Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Gift Guide That Will Help Your Cycling Friends Sleep at Night

I've never written a gift guide before.  It's a little intimidating to be honest. Buying gear for a cyclist is comparable to buying shoes for your girlfriend.  Your almost guaranteed to get it wrong.

But if you have a friend or loved one joining us on an expedition I can promise you that what gear to bring has kept them awake at night more than once.  Prepping for a 4 month bike tour is expensive and the list of gear is long.  So I wrote this guide to help you help them ease the anxiety a bit.  I hope it helps.

With the exception of the North Face tent, I've used and continue to use all the products I recommend here.  I'm hoping Santa brings me the tent this year, otherwise I'll have to dig deep and buy it for myself.

The TdA Gift Guide:

Essential Gear:

Schwalbe Marathon Mondial Tires - $50 to $90 each tire (did I mention preparing for tour can be expensive?)

Anyone joining us on tour will need at least two sets of tires, some times 3.  Year in and Year out Schwalbe tires out perform any other tire on tour.  You'll need to find out what size wheels your cyclists will be using. The choices are 26" or 29" / 700c).  Once you know that you can buy the appropriate width tire.  I recommend a 35mm tire for 29" / 700c wheels and a 2.0 width tire for 26" wheels. Guaranteed to put a smile on any cyclist face.

North Face Minibus Tent - $359
Living in a tent for 4 months changes the way you think about tents.  This is compounded by the fact that the tent will be used in deserts as a well as mountains and in more than a few rainstorms.  The Minibus tent covers all the bases well.  It looks like it pitches quickly and tautly, has great head room for a two man tent, two doors, lots of pockets for gear and allows for 'fly only' pitching, a feature that I personally love for those hot desert days.

Nice to have Gear:

Lite Cot - $220
Sleeping on the ground gets old.  Especially when that ground is rocky or rough.  the Lite Cot eliminates the problem by providing a lightweight sleeping cot that packs down to the size of a thermarest.  I no longer bring a sleeping pad on tour, just a lite cot.  Takes an extra 5 minutes to set up / break down but totally worth it for the comfort.

Kindle E Reader - $79
I wouldn't travel without this anymore.  The battery lasts forever and you can carry hundreds and hundreds of books in a 6 oz package.  Since the kindle also allows you to store PDFs you can also store anything from any website using services like Readability.

Schwalbe Tubes - $9 each
I've mentioned that I am a big fan a Schwalbe tires.  Well same goes for their tubes.  They cost close to 3 times as much as their chinese or korean counterparts though.  But I can vouch for the durability of the SV-17, their touring tube. Especially in scorching hot conditions where I've seen cheaper tubes spontaneously explode.  Riders are going to need 6 to 8 spare tubes on one of our trips.  Note that tubes, like tires, come in different widths and sizes.  The SV-17s fit a wide variety of widths and come in 26" and 29" / 700c sizes.  They also come with two different types of valve and the valves come in different lengths.  A 40 mm presta valve will work for most cyclists on tour.

Stocking Stuffers

Tire levers - big surprise, Schwalbe makes some great ones.
Rim Tape,  - few people bring spare rim tape on tour, they should.  Pedros and Schwalbe tape is good.
Multi Tool - a good multi tool is a life saver.  The Park Tool IB-2 or Park Rescue Tool are my favorites.
Seat bag - A place to keep essential items like tools and a spare tube.   Lots of options here.
Kickstand - Its hard to overstate how great a kickstand is to have on tour.  Racers might disagree though.

So there you go.  The first ever TdA Gift Guide (and I didn't even plug our new book - ... ahem ... available on  Let me know in the comments if you found this guide useful or have other suggestions.

Happy Holidays!


Paul McManus Designs and Guides Long Distance Bike Tours for Tour d’Afrique Ltd.  Currently he is preparing for the Silk Route Bike Tour from Shanghai to Istanbul which starts in May 2012.  Find out more at

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