Let’s talk about the gear, there are of course many options depending on your budget and how long you’re planning to cycle and how willing you are to fix things on the road.
We opted for a cheaper setup as we wanted to try out this way of travelling before fully committing but we still looked for decent quality.
Most of our gear is either from Sportsdirect, Mountain Warehouse or Amazon.
All you really need a bicycle, everything else can be improvised. 😉
Bike and camping stuff
- Our bikes are standard mountain bikes that we bought in Cancún and fitted with steel racks. There are special touring bikes, but essentially it depends on the terrain you’re going through.
- A bike repair kit and some extra tubes etc. You can get by relying on mechanics in more populated areas but the more remote the places are that you’re cycling in the better should be your repair skills. I still haven’t changed a tube or tire but I think I could. 😀 I just always get my flats in the vicinity of mechanics.
- An adjustable wrench has been a life-saver, as it allows you to tighten all the bolts on the bike (think front- and backrack, saddle, etc)
- You should get Schwalbe Marathon tires, as those are unanimously the best tires out there. We don’t have them (and wish we would have bought them) and I’ve had three flat tires, we met a French cyclist who had 13 flats over the same distance. You see, you can make due without them but they are very handy and lift a big worry off you.
- Get a good saddle!!! By ‘good’ I mean good for you. We met men with women’s saddles and vice versa so it really is about you. Try it out, cycle a few hours in it, find what is comfortable!
- We opted not to have panniers and just strap our backpacks on the racks which works as well, but panniers are just a lot more practical and you have less annoying business with bungees. Ortlieb is the best brand for panniers, they’re waterproof and robust.
- We love our M-wave Ottawa waterproof handlebar bags, they’re just really great. You can easily unclip them and carry them on your shoulder, so we like to keep our valuables in there, passport, phone, camera and some snacks. Snacks are always good haha.
- Our water filter, the Sawyer Mini, allows us to drink any tap water anywhere without having to worry.
- For our clothes we have dry bags which we have strapped to the front rack, as you can see in the picture. Mine is light green (and slightly bigger) and Hassan’s is dark green.
- You can never have enough bungees, they break or get loose or you need to restrap some of your stuff. They’re just really handy.
- We have a three-man-tent, the Vango Ark 300. It’s perfect for two and if we’re already only hanging out with eachother for three months, you don’t want to be squished in the tent.
- Bringing your own stove makes you a lot more independent, so in my opinion it’s absolutely worth it. We usually only use it for dinner and sometimes for breakfast but it just gives you more of a homey feeling on the road. We have an MSR Whisperlite International which is very small, works with pretty much anything from alcohol to fuel and is hence a really brilliant piece of kit.
- Two pots, cups, bowls. We had these cool spoon-fork-knife in one plastic thingies but I broke mine in the first week and Hassan’s broke recently as well. So I had to ‘organise’ a spoon and a fork.
- I have just a normal self-inflating sleeping mat from Mountain warehouse and Hassan has a very light-weight inflatable one. If you’re willing to spend a little more than us, you should get a Therm-a-rest. I also have a small travel pillow which definitely increases the quality of my sleep.
- We did bring our sleeping bags but rarely used them. Most of the time it’s just too hot. What we use all the time are our sleeping bag liners, you can either sleep in them or use them as a cover.
- A Swiss army knife or a leatherman.
- Headtorches are very useful, make sure to have some spare batteries.
- Asspads from Karrimor are nice if you’re sitting outside your tent and make concrete a bit more comfortable.
- A kindle is the best thing to have on a trip like this. There are loads of free books and whenever you have WiFi you can also buy new ones.
- For navigation we use our smartphones with the apps Maps.me and sometimes Komoot, but mainly Maps.me. Maps.me has been really great in Mexico and Belize, but then in Guatemala it sometimes led us to rivers we couldn’t cross and since El Salvador the bicycle route is always with random detours. We also have a GPS device, a Garmin etrex 20, that we really like. You can download free maps for any part of the world and it looks like a big old Nokia, which doesnt attract any attention.
- A solar panel comes in pretty handy but is optional in my opinion. If you’re gonna be in very remote areas, it may be worth considering.
- I have a Nikon D50, an older DSLR, that I take pictures with when it seems okay to take out. Often I also just use my phone as it attracts less attention.
Clothes and cosmetics
- First-aid-kit and Leukotape (brilliant for blisters or overscratched mosquito bites)
- Sunscreen (the higher the better, you will get a funny tan anyways but skin protection is super important)
- Insect repellent (mosquitos have been our constant companions)
- Lip balm (ideally with LSF as your lips might burn too)
- If you have long hair it’s a good idea to bring some conditioner.
- We each have two Merino t-shirts and we really couldn’t do without them. Wool in the heat? Yes, merino is simply the best, it doesn’t smell (you still stink but your t-shirt doesn’t), it dries very quickly and absorbs sweat much better. Read more about why merino shirts are the ultimate travel shirts here. Btw there are also merino dress shirts that don’t wrinkle! Definitely worth the money!
- Cycling gloves (maybe even a spare pair because you might lose them somewhere or yours might fall apart)
- Comfortable shorts to cycle in (one or two)
- A dress or a dress shirt (quick way to dress up a little bit)
- I have flip flops and some walking shoes which means I also need lots of socks, while Hassan has cycling shoes (from Merrell) which have holes in them so your feet don’t get too hot or smelly. In that case you can ditch the socks. Beware of stones, sand or ants getting into the shoe though! 😉
- Lots of underwear (the more you have the less you have to wash)
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Usually tea and oats (milk powder and water works great) for breakfast, if we’re motivated enough to start the stove. Otherwise we’ll just find a place and then it’s usually eggs with rice and beans.
- We get lunch on the road. It’s definitely not easy to always find decent food (17 chicken nuggets are sort of nutritious, right? Lots of protein…)
- We do make dinner ourselves quite often. It’s usually pasta with tomato sauce and eggs (either boiled or in with the pasta like shakshuka). Sometimes we add lentils or cheese. Or we make some dhaal and rice.
- Nuts and dried fruit makes for great snacks on the road and it’s really what keeps us going (apart from a cold Coca-Cola sometimes, although we usually don’t really drink soft drinks, on the road it really helps!)
Let me know if you have any suggestions or comments, what your setup looks like or if I have left out anything important!