Earlier this year, I finally had the opportunity to cross a big ride off my bucket list. After years of thinking about it, I finally decided to hop on my bike and ride from Cleveland to Cincinnati on the Ohio to Erie Trail. Since I didn’t have a ton of free time to complete the journey, I decided the best method of attack would be light weight “credit card touring.” Meaning I would carry everything I needed, but would bust out the plastic when it came time to find a spot to sleep and for breakfasts and dinners. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t carrying any gear though. In fact, I still had to carry a lot of gear – and used almost everything at some point in the journey.

Since we have access to a lot of different gear to test, I was able to hand pick what I consider to be some of the best gear around. With the exception of a pair of sunglasses that have since imploded and a set of rain gear that I (fortunately) didn’t need until the very last day, I’d happily use the exact same set up if I were to do it again.

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Clothing

With highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the 50’s, I had nearly perfect weather for the ride. But there was a chance of severe storms throughout the whole three day trip so I needed to be prepared without overloading myself with clothing. I’m OK with washing some gear in the sink to reuse it on the trip, but I didn’t want to wear the same thing every day so I ended up with two complete kits and three pairs of socks – I wanted my fee to be happy for the 120 mile days.

The chamois on the Pactimo and Rapha bibs were excellent, offering all day comfort which was key. While I love the Pactimo jersey, the pockets were pretty small compared to those on the Rapha jersey. Because of that, it was much easier to ride and grab things out of the Rapha jersey, not to mention offering more room for snacks.

I brought a combination of DeFeet and Swiftwick socks, but if I had three pairs of the DeFeet Levitator Lite, I would use this sock exclusively – it’s by far one of my favorites for road use. I also love the Pactimo Zero-Weight base layers, so I brought a sleeveless and short sleeve version along.

  • Pactimo Summit Strike Bib
  • Pactimo Summit Jersey
  • Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts II
  • Rapha Pro Team Training Jersey
  • Pactimo Zero-Weight baselayer – sleeveless & short sleeve
  • DeFeet Levitator Lite & unknown model socks
  • Swiftwick Performance Socks

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

On my feet were my Lake CX331 road shoes which have been through the wringer over the years, but are still among my favorites. For footwear off the bike, I wanted the lightest, most compact option that I could find – that was also the cheapest. Seeing as how these would be strapped to the outside of my saddle bag, I wanted something I wouldn’t be upset about losing (it’s happened once before). To that end, I headed to Old Navy and searched their clearance section for a pair of ugly, but very cheap flip flops at $2.99 for the pair. They’re super light, and do the job. Obviously, it helped that it was warm enough for flip flops.

I also brought along one set of street clothes with a t-shirt and a very light pair of Pearl Izumi Versa shorts. It’s nice to get out of your riding clothes at the end of the day, and these offered comfort with very little weight and space.

On my head, I wore a POC Ventral Spin helmet. This helmet is very well ventilated, and if it provided any aero benefit at all, I figured it would be welcome on a long solo ride. Underneath I wore my go-to SweatHawg helmet liner or cycling cap.

  • Lake CX331 Road Shoes
  • Cheap Old Navy flip flops
  • Pearl Izumi Versa Shorts
  • Bikerumor T-Shirt
  • SweatHawg helmet liner and cycling cap
  • POC Ventral Spin Helmet
  • Smith sunglasses (RIP)

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Rain/Cool weather Kit

Originally, the forecast called for a 50% chance of torrential rain and thunderstorms. As such, I felt that I needed to be prepared for some very long, very wet rides. Fortunately, the storms held off just north of my route and with the exception of the last day, the weather was beautiful. I did end up using the Gore C7 ShakeDry Stretch jacket and the Rapha arm and leg warmers on a cool morning, but other than that all of my wet gear stayed in the bag except for an hour on the final leg. I ended up bringing knee warmers in addition to leg warmers since the leg warmers are the Pactimo Storm+ which offer impressive protection from rain and spray while still remaining highly breathable.

  • Gore C7 ShakeDry Stretch jacket
  • Pearl Izumi Barrier cap
  • Velotoze latex shoe covers
  • Velotoze waterproof gloves
  • Pactimo Storm+ leg warmers
  • Rapha Merino arm and knee warmers

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Gear

Being a short guy on a small bike, I don’t have a lot of room on any frame typically for bags + bottles. So for this trip, I opted to carry most of my gear in a Blackburn Outpost Elite Seat Pack. The bag has a rigid attachment to the saddle rails so any sway is kept to a minimum, and I really like how the straps from the cradle buckle into the dry bag. This keeps everything cinched down very well, and it’s still easy to access the contents when on the road.

The Why PR doesn’t have top tube mounts for bags, and I wanted to use the Silca Capsule TT bag since it is the slimmest that I have. A lot of top tube bags tend to rub on my knees, so I didn’t want to have to deal with that for hundreds of miles. To make it work, I used a Wolf Tooth Components B-RAD Strap Base which worked pretty well. The Silca Capsule TT is pretty long, so to keep the end flush with the top tube, I just threw on a fat zip tie. This set up worked surprisingly well – not quite as secure as a true bolt-on mount, but more secure than most strap-on bags.

  • Blackburn Outpost Elite Seat Pack
  • Silda Capsule TT top tube bag
  • WTC B-RAD Strap Base adapter

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

My tools and spares were kept nice and low in what would have been wasted space under my bottle cages. I wanted to be prepared, but with the lightest kit possible so I brought along a Birzman Diversity 17 multi-tool (which I like because of the long bits, chaintool, integrated tire levers, and more), Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers with two chain links, a Blackburn Plugger Tubeless repair kit, a Birzman Velocity Road pump, and an SKS digital tire gauge (when you’re testing tires and wheels, you have to know what pressures you’re actually running). All of this fit nicely into the B-RAD Mini including a spare Tubolito S-Tubo Road tube and Flix Kit.

That last part is key. If I was trying to use a standard road tube, I would not have had enough room for everything to fit into the B-RAD Mini. And since space was at a premium, the Tubolito was totally worth it. I took a gamble on bringing just one spare tube and a patch kit, but I only had one Tubolito, and nothing else would fit. I couldn’t tell you the last time I flatted, so I took a chance and it paid off.

Other items along for the ride included a light weight pocket knife, GoPro 7 Black for documenting the trip, a micro cable lock from Master (obviously not high security, just enough for brief moments away from the bike), a Wahoo ROAM with routes loaded from Komoot, and a light set with a rear Axiom Lazerbeam 180 and a Bontrager Ion 100 R front.

  • WTC B-RAD Mini roll top bag
  • Birzman Diversity 17 multi-tool
  • Blackburn Plugger Tubeless repair kit
  • Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers with two chain links
  • Birzman Velocity pump
  • SKS digital tire gauge
  • Tubolito S-Tubo Road spare tube
  • Tubolito Flix patch kit
  • Master Lock micro lock
  • Wahoo ROAM with Komoot routes
  • Axiom Lazerbeam 180 rear light
  • Bontrager Ion 100 R front light
  • GoPro Hero 7 Black with tripod base/handle

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

I needed to keep the few electronics I had topped up each night, so I brought along a few cables and this Michelin Power adapter and battery pack. This isn’t something they sell, but one of those things I picked up over the years but I’ve been surprised how much I use it. The adapter has fittings for most electronics (iPhone, GPS, micro USB), and the spare battery pack is enough for a quick charge.

  • Michelin Power Battery pack & adapter
  • Bag of charging cables, power brick, spare GoPro battery

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Nutrition

When it came to nutrition during the ride, I had a very specific scenario which led me to bring a lot of my ride food from the beginning. For starters, due to my time constraints and dietary restrictions, I did not want to have to waste time on the ride searching for ride food that would work for me. There were plenty of things that I wanted to stop and explore mid-ride, but stores were not among them. Also, as you know, a lot of this food is expensive. I already had a bunch at my disposal back home, so buying more wasn’t something I wanted to do. Since I didn’t want to have to stop for lunch during the rides, this meant I ended up carrying a lot of weight from food alone. I’m not sure I would do it this way again in the future, but this time it worked out with only one resupply stop needed at the Trek Store in Columbus.

To get me through each day, I started with enough Osmo Active Hydration to get me through each day. I’ve found that of all of the hydration drink mixes, Osmo seems to work with my body the best. It seems like I can go all day when drinking it with far less fatigue than other mixes or just water. Honey Stinger Energy Chews are one of my favorites since they’re very easy to eat while riding and they’re delicious. The same goes for their Stinger Waffles which for me, are available in a Gluten Free version. I threw in some Bonk Breaker bars for something more substantial. But to break up the space food with some real food, every long ride I whip up a batch of fresh jerky. Compared to store bought jerky, the stuff I make at home is more tender and has a higher moisture content so it’s much easier to eat while riding and doesn’t immediately zap all the moisture from your stomach. I’ve given it to friends on big rides, and they all seem to agree.

I also brought along a few products which seemed to help with recovery each night. It might be all placebo effect, but the Ryno Power Recovery pills always seem to make me feel a bit better the following day, and then there’s the CBD. I seem to be very sensitive to CBD, but I’ve found that 0.5-1.0mL of the isolate oil placed under my tongue at night helps me sleep a lot better on hard days. It seems to calm down my restless legs, and certainly helps me get to sleep faster. I also really like the CBD Sports Cream. Due to what I assume was a slight change in cleat position before the ride, I ended up with a very sore knee half way through the ride. The cream helped a lot. Maybe it was the other ingredients, maybe it was the CBD. Whatever the case, I’m glad I had it with me. Finally, I brought a few GU Roctane Electrolyte capsules along which saved me on the second to last day which was hotter than expected.

  • Osmo Active Hydration
  • Honey Stinger Energy Chews
  • Honey Stinger GF Waffles
  • Bonk Breaker bars
  • Homemade Jerky
  • Ryno Power Recovery
  • GU Roctane electrolyte capsules
  • Floyd’s of Leadville CBD Isolate oil & Sport Cream

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Miscellaneous

Spending many hours on a saddle means taking care of your bits. For me, that means the use of a high end chamois cream like The Ritual. I don’t often ride with chamois cream, but on longer road rides I will. I also brought along a small tub of Joshua Tree Cycling Salve. If you’re starting to develop a saddle sore, I find that this stuff really helps to prevent it from getting worse and also seems to help as a preventative measure as well if applied at night. Suncreen and chap stick are an obvious inclusion. Neutrogena Sport Face seems to work well and stays in place for awhile, especially since I sweat like a pig. Finally, the evoc pouch works well for a micro toiletry bag, and I have to bring glasses since I’m blind as a bat without them or my contacts.

  • The Ritual chamois cream
  • Joshua Tree Cycling Salve
  • Neutrogena Sport Face sunscreen
  • Hydro Flask chap stick
  • evoc pouch with toiletries
  • Glasses

What to Pack: The best gear for self supported credit card touring on the road

Overall, I was very pleased with my choices. With a few exceptions for things that were just in case of emergency, I used everything I brought and wasn’t left wanting for anything along the way. As a result, my bike stayed fairly light and I was able to knock out decent mileage each day.

Got your own favorites for credit card touring? Suggestions for a better set up? Let’s hear it below!

27 COMMENTS

  1. wow, most impressive! no toothbrush? or flask!

    my buddies and i do 2-week credit card bike touring trips, but i’d like to try it without the rack and panniers – thanks for the inspiration =)

    • Ha! The toothbrush was in the evoc bag along with some other personal items that I didn’t go over. No flask – but a margarita one night at a restaurant one night for dinner, and drinks with a friend the next took care of that need.

  2. Can I add a small first aid kit with some basic stuff in it (like Life Systems light and dry), spray antiseptic and bug spray to that list. Maybe it’s where I live but I’ve never managed a bike packing/camping trip without needing all three.

    • Good call. I had some basic first aid stuff in the evoc bag, but have since picked up an Adventure Medical Kit from REI that falls under the ultralight/waterproof category. I’m actually working on another post just about bug spray, but the Sawyer Picardin Lotion packets are awesome. Small enough to pack in an ultralight set up, and lasts long enough for an all day ride.

      • Ditch the front wheel and just wheelie the whole course, save a ton of weight and also get rid of those heavy socks. Triathletes don’t use socks and neither should you! Also food is silly and heavy, a true cyclist would suck nutrients out of the air!

      • I was looking at the short distance and the ideal temperatures of 50-70F. Not too cold or not too hot. I know you didn’t want to wash any of your clothing, but one jersey, shorts and socks is really all you need, and you don’t wear socks with flip-flops.
        Why two sets of leg warmers and then the arm warmers. The mornings might start out cool, but your Gore Shake Dry jacket would work fine until you warmed up, plus the same goes in case it cooled off.
        With the temperature you experienced, if it did rain, why go with the waterproof gloves? It the weather was cold, then sure. I’d take the waterproof booties any day over the waterproof gloves. Surely it wasn’t that cold that you needed the helmet liners where the cap would be adequate, the same with the base layers.
        Unless the pump had a built in gauge, I’d leave the stand alone gauge at home, ditto the Wolf tooth pliers.
        I presume you had to go off trail to purchase your liquids, so use that opportunity to buy food, instead of having all of those processed energy bars.
        I hope you put the chamois cream and .recovery mix into a smaller two day supply containers.
        It doesn’t matter if you are on a organized bus trip, cruise, motorcycle adventure tour, or us cyclist. Most people bring along too much junk.
        Happy touring. 🙂

        • Solid points. Yeah, I am a notorious overpacker. You should see how much I left behind from the initial packing! I was happy I had the two sets of clothes. I still had to rinse them out in the sink, and the next day they were usually still wet. Don’t like starting off the day in wet clothes. The weather was great on the days it wasn’t raining. On the last day when it did rain, I used everything except for the Storm+ leg warmers, so yeah, those could have stayed at home. But then again, the last day was short. Just 56 miles, if I had to ride 120 miles in that cold rain, I probably would have been happy to have those with me.

          The gauge was to keep track of the exact psi I was running since I was testing the wheels and tires as part of the review. The pump doesn’t have one built in, so that was a necessity. Pliers, you’re probably right, but they’re a great way to store extra links, spare chainring bolt, valve tool, and a tire lever in a pinch (wouldn’t recommend their use on carbon rims, but in an emergency, maybe).

          I brought all my drink mix with me, and then just filled up the bottles at water fountains along the way. Only had to actually buy water from a gas station once – along with a Coke, and some food.

          Yes, anything I could take out of the original package and put in smaller containers, I did. I included them in the photo for illustration purposes. Probably could have brought even less chamois cream if I could have found a smaller container. Maybe just a plastic bag next time.

          Thanks!

  3. It’s really easy to wash and dry your kit in a hotel, there’s just a bit of a knack to it.
    Jump in the shower with your kit on. Depending on how muddy or clean you are, get the worst of it off while you’re still wearing it, then peel it off and stomp on it while you wash up. Think of this as the agitation cycle. Rinse it all once you’re done with the soap.
    To dry, ring it out as best you can in the shower/ tub. Lay a towel out on the dry floor of your room and lay your kit on top. Tightly roll the towel up with your kit inside like a burrito. Walk along the burrito with bare feet. You’ve created a lot of contact between a hydrophobic material and a hydrophilic. The moisture will just move to the towel. Unroll and your kit is mostly dry. I can usually dry a kit plus a jacket and socks and knee warmers with two big towels.
    Super easy and quick and really lowers the amount of crap you need to bring!

    • nice tip! I make it a habit of “pre-washing” my muddy kit after a winter cx ride, but am always at home to use the washing machine. the towel trick is money for a weekend adventure or really any travelling when riding.

      • It’s helpful when traveling with a group too. Sharing a wash load with other riders leads to saddle sores, and leaving your dirty kits in a plastic bag in your luggage is no beauno also…

        • Motel shower floors don’t seem like they’d be too great from a hygiene perspective either though. Had the thought on your initial post, and now that I see you bringing up saddle sores specifically, just had to mention it. If it has worked for you though, keep on, keepin on. Some of the medicated chamois cremes may make this a non-issue anyway.

      • Like he said, I also will take the towel with my kit inside and make a “rat tail” then unwind it and make another one in the other direction and repeat till I’m done, really gets the water out. It also tends to sling water everywhere so you might want to stay in the bathroom so you don’t jack up your room.

  4. No flip flops, you cant run in them. Nothing on my foot if I cant run in them. Never know when you’ll need to run. Be prepared. LOL!

    • Ziplock bag in jersey pocket is what was used on this trip. On a recent trip I used the Blackburn Big Switch Ratchet which has a pocket for cards and cash in the storage case.

    • Bags like the Blackburn are good for bikes that don’t have rack mounts, and also better for riding single track since they offer a narrower profile. Also, they are faster to install and easier to switch between bikes. Not saying racks don’t have a place, but bags like this offer certain benefits as well.

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