Bike Touring Checklist for cycling across the Gobi desert

Ultimate checklist mongolia

Before to get started with our bike touring checklist, let me tell you how i met Nick.

Back in 2015, I sent a message to an old friend that I met while hiking on mount Fansipan in Sapa/Vietnam. As we kept in touch, I knew that Nick has already cycled from the United Kingdom to Turkey, so I asked him to join me on my new adventure.

Before that trip, I cycled from Perth to the Gold coast in Australia and also all around New Zealand. It is always the same problem to know exactly what do you need to bring with you. As the result, we tend to take things that we do not really need, ending up carrying twice the weight that we should be. But, yay! don’t worry, it happens to everyone.

This is a fairly extensive bike touring checklist and your actual needs may be less, depending on the length of your tour.


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Best time to go

Before we get started, I highly recommend you to check the weather condition and the season properly.

mongolia map
Our cycling journey across Mongolia

During summer:

The best time to visit Mongolia is between mid-June and late August, which is the summer season, characterized by sunny days and a little rain to keep the scenery lush and green. It’s a pleasant time of year, although only the southern Gobi is truly hot.

During winter:

Winters here are long and harsh, with temperatures typically ranging from -20°C to – 45°C degrees. Most tourists flock to this country in summer to enjoy the more comfortable temperatures and see the vast landscapes of the wide-open Eurasian steppe and the nomadic culture of the Mongolian people.


What kind of bike do you need?


Differences Between a Mountain Bike and a Road Bike – Bikinguniverse

Some of you will prefer to ride a race bike and others will fancy a mountain bike. However, it will also depend on where exactly you are planning to go cycling in Mongolia. Nick and I went the hard way by crossing the Gobi right in the middle of nowhere. Nick had a race bike, with panniers in front and at the back and I had a mountain bike with rear panniers and a Bob Yak trailer.

To be honest, we both strangle a lot in the desert and mostly because of the headwind that hit us during the whole trip. However, having smaller tires on the dirt road can consequently be harder and cause more punctures. Even tho I was the first to get one!


gobi desert
Gobi desert – Mongolia

Panniers vs Trailers


This is an old and classic debate: Panniers vs Trailers. It is a hard choice to make and a very personal one. Some people prefer panniers; others prefer trailers. I will compare the pros and cons by assuming that we are comparing good quality panniers and good quality trailers.

Ortlieb pannier
Ortlieb
Vaude pannier
Vaude Pannier
Topeak pannier
Topeak pannier

Panniers


Pros:

  • Overall, the pannier system is lighter (2 racks and 2 panniers weigh less than a trailer and a dry bag)
  • Are more compact than a trailer
  • 2 panniers and a rack are cheaper than 1 trailer and a dry bag
  • Cause less drag and less rolling resistance
  • Allow the separation of gear into 2 to 4 bags (and usually a 5th dry bag on top of the rear rack)[/li][/list]
  • It is easier to find what you are looking for because your things are separated into several bags as opposed to one bag
  • It is possible to carry more gear (volume-wise) if you use 4 panniers
  • Are accessible while riding
  • Easy to carry (to your tent, to your room, up stairs, over a fence, across a river, etc).
  • Are mechanically simpler, therefore more reliable
  • Require little to no maintenance
  • Usually cause less broken spokes

Cons:

  • Need to be well-organized in order to retrieve things easily and to balance the weight between the left and right sides
  • Require sturdy racks
  • Cause more rapid wear of tires
  • Raise the center of gravity
  • Are less aerodynamic
  • Cause the ride to be more readily affected by side winds
  • Make the bicycle very heavy, which affects the balance
  • Need to be taken off when fixing a flat, adjusting derailleur, cleaning the chain, etc.

Burley trailer
Burley trailer
QuietKat trailer
QuietKat trailer
Maya trailer
Maya trailer

Trailers


Pros:

  • Can come in handy to carry heavy/bulky items around camp (wood, ice, groceries, case of beer, etc.)
  • Depending on the design, at the campsite, it can be used as a piece of furniture (table, seat, etc.)
  • Can be attached to almost any frame
  • A good option for tandems
  • Are better suited to the carrying of longer or larger items
  • Are easier to pack
  • The large opening of the dry bag allows for easy access
  • Take the weight off the bike
  • Has a lower center of gravity, making for an easier ride
  • Much less stress on the rear hub
  • Because the bike does not require racks, it is lighter once the trailer is removed, allowing for an easier ride around town or camp
  • Don’t get in the way of the feet/pedals during the ride (although a properly-designed touring bike should not have this problem with panniers)

Cons:

  • Trailers add momentum to a bike, especially downhill, which can be dangerous in case of a sudden emergency stop
  • Might take longer to get used to riding with a trailer
  • Bike and trailer can shimmy, which can be dangerous, especially at high speeds (BOB recommends not accelerating in excess of 24 mph / 40 km/h)
  • Can be a real hassle to carry aboard airplanes, buses, trains, etc.
  • You might need to carry extra tools and extra spares
  • Spares for 20” wheels (or worse, 16”) can be hard to find
  • The bike/trailer system takes a lot of room lengthwise
  • Are more troublesome to park, move around, and move backward
  • Are arguably heavier
  • Allow one to carry less volume (unless 2 front panniers are also used in conjunction with the trailer)
  • Broken parts can be a real problem, especially in remote areas
  • Broken spokes are more common
  • Need a lot of room for storage
  • Suffer on bad roads, especially in the long-run
  • If front panniers are not used, it can be inconvenient to have to open the big dry bag in order to grab things during the day
  • It is almost impossible to ride off the saddle, especially with a one-wheel trailer
  • 2-wheel trailers add extra problems. You end up with 3 tracks instead of one, which causes much more drag. It is also harder to avoid potholes and other obstacles.

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Clothing

As you now already know, cycling in Mongolia is a challenge, and choosing the right clothes before your departure is a must. In fact, the weather could be very hot during the day and freezing cold at night. If you plan on crossing the desert-like us, I will suggest extra thermal clothing as the temperature at night drop significantly – worst than we thought actually as we had nights reaching -20 degrees in April.

in the middle of the gobi
In the middle of the Gobi Desert

Cycling short
Cycling short
northface jacket
Northface jacket
thermal shirt
Thermal shirt

Clothing check-list:

  • Bike short x 2
  • Helmet x 1
  • Weatherproof jacket x 1
  • A Thermal shirt long sleeves x 1
  • 3 x Thermal shirt short sleeves
  • Thermal pants x 1
  • Thermal socks x 4
  • One pair of jean x 1
  • Shoes x 1 (I personally do not like cycling shoes, but up to you)
  • Cycling shoes x 1
  • Underwear x 4
  • Scarf x 1
  • Quick-dry towel x 1
  • Gloves

Camping Equipment

Bike Camping Gear: a complete list of lightweight equipment for cycle touring.

Camping and bike touring go hand in hand, and camping is one of the fascinating aspects of traveling by bicycle.

Finding the perfect spot, sleeping in nature, cooking your own meal, enjoying the stars, and waking up in the wilderness. These are experiences you’ll carry with you forever. Choosing the right camping gear for your expedition marks the difference between nights amazing and memorable or horrible and restless, if you’re traveling in climatically extreme (like Mongolia can be) your very survival will depend on it. Trust me, I was so glad that I spent $250 on my sleeping bag – without it, I ll had frozen to death.

Msr tent
Msr Tent
Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress
Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress
cooking set
cooking set

Camping Check-list:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag extreme weather
  • Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress
  • Stove
  • Cooking set
  • Knife
  • Headlamp
  • Solar panel
  • Water bag
  • Water bottle
  • Extra Tent stakes ( I personally always lose them)

Sharing is caring


cycling touring
Cycling touring

Travel Essential

  • Water bottle or hydration pack
  • Mirror
  • Smartphone, GPS or route map
  • Sunglasses or clear lenses
  • Sunscreen
  • Emergency contact info

Nutrition

  • Electrolyte powder
  • Energy bars
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
sunglasses
Sunglasses
water Bottle
Water Bottle
helmet
Helmet
Bike Touring Checklist for cycling across the Gobi desert Click To Tweet

The most important of all!

You may not think about this at first but making sure that you can fix your bike and having the right tool, could save your trip. Even after cycling 21000km, I am still having new issues every single time. While we arrive in Arvaikheer, Nick noticed that one of his spokes was broken – he had some spares ones with him – but the only one that he did not have was the one that was broken. He had to take a bus back to Ulaan-Bataar, buy a new spoke and come back. Luckily that this did not happen while we were in the desert! I have no idea how we would had manage this issue.

Repair kit:

  • Spare tube(s)
  • Spare tire
  • 2 extra spokes
  • Spoke wrench
  • Spare disc brakes/brake pads
  • Spare brake/shift cable
  • Patch kit
  • Pump or CO2
  • Tire levers
  • Multi-tool
  • Bike cleaning wipes
  • Spare chain
  • Chain tool
  • Chain lube
  • Spare cleats
  • Spare nuts, bolts, and washers
  • Repair/Duct tape
  • Shop rag/wipes

Remember, you can always add items to your cycle touring checklist as you develop personal preferences and can’t-live-without gear. Start with the basics and build your gear from there. Ride safe, and have a great ride!


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