike cleaners at the end of their lives. A fat napkin will clean a set of wheel rims stopping the dreaded wheel/brake scream just a treat.
Petrol Station disposable gloves (the kind issued to stop fuel spills on driver’s fingers) make great hand warmers on a frosty early morning or will help keep gloves dry in an unexpected downpour.
Liberate a few used newspapers when the weather is unsettled and when you are climbing. Nothing dries out soaked cycle shoes better than crumpled newspapers; tuck one down your shirt at the top of a climb and escape the chill as you descend; a few opened sheets will protect a hotel floor from dripping bike dirt and reassure a dubious if not hostile receptionist.
Supermarket polly bags make great overshoes in a thunderstorm or when rain follows in our wheels all day long. There is nothing more dispiriting than finding your shoes are so totally soaked that you can no longer coordinate your pedal revolutions: polly bags will stave off this moment for hours. If need be they will also protect your seat.
Hotel reception sweets must never be left behind: it’s amazing how instantly a simple boiling turns into a performance enhancing substance at the bottom of the last steep climb of the day, or a medical miracle when you hit the wall and run out of energy. Apples and bananas work even better!
Dental floss has more uses than WD40. On our last trip we used it as a navigation range finder aide; instead of thread; instead of cable ties and to reinforce tired bungee grips.
A suitably sized stone chip will serve as a great spacer to hold a front derailler in middle chainring alignment if you have the misfortune to snap a front gear cable as we did on a recent trip in Portugal.
Old paper receipts and hotel notepads make great disposable navigation crib lists when leaving of a morning. We write out 3 – one for departure, one with en route decision points and one with details of our next hotel. Each can be thrown away when no longer needed.