How to Shed Weight on a Bike Tour

Not you, the gear: 10 ways to slim your ride

I’ll be the first to admit I’m an over-packer, even when it comes to last-minute, devil-may-care adventure. Five weeks into a cross-country bike tour, I’ve found hidden treasures (A clean shirt! A three-man slingshot!) nestled in my panniers that had already hitched a free ride over the Rockies.

But there are times I need to ditch my hardcover books to hold the wheel of a lightweight travel buddy. And though it’s no easy task, the freedom and ease of touring with less crap have made me reconsider my resistance to minimalism.

Here are some tips I’ve found for shaving weight on an unsupported bike tour. Depending on the length of your trip (and your outlook on luxuries like “hygiene”), you can get more out of less while still camping.

1.     Tape extra spokes and tubes to the frame of your bike. It won’t lessen the overall weight, but it can clear up pannier space so you won’t need as many bags.

2.     Lose the cook stove, particularly if you’re solo touring. It’s hard to keep it light, and many solo tourists abandon cooking pretty quickly, anyway.

3.     Use bubble wrap for a Therm-a-rest, or sleep without one. “This is Sparta!”

4.     Pack just one or two spare tubes and a whole mess of patches.

5.     Use toe clips and light sneakers instead of clipless pedals. Now you don’t have to bring extra street shoes.

6.     Get a good multi-tool and reduce extra tools to the bare necessities. Print out a list of bike shops along your route in advance.

7.     Try folding plates and an all-in-one utensil. You should be so hungry at mealtime you won’t care.

8.     Use Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap for everything—dish soap, detergent, bodywash and shampoo. One soap to rule them all!

9.     A homemade clothesline is lighter than extra clothes. Pack only quick-drying fabrics, rinse them out every night and hang-dry.

10.   Unfortunately, a major area for weight shaving is from your actual body. Losing even a pound or two will make it unnecessary to cut down your toothbrush handle or tear each page out of a book as you read it. On the bright side, you can always gain them back after the tour.