How to plan an overnight cycle trip – here’s our essential guide…

How to plan an overnight cycle trip

Planning an overnight adventure with your bike?

Whether you’re off wild camping or planning to cycle to a campsite, the key is to take the minimum amount of kit and make it lightweight – so you can still enjoy the ride.

Here’s our at-a-glance guide on how to plan an overnight cycle trip…

What kit will you need for a overnight cycle trip?

You’ll need to ensure you have a comfortable night and plan for problems like punctures. You’ll need:

  • A puncture repair kit, tyre levers, and micro bike pump
  • A spare inner tube
  • A small tent or a bivvy bag
  • A sleeping bag and inflatable mattress
  • Your toiletries (including sunscreen) and a toothbrush
  • Food, water, and cooking equipment – or plan to get to a great pub or restaurant nearby
  • Layered outdoor clothing suitable for the season
  • A torch or helmet-mounted light
  • A trowel for toileting while wild camping

What layers will you need to wear?

Even in the summer, it can get very chilly at night in the UK. So, you’ll need to have several layers to ensure you enjoy your overnight stay:

  • A base layer of a shirt and leggings – thermal is best, especially in the winter
  • A mid layer of a fleece and over trousers
  • A top layer of a down jacket for really chilly autumn and winter nights in the tent
  • Light waterproofs that can pack down easily
  • Padded cycling shorts for long rides
  • A sun hat and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes

How do you choose the right tent for a overnight cycle trip?

Look for a tent that’s light enough to carry on your bike but will do the job of keeping out any rain. A good rule of thumb is to find one that’s over 3,000 hydrostatic head. Inflatable tents are often lighter than those with poles, with the added benefit of being quicker to set up and take down. There are also tents specifically designed to meet the needs of cyclists, with added storage space for helmets and shorter pack sizes. You could also choose a bivvy bag that gives you protection from the elements but allows you to breathe through its material, and you’ll need a sleeping bag to go inside it.

What sort of cooking gear will you need?

The last thing you need is to be weighed down by heavy cooking gear. A basic system that allows you to boil water for a hot drink and cook using a pan over a meths burner can be very lightweight. A Trangia ultra-light alloy cooking system for example, weighs just 690g, including the burner and pans. Look for a system that is compact In design and is made from lightweight aluminium.

What about water?

Finding safe drinking water on organised campsites is usually no problem, but it can become an issue if you’re wild camping. You’ll need to take some water with you, especially as you’ll be needing water during your rides, and you could use a lightweight bladder and drinking tubes system. You will need to think about how to source clean, safe water when you’re wild camping overnight. Most outdoor gear shops stock water purification tablets which you can use to ensure water from streams and rivers is safe, or you could boil your water, filtering it through a clean cloth if it’s cloudy. To save water, take anti-bacterial hand gel to clean your hands before cooking and eating.

Will you be riding at night?

The law says that from sunset to sunrise, cyclists in the UK must have a white front light and a red rear light. In towns where there are streetlights, the main aim is to ensure you’re going to be seen by other road users. In the countryside where there are no or few streetlights, your lights must illuminate the road or trail in front of you. So, getting the right lighting for your overnight cycle trip is essential.

If your route takes in dark lanes, trails, and paths, you’ll need to have something more powerful than a power blinky as your front light, for example. You’ll need a front light emitting between 400 and 800 lumens on a country road and you may need something even more powerful if you’re riding off-road or riding at speed. You’ll also need to ensure you have a rear red light. A constant rear light as well as a blinking one will help other drivers estimate how fare you are from their vehicles.

Riding at night - overnight cycle trip

A lightweight helmet-mounted light is doubly useful. It helps you see the way and is so handy if you have to carry out any maintenance on your bike. When you go off-road, it lights up any hazards better than bar-mounted lights as you can point it further along the route.

Be aware that powerful front lights on a bike can dazzle drivers just as much as the lights on a car, so point your light beam down when there’s oncoming traffic. Some off-road ready lights also allow you to switch to flashing mode when you’re riding on the road. Make sure your lights are fully charged before your trip and if you’re planning several night rides, look at a dynamo powered front wheel and light set.

The law also says you must have a white front reflector and red rear and pedal reflectors. These help you stand out to other road users. However, you can add extra visibility with reflectors that allow you to be seen side-on, such as reflective detailing on your kit or backpack or reflective piping on your clothing, especially your cycling gloves. This makes your hand signals far more visible at night.

If something goes wrong with your lights, have backups of the lights, bulbs, and batteries to ensure you stay safe and ride legally.

Is your bike ready for the trip?

Has it been properly maintained and serviced? It’s worth putting the effort in now in the planning stages to avoid things going wrong when you’re on the road. Check the chain, daisy, and the brakes, and carry out a visual inspection to ensure you don’t have rust or other problems that might be an issue on your trip.

So, the bases are covered, your trip’s planned, and you’re itching to get on two wheels…but there’s one more thing to remember: Enjoy it!