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Bikepacking in Europe: What I Used in July

I figured this could come in handy for people considering self-supported bikepacking (using hotels or B&Bs, not tent camping) in Europe.

Because bikepacking involves carrying everything with you I'm super frugal with what I bring as it all has to:

  1. Fit within my bike bags
  2. Be lightweight and not cumbersome
  3. Have definite function for the itinerary (which is most focused on the riding and less so on formal evening niceties)

So I tend to go for minimalist and functional. During my July bikepacking adventure I'm glad I didn't follow Rick's packing advice as I would've been lugging around far too much!

My basics were:

  • 2 bike kits (consisting of jersey, bib shorts, mesh base layer)
  • 2 tech t-shirts (short-sleeve) - one wool, one wicking nylon
  • 1 button-down short-sleeve shirt
  • 1 pair of slim-fit shorts with hidden cargo pockets
  • 2 pair of lightweight tech fabric boxer-briefs (Fruit of the Loom, in case folks are curious)
  • 3 pair of socks (6-7" cuff that work both on and off the bike)
  • 1 long-sleeve tech shirt (from Under Armour)
  • 1 packable bike rain jacket
  • 1 cycling vest (gilét)
  • 1 swimsuit (bike short racing style)
  • sun sleeves
  • knee warmers
  • 2 pair of bike gloves
  • 2 Halo headbands (for sweat management on the bike)
  • 1 tech fabric cycling cap with a broad sweatband
  • bike helmet
  • Teva sandals
  • cleated bike shoes
  • small wicking towel
  • toiletries (deodorant, toothpaste, travel toothbrush, contact lens stuff, hairbrush, razor)
  • small bottle of castile soap (for washing me and for sink washing of clothes)
  • small tubes of sunscreen (usually bought in Europe as their sunscreen is much better than U.S. stuff)
  • on-the-bike nutrition (energy gels, sports drink powder, candies, granola bars)
  • 2 bike bottles (700 ml each)
  • 1 foldable bike lock (Abus Bordo Lite)
  • iPad Mini (carried in a waterproof padded sleeve)
  • Ziploc bag of electronic chargers and cables (for phone, GPS gadgets, iPad)
  • solar rechargable 20,000 milliamp charger battery (with 2 USB-A ports and 1 USB-C port)
  • Ziploc bag with small assortment of bike tools, spare tube, and chain lube
  • 3 empty Ziploc bags for incidental use

The bike has 4 bags:
- 16.5 liter rolltop saddle bag (waterproof)
- 4.5 liter frame bag that attaches to the top tube (waterproof)
- 2 liter handlebar bag (not waterproof)
- 0.5 liter top tube "bento box" bag (held nutrition - not waterproof)

I used a compression sack for my clothes to keep them compact - made packing them a lot easier, and as they were tech fabric they didn't wrinkle.

I also have a smaller saddle bag for tools (usable when not going from town to town and I'm riding big climbs for the day - on longer days it lived in the frame pack) and a packable day pack (good for shopping - lived in my handlebar bag when not in use). I always kept some room for purchases made along the way - and the day pack could pinch hit as a general use pack if too many things were bought (though the goal was to keep my upper body unencumbered).

The total weight of the stuff I carried in the bags was 10-11 pounds. Each water bottle, when loaded, weighed 2 pounds and change. The bike weighs 18 pounds. The bags kept things stable and workable and I never felt like I needed anything extra.

The kicker: everything I brought got used.

This worked great for all situations I encountered. I even was able to dine in a Michelin star restaurant in St. Moritz wearing the button-down shirt, shorts, and Tevas as they were very presentable. Washing clothes in the sink was easy and they all dried quickly after washing.

Had I needed anything it would've been easy to get things in almost any town. I did purchase a couple new bike jerseys (one for the event I competed in, the other from a French label that isn't available in the States) and they fit into the bags without issues.

I hope this helps folks! Questions? Ask 'em!

Posted by
266 posts

What kind of bags did you pack all this in for the flight?

Did you also pack your bike or use a rental?

What did you wear on the plane?

Where did you go?

What did you do besides biking?

Posted by
21 posts

Good questions @khansen!

I did take my own bike given I was there for 4 weeks - a rental would've been cost prohibitive. My bike travels in a Pike Packworks EEP soft case. It was designed for a professional bike racing team so it protects as well as a hard case but at a fraction of the weight. It flew for free on Delta (I'm a Medallion member and was flying Delta One so I had three checked bags included in the fare). The bike bag also held one of my bags (the handlebar bag) loaded with my bike tools and some of the bike nutrition.

I also had a 60L duffel bag (checked luggage) that carried the rest of my clothing and on-the-bike bags.

My carry-ons were:

  1. The packable backpack, carrying my rain jacket, my bike shoes and pedals (in case my bike got delayed I could ride), spare underwear and t-shirt, a bike kit (jersey, shorts, socks), toiletries, the rest of the nutrition, my iPad, bike bottles, and my chargers. This all packs really small and would easily fit under a seat (as it did on the legs from DCA to DET and ATL to IAD)
  2. My bike helmet

For the flight I wore one of the t-shirts, shorts, and Teva sandals.

Other than riding I hiked (and yes, Teva sandals work for hiking), did a little sightseeing, tried a lot of local beers and food, visited friends, and relaxed at spas and lakes where I could. In more detail:

The itinerary started and ended in Munich (where I was able to stash my bike case and big duffel with friends - that was a game-changer). I spent a few days there, then drove to Geneva (as I couldn't secure a reservation for my bike on the train), rode from Geneva to Morzine (France) for Etape du Tour (a race run by the Tour de France organization for mere mortals that does one of the epic mountain stages a few days before the pros), then back to Geneva for 4 days to do more riding and recharging. I then took the train to St. Moritz (was going to go to Provence but hot weather scuppered that) and spent 5 days in the high Alps, riding from there to various mountain passes, some in Italy (including Stelvio).

After that, a train to Innsbruck (with a long layover in Buchs, which allowed me to ride into Liechtenstein and basically cover the entire country in a couple hours), a few days riding there, then rode to Kitzbühel (where I hiked down the famous Streif, the Hahnenkamm downhill ski racing trail), rode to Zell am See (spent a few days there and rode up the Großglockner toll road - an exceptional cycling road and it's free for riders), then rode to St. Johann im Pongau (I have longtime friends there). In St. Johann I did a couple shorter rides but otherwise relaxed and recharged and hiked a lot with my friend (he runs a custom lederhosen shop that's been in his family for over 120 years).

From St. Johann, it was a train to Rosenheim (Bavaria), then riding to Tegernsee to stay with more long-time friends. Did some rides in the mountains in southern Bavaria as well as some relaxing at the lake. From there, rode back to Munich and spent a few more days there, with more riding and hanging out with my friends. Took in a craft beer festival at Giesinger, the new "big" brewery in Munich (the one that doesn't have a tent for Oktoberfest). That was a real treat!

Oh: and did laundry pretty much every day. :D