prepping for schlepping on our six-month bike trip: clothes

Our upcoming European bike packing trip has been a long time in the making. So long that I’ve been curating a collection of merino wool clothing specifically for the trip for a few years now. These threads don’t come cheap, but I believe that they’ll be worthwhile when I’m on day four of wearing the same pair of underwear, sweating under that endless summer sun in somewhere Norway, or feeling decidedly sticky as I pedal through the chestnut fields of Portugal.

Let’s start with the clothes I plan to take on this trip.

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I’ll preface a more detailed survey of my threads with this:

  1. Last time I traveled long-term, in 2007, I took the well-meaning advice of student travel liaisons a bit much to heart when they recommended that those studying abroad ‘travel light.’ I ended up bringing five shirts, two pairs of pants, and three pairs of shoes with me. And one pair of shoes turned out to be too small. I’m a wandering soul both internally and in time and space (which is also just mentally though maybe?), and I quickly became bored out of my mind having limited myself to so few options. I knew I wanted a few more choices this time around.
  2. I have a lot of outdoor clothing already, but the majority of it is bulky wool sweaters and thick heavy work pants. Not things to take on a lightweight bike trip.
  3. This trip is technically my honeymoon. I’d like to at least have the option to look nice every once in a while.

So, what am I bringing?

Bike jerseys (2, both wool)
Hybrid bike jersey/shirt (1, has a zippered pocket in the rear)
Off-the-bike shirts (2, of which one is wool, the other is 3/4 sleeve)
Tank tops (3, all are wool)
Padded bike shorts (2 pair, 1 being wool, the other being liner shorts)
Bike outer shorts (1)
Cycling leggings (1)
Off-the-bike shorts (1)
Stretchy on/off-the-bike pants (1)
Long-sleeved hoodies (2, one is wool, the other polyester flannel)
Long underwear (1 pair, wool)
Skirt (1, wool)
Underwear (5, three are wool – merino doesn’t grow on trees, folks)
Sports bras (3, two are wool)
Socks (5, all wool; two are heavier weight)
Swimsuit (1)
Rain jacket (1)
Wind jacket (1)
Insulated jacket (1)

I’d like to also bring a pair of jeans, and perhaps a dress as well, but I’ll wait until I’ve loaded up everything to see how much room I have left. All of the aforementioned takes up surprisingly little space.

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I did a lengthy bit of research on currently-available Merino wool products before I dove in to make any purchases. I decided to focus on Ibex Outdoor Clothing’s wool offerings due to their cycling-specific apparel, their general stylishness, and the fact that every Ibex item I’ve bought has been constructed in the USA or Canada.

Most of what you see above was bought at sale price, except for the cycling shorts. I wore these shorts all of last season, and I have nothing but praise for them. They’re made with a wool blend, with just the right amount of elastic stretch. The chamois pad in the shorts is made of wool and polyester. I can wear them for days on end and they don’t get disgusting. Which is a plus.

The Hooded Indie sweatshirt is a comfortable companion as well. Mine took a beating the week after I received it last year, when I fell while biking too fast coming down the Cadillac Mountain Road in Acadia National Park. After skidding across the road twenty feet or so, the material had developed a few large holes, but those should be mendable enough to avoid disdainful stares from chic Frenchies.

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After gaining confidence snagging sweet Ibex swag, I became an internet predator on Steep & Cheap, searching voraciously for any and every deal on Giro bike apparel. All ten pieces of Giro clothing shown above came from the website at a ridiculously low price – I think I only spent above $30 on one item (one of the merino wool cycling jerseys), and most came in at $15-20.

The retail cost of new Giro leggings alone is $100; I paid merely $22. I didn’t feel too bad grabbing an extra two or three shirts when they were quality, cycling-specifc, and under 20 bucks each.

It proved to be worth waiting, biding my time to seek out deals. Patience seems to be the key with sites such as Steep & Cheap, since everything seems to go on super clearance every once in a while.

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This Mountain Hardware flannel is something that I treated myself to. I saw it on Steep & Cheap and knew immediately that it would up the cozy ante for my entire trip. But I watched as it appeared and disappeared over the next few months, since it’s $50 price tag was way over what I tended to allow myself per item of clothing.

But I went for it, and holy cow do I love it. It’s the coziest thing I’ve worn in a long time.

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Out of all this greatness, though, I might be most excited for my upside-down cross socks, also made of wool. Billed by the seller as being “good for both casual rides to Hell, as well as the occasional wedding,” these babies are right up my dark, soulless alley.

Next time, I’ll show you all the other shit I’m bringing! Accessories galore.

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6 thoughts on “prepping for schlepping on our six-month bike trip: clothes

  1. SAME, on the river trip I had a plastic bag in the bottom of a waterproof bag with non-outdoors clothes for when we went to Memphis, St. Louis, etc. It was kind of nice, being able to just be a non-dirty person on some days in normal non-SPF-rated clothing.

  2. God, gear just freaks me out. I love your approach to slowly and carefully gathering what you need. Pro tips, fo sho. I love that swimsuit!

    1. I like the swimsuit too! First one I’ve had that I’ve liked in years. This trip has been so long coming I better be prepared by now :)

  3. Gah! So exciting!!
    I love that you have bought so much good quality local stuff as you prepare. The patience to buy on sale will be worth so much more to you than just buying cheap stuff.
    We had to pack light for our Vietnam/Thailand trip last year as we took carry-on only (7kg limit including bag). That took some creative thinking I tell yah. Like you, I mostly bought on sale from travel stores or utilised what I already had however I did splash out and buy myself a pair of Mox shoes – one pair of shoes for showering and for dressing up, worth every cent. Oh, and the one light but dressy dress I took … also worth the weight and space.

    1. I’ve definitely done my part for the bike economy in preparation for this trip. Pretty much every trip we did for awhile we did carry on baggage only or checked one small bag between the two of us, so this is a bit different. So much prep work to make sure you have everything! I love it. Glad to hear I’m not the only one who wants to look nice on occasion – a break from the grime is always good.

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