As I get older, I’m finding myself becoming more and more practical. This is, of course, at the expense of my street cred. But did I even have any street cred in the first place, as a gangly two-metre tall guy with weird tan lines and a moustache? Yeah, nah… I literally wear socks and sandals erryday (or to be more specific, ‘stocks ‘n socks).
But seriously, I’m (secretly) hoping that all of these things come in vogue soon, so that people give me that nod of approval that you see in movies when people do courageous things AND so that I get to feel like less of an oddball when I do my grocery shopping.
Right, here’s my list of underrated yet practical gear that I never see anyone with, but that I take on (nearly) every bike tour:
Rain Poncho aka Rain Cape
I can’t believe these aren’t a thing. Well, they are in some European and Asian cities, but I’ve only ever seen like 10 people dressed up like witches hats. But here’s the thing: ponchos don’t just keep your upper body dry, they keep the whole damn thing dry because you hook them on the handlebars! Plus, you know how really expensive rain jackets are meant to breathe (they never breathe enough, right?), well ponchos allow the wind to go right up there and cool you down, making them way better in warmer climates. Also, user tip – when it’s raining cats and dogs you can just huddle underneath it – it’s like a tent! Ponchos – the all in one system.
So my Korean The Red Face poncho is pretty nerdy, here’s NINE cooler poncho brands: Otto, Cleverhood, Water Off A Ducks Back, Brooks, Ligne8, Riding Hood, Rainfrog, K-Way, Carradice. How dapper you look depends on how meaty your bank balance is.
Everyone knows that SPD sandals are better for wet weather touring, but I can’t get any of my mates to cough up the money and actually buy them. Obviously they are an eyesore, but I can’t think of a single time when I was better off without them. Get rained on? Dry in 15 minutes. Creek crossing? Dry in 15 minutes. Above 30 degrees C (86F)? The best ventilation of any shoe. Walking around town? Enough give and lots of grip. Snowing? Layer them up!
Chamois Cream aka Anti-Friction Cream
Do you experience rubbing in your downstairs region? Do you get saddle sores? Well, there’s this product exists that will prevent this from happening! It’s called anti-friction cream and I’m surprised people don’t often use it. This antibacterial, moisturising and sometimes waterproof cream should be applied directly to your skin at the points where you place most of your weight on the saddle. If you have a seat you’re super comfortable with, you may never need it. But I find that even if I really like my seat, there still are times when it rains, it’s really hot, or if I’m simply doing a really long day on the bike – that it helps keep me comfortable, for longer. The best cream I’ve used is called Squirt Barrier Balm.
Shoe Covers aka Booties
Seriously, why don’t people own these? At 95g and with a tiny pack size, booties keep your shoes dry when it rains. Or if it’s cold, the booties reduce the airflow and keep your feet warm. Ok, maybe I do get why people don’t pack them: you will probably look like you’ve just walked off a moon landing movie set. Anyway, I use them on 2-minute rides in the rain or 5 hour rides in the rain. Wet shoes suck!
Socks… that are waterproof! Why wouldn’t you want that?! Ok, well water always gets inside them, but it trickles down the side of your ankle from the top and by the time it’s in and not getting out, it’s warm AF. I don’t actually take these on every bike tour, but for rides that could be sub-10 degrees celsius (50F) these are ESSENTIAL in the prevention of ice block feet. Pro tip: don’t buy uber thick waterproof socks ‘cos they probably won’t fit in your shoes – get the thin ones.
Universal Sink Plug
I can’t believe how handy my 14g PVC plug is. It allows me to wash my clothes in public bathrooms, wash my dishes in random sinks and have a soak in a bath that is so underutilised that the plug is permanently missing. If you don’t have a universal plug, spend a few bucks (or DIY one) and I guarantee you’ll find it useful on a bike tour.