In order to bring you all the latest cycling news, we have to travel. A lot. Please note that I am not complaining. I love to explore new places, especially when a bicycle is involved. That I get to do that for work is dream come true. It doesn’t take long though to realize that how you prepare for your travel time is just as important as preparing for ride time.
Over the years, I’ve honed my selection of travel day necessities down to a science. When you’re at the airport sometimes multiple times in the same week, that adds up to hours of my life each week saved from packing or waiting in lines. The following list is a collection of my favorite travel products that are permanent fixtures for me when it’s wheels up. Unless noted, all of the following were provided to us for testing purposes, but we have not been paid to include them in any publication.
Osprey Shuttle 130L
My luggage situation is likely atypical, but I often need to pack a lot of gear. That’s especially true when headed to a press event where the riding will include completely different styles. Say, fully padded park riding followed by some road or gravel laps. That usually means at least two pairs of riding shoes, two helmets, multiple kits, hydration pack, and more.
Fortunately, the Osprey Shuttle 130L swallows a ton of gear. It’s the only bag I’ve used that I’ve never maxed out. Somehow, it seems to just keep expanding – but it also cinches down surprisingly small when traveling light. Above all, it has been the most durable roller bag I’ve used by far – no blown out zippers. That’s always the Achilles heel of my suitcases. This bag probably has at least 20 trips on it so far with a handful of those to international destinations which really take a toll on your luggage. Built with large durable wheels, plenty of pockets, and a stout, rigid frame with a telescoping handle, this is the bag you want if maximum gear hauling ability is your goal. $320.
Alpinestars Echelon Backpack
Whether carrying on or checking a bag, a good backpack is a must. Basically, I’m looking for the biggest bag that will possibly fit beneath ever shrinking airplane seats that’s also easy to access the contents without having to rifle through the entire thing. The Echelon doesn’t look like much, but inside the simple exterior is a well laid out pocket system with external laptop/tablet access, room for a bottle, and it even fits my massive camera bag. Alpinestars seems to go through bag models faster than most, and as a result this bag seems to already be unavailable, but it makes me think some of their current bags may also be good options. Unavailable.
EVOC Bike Travel bag
Since we’re usually going somewhere to try a new bike, I don’t often travel with a bike. But when I do, the EVOC Bike Travel bag has been great. Most of the time it is stored in my basement in its mostly collapsed form – in a space that a rigid case just wouldn’t fit. I know soft sided cases aren’t the best for guaranteed bike protection, but I’ve used this at least five times now without issue. The only issue with a bag like this is that there’s no disguising it, meaning you’re almost certain to get hit with bike fees. That’s the only reason I’d consider something else like a hockey bag or something like the OruCase. $369.
Swiftwick Graduated Compression Socks
These started as an experiment after Swiftwick gave me a pair, and now they are a requirement for each and every flight I take. Mostly, that’s after a doctor recommended them since I have a low resting heart rate (even for a cyclist, high 30’s low 40’s). But the gradual compression makes my legs feel so much better after a long flight – especially if that flight was right after a long day on the bike. $24.99.
Dish & Duer No Sweat Pant
Over the years, I’ve become a fan of the flying “uniform.” Meaning, I wear the same thing every time I fly. Each item is carefully selected for comfort, moisture wicking, and appearance. That last one may sound vain, but you get better service at airports when you look like you have it together. It may be unfair, but you just do.
Because of that, I love the Dish & Duer No Sweat Pant. They feature an anti-microbial treatment, Coolmax fibers for moisture wicking (no swamp ass after a long haul flight), and they’re stretchy and reinforced to make riding in them a possibility but also they stay insanely comfortable. I like black so the black slim fit is a natural choice, but I also have a pair of their performance jeans which are just as good. I’m usually the guy who tries to find the cheapest pants possible because I’m just going to ruin them, but these are worth every penny and are incredibly durable. $120.
Sombrio Shore shirt
Along the same lines as the pants, my outfit also almost always includes the Sombrio Shore Shirt. It’s a button up with a collar which says you’re a professional, but it also has a hidden pocket that will fit a beer that says you like to party. Most importantly, it’s made from a two way stretch fabric that is moisture wicking and breathable – to the point that I’ve never been able to sweat through it. It’s currently sold out at Sombrio, but hopefully it’s still in the line or replaced with something similar. $75.
Yaak (Abl) Adventure Belt
When you spend as much time at an airport as I do, you start to realize how much of your life is being wasted waiting in line, taking off your shoes, removing your belt, etc. Part of being an airport ninja is streamlining that process, and TSA Precheck is a good start (even if they randomly give it to people who have no idea what they have to do when they’re in the Precheck line).
Being able to leave your belt on makes the process even faster, and less stressful. It just so happens that the Yaak B19 adventure belt is made of injection molded carbon fiber reinforced polyamide which won’t trip metal detectors. It also features a 38mm band with a bit of stretch making it the perfect belt for riding shorts, hiking pants, etc. The belt is super comfortable (like riding for 7 hours at Ray’s MTB comfortable), easy to get on and off, and comes in three colors. Formerly known as the Abl belt, the B19 is now sold under the Yaak Design name. $34.95.
Adidas Terrex Trail Cross shoes
I try to limit my non-cycling shoes to a single pair on trips which is asking a lot of a single pair. On the same trip I can be found scrambling over rocks in the desert, hiking through the forest, on the water in a number of different ways, and riding in street clothes through the city. That leaves me looking for shoes that have awesome grip on a number of surfaces, that dry well, and work well with pedals – all while comfortable enough to wear all day long and look the part wherever I am.
The simple all black Adidas Trail Cross SL check all of those boxes and have been on my feet around the world. There are better shoes out there specifically for riding, but if you’re looking for an all purpose shoe, this one fits. They appear to be changing significantly with more of a trail running tread by Continental, so if you want the optimized for flat pedal Stealth outsoles, you should find a pair sooner rather than later. These are also harder to find in the U.S., but the international Adidas site still has them (and on sale). £69.96.
Sweathawg Cap Insert
I’m definitely what you could call a hat person. That means I’m almost always wearing a different hat while traveling. But one thing remains constant – the Sweathawg Cap Insert. Hustling through the airport can work up a sweat – especially through the crowded summer season. The Sweathawg insert keeps your cap (or hat) looking fresh by absorbing most of the perspiration and preventing sweat stains. In many cases it can actually make the hat more comfortable (for those that are follicularly challenged). I was given one of these years ago, and bought a bunch more so I could keep them in certain hats and not have to rotate as much. I may have a problem. $10.
Camelbak Chute Vacuum Insulated Bottle
Airport ninja 101: always bring a water bottle. You do want to stay hydrated on flights. You don’t want to have to pay $6 for a bottle of water. The CamelBak Chute is vacuum insulated so it keeps your water cold (or hot), and the stainless design is super durable. Add in a cap that is easy to drink out of, yet is secure enough that you can toss it in an overhead bin without fear of it leaking and you have the perfect flight hydration companion. The 20oz version fits well in backpack bottle holders (though the 40oz version is perfect for the car). $28.
Lifeproof Fre Power iPhone case
After a previous phone met its demise in a watery grave, I decided it was time for a Lifeproof case. Specifically, I thought the Fre Power case would be useful for traveling so I bought one and it was. It was super convenient not having to plug in my phone on long trips and arriving on the other side of the world with full power. The protection from the elements was a welcomed bonus. Unfortunately, I upgraded to the iPhone 8 because I needed more storage and now Lifeproof doesn’t offer a battery case that’s compatible. In fact, it seems the battery case in general is on the way out but you still might be able to find one online. Discontinued.
Anker PowerCore 20100 battery pack
After moving from the iPhone 6s to the 8, I lost the ability to use the Fre Power case so I looked into a stand alone battery pack for emergency juice. I bought this on recommendation of the Wire Cutter after learning that Dan Koeppel (probably best known in the cycling world for the awesome Hug the Bunny column in Mountain Bike) was part of their Editorial Leadership team. Their pick for “More Power” was a good one. The PowerCore 20100 has 20100mAh of juice which is perfect for charging phones and tablets multiple times. $41.99.
Creative EP-630 Earphones
Obviously, headphones on a plane are a critical piece of gear. You need to be able to drown out that crying baby in the next aisle, the drone of the plane, or whatever noise that is keeping you from enjoying your favorite form of entertainment. Honestly I don’t have room in my bag most trips for a bulky set of noise cancelling headphones, so these were a happy accident. Included with a laptop I bought ages ago, the Creative EP-630 earphones are surprisingly good at blocking out the world without actually having any noise cancelling technology.
They rely on a snug fit inside your ear canal, and the smallest silicone insert actually fits my tiny ear holes. The 9mm neodymium drivers actually provide pretty good sound, and you can’t beat the price – especially when you have to replace your set after a brush with a leaf blower. Don’t ask… $19.99.
This should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people don’t stuff a few items into their carry on to keep them from relying on peanuts – if you’re lucky. There are a ton of options here, but my bag almost always includes a Clif Nut Butter filled or Whey Protein bar, RX bar, Honey Stinger GF waffle, GU chomps, and single packs of almonds or cashews from Costco.
Smith Outlier XL ChromaPop sunglasses
We’re lucky enough to get to try a lot of different sunglasses, and while I almost always manage to lose or break them, I’ve kept these safe. The green mirror ChromaPop lenses really do make a difference in a variety of conditions, and the classic style with a comfortable fit make for a great pair of glasses. $97.30.
Vargo Titanium flask
No, I’m not a lush, but I do enjoy a good drink. That becomes problematic when you attend beer-heavy cycling events and you’re on the gluten free program (not by choice). So I usually bring a flask as a backup – or just to avoid paying outrageous prices for a drink at the hotel bar. The Vargo titanium flask is one of the best (and lightest) I’ve used and it even has a built in silicone funnel. For me, it’s usually filled with a high end añejo or extra añejo sipping Tequila or rum. $74.95.
People snore. Enough said. Get the cheap ones and buy in bulk because you will lose them.
Hope to see you somewhere around the world in 2018!