Traveling can be a mixed blessing, but the right travel gear makes it easier. It offers the opportunity to escape the day-to-day of married life against the inevitable hassle of TSA, checking bags, retrieving bags and the infinite need for more legroom. The seasoned traveler learns to deal with the hassles as much as possible by making sure that TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry boxes are checked and having a firm belief that nothing worth having comes easy. Getting to ride a bicycle in exotic parts of the world is worth a little suffering, even if it comes at the hands of people wearing those light-blue TSA shirts.
It can be hard to quantify the impact that gear has on bike performance—but that’s rarely the case with what you take to travel, particularly if you’re going somewhere to ride a bike. Your gear selections can make all the difference between peace of mind and pain in the butt. Here are a few obvious (and not so obvious) pieces of travel gear to add to your lineup.
OSPREY SHUTTLE 100L.
When you are traveling abroad you typically have to make choices, and if you’re cycling that means sometimes sacrificing some smart gear choices for the possibility of inclement weather so that you can look stylish for the evening passeggiata along those winding streets of Siena. And not looking stylish is not a choice you should be making. The Osprey Shuttle is huge, so you don’t have to decide. Bring those smart-looking brogues and the back-up rain jacket—hell, bring two. I worry that European cobblestones are someday going to destroy my Rollaboard but that’s not a concern with this bag; it’s like rolling 32cm tires over the bricks. If there’s a downside to this bag it’s that you can definitely fit half a dozen bottles of Italian wine plus some local olive oil into it, and that will put you over the 23-kilogram (50-pound) limit coming back. But you gotta have that olive oil! $290; ospreypacks.com
VUARNET SQUARE DISTRICT.
We’ve all forgotten our sunglasses when we travel. And it’s miserable, particularly if you’re blue-eyed like me. And let’s face it, maybe Peter Sagan can pull off using riding glasses off the bike, but for most of us it’s a mistake…and, frankly, we look like we just forgot our sunglasses. Remember those Vuarnet T-shirts from middle school? Well, Vuarnet is still making beautiful eyewear in France and the Square District glasses are where it’s at. Ray-Bans are cool, don’t get me wrong, but everyone has them. These French-made specs look vintage and sharp, whether on the streets of Paris or back home in “Pennsyltucky.” The District’s acetate frame is sturdy (a travel must) and the polarized mineral glass offers shade and UV protection that is second to none. (Pro-tip: If you do forget your sunglasses, a phone charger or an adaptor, go to the hotel’s Lost & Found. It’s a veritable treasure trove!) $270; vuarnet.com
I was once in Flanders and a fellow traveler had to sit out a ride with Museeuw that included the Kwaremont, Paterberg and Koppenberg climbs, because his checked bag was lost. Can you imagine? The recollection of that man’s misfortune is actually making me nauseous as I write this. From that moment forward, I swore that my essential cycling gear—shoes, pedals, helmet and kit—were going in the carry-on. Enter the Venturesafe EXP45 from Pacsafe; it’s like a small suitcase on your back. It will handle your bike kit, shoes, pedals and a change of clothes, along with your laptop, just in case your Brussels-bound checked bag ends up in Barcelona. The EXP45 has plenty of security bells and whistles, great pockets and padding, and it comes in a Belgian-blue hue. $180; pacsafe.com
While you never think that the pièce de résistance of your packing masterpiece is going to be a rain jacket, if the conditions change it very well could be. The Resistance Jacket from 7Mesh—the Canadian company originally behind the mountaineering brand Arcteryx—definitely flexes its fabric-tech knowhow. The jacket has an aggressive fit with the goal of offering as much weather protection as possible in as packable a piece of foul-weather gear. The Resistance is assembled from lightweight Windstopper fabric, watertight zipper, taped seams and well-placed vents. And it weighs just 4 ounces (115 grams). Like most of the understated 7Mesh gear, it looks great on the bike too. $225; 7meshinc.com
BIOLITE CHARGE 20.
How many first-world problems start out by sharing a story when you’re on a dream vacation and your phone dies? And so that amazing sunset you saw from the coast of southern France didn’t make it into Instagram. If it’s only one, it’s one too many. (Unsympathetic editor’s note: I once got onto a rigid inflatable boat in a Norwegian fjord only to find my camera battery was dead. Big bummer.) Traveling and managing your gizmos and gadgets can be tough, particularly if you’re in a country where you need an adaptor for every item you packed. Portable power is key. The BioLite Charge 20 though is a real game changer. This sleek-looking stainless steel battery pack comes with silicone gaskets that make it water resistant; and it’s perfect in a jersey pocket when you roll out and realize that all that Google Translating has wiped out the phone but you still gotta get this ride through the Pyrénées on Strava! Enough power to completely charge your phone twice over, or get your iPad from dead to halfway. A real lifesaver in a pinch. $40; bioliteenergy.com
SAMSONITE 44349 FABRIC STEAMER.
The days of traveling with a loaded-down steamer trunk are long gone. Let’s face it folks, steam travel is dead. Yet when it comes to looking good on the road, steam is the only way to go. Most hotels in nearly every other part of the world are not equipped with irons, and so you’re on your own. Americans already have a reputation for not being able to dress with style, so don’t contribute to the problem by looking like you slept in your clothes. The Samsonite 44349 Fabric Steamer comes with both an imaginative name and travel perfection. It’s light in weight, packs up small and it’s easy to use. (Pro-tip: Take a gallon-sized Ziploc as a travel case for this to protect against any water you missed packing it up.) As Peter Gabriel once said: “Give me steam!” $24; samsonite.com