Rain Poncho

Six of the Most Underrated Yet Practical Gear That I Take Bicycle Touring

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

Rain Poncho
The rain cape is a wonderfully practical wet weather option.

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.

SPD Sandals

Clip In Sandals
I rarely go on a bike trip without SPD sandals. Maybe that’s why they call me the Sandalman?

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

Chamois Cream
Chamois Cream will prevent chafing and saddle sores. Why would you not?

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

Rain Shoe Covers
Shoe covers are a great way to keep your shoes warm and dry.

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!

Waterproof Socks

Waterproof Socks
Waterproof socks are the warmest option on wet days.

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

Universal Sink Plug
I made my own Universal Sink Plug when I lost my PVC version. It was still effective!

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.

Do You Take Anything Practical On Tour That People Need To Know About?

  1. A small folding umbrella. I hate cycling in the rain and often a heavy shower might only last 5 minutes but gets you drenched. Park the bike put the umbrella up and stay dry.

  2. That’s so true! Here in the tropics a huge rainstorm can come out of nowhere breaking tree branches and sudden rivers across the street, but 20 minutes later the sun is shining again.

  3. Does the rain poncho work for a team on a tandem? I’m curious how the captain – stoker interface would work.

  4. a shemagh. light compact quick drying and good to keep your head warm/cool, dryer, as a dust mask, towel, blanket, insect headnet, sarong, waist bag, triangular bandage, balaclava for robbing banks or for joining the palestinian peoples popular liberation front cycle touring wing.

    a proper sil nylon poncho while bigger than a cycling cape can be tied about the body to make a variety of items and will a few light bungees or some cord a myriad of shelters/sunshades or emergency water collectors. as a soldier we would shelter under them and direct the water to a collector and sieve through a cloth as it needed no purification.

    Nappy cream is cheaper and easier to get than chamois cream. does the same thing.

    Avon skin so soft works as an insect repellent that wont melt your lycra clothes. as does tea tree oil amongst its many uses.

    wet wipes/baby wipes can be dried out and rehydrated with water to use and make a decent instant shower and keep you fresh.

    a pop can stove weighs nothing and can burn a variety of alcohol based fuels. if you can’t get meths or denatured alcohol you can use surgical spirit which is available anywhere often cheaper than the proper fuels.

    one thing I have bought but not used yet is a Quechua sleepmover sleeping bag, a hooded sleeved bag with a waterproof outer and drawcord base that you can pull up to wear as a camp parka or at a push cycle in although probably a tad sweaty as they are very warm and being waterproof bar the zips and trims you could get away with roadside sleeping just adding a face net if heavy rain is not an issue – not sure if they are made anymore and probably not to everyones tastes, to me they are a civvy version of a popular german army sleeping bag from the 1970-90s and ideal if like me you like to read in bed. https://www.decathlon.co.uk/sleepmover-5-l-id_8129418.html

  5. Bandana. I never cycle (or hike, paddle, bike commute, exercise, etc.) without one. Multifunctional, inexpensive, lightweight, and quick dry for use as – head band, wrist band, ear muffs, wash cloth, dish cloth, pot holder, scarf, ascot, bandage, small table cloth, handkerchief, napkin, balaclava, street gang colors, mask, hair band, sun protection…

  6. I plan to use Shimano sandals next summer on a long bike tour. I bought Sugoi booties as add-ons for wet weather. Problem is that most booties are too narrow for real shoes with real soles. Shimano sandals and others as well do not fit in most booties. I am tired to buy booties useless with the bike shoes I want to wear….

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