This packing list is a work in progress. It’s based on the list I used for the three-person ride across Texas, but the longer ride across Mexico may well merit more gear. Suggestions are welcome and it will be updated regularly.
“Must Have” Equipment
- Minimum three extra tubes for your tires (I recommend more)
- Bungee cords
- Bike lock
- 3 liters / 100 oz water minimum
- Road clothes. I usually wear normal shorts and a very lightweight, moisture wicking long sleeve t-shirt.
- 1 change of clothes. It’s nice to have long pants and a clean shirt for walking around town.
- Whatever you want wear to bed at night
- Sunscreen with high SPF
- Bedroll. A lightweight sleeping bag or a couple blankets are fine.
- Tent or bivy. The smaller and lighter the better.
- Shoes. I like to wear sandals while cycling (NOT flip-flops) and switch to real shoes in town.
- Toothbrush, shaving kit, etc.
- Glasses/contacts if needed. Bring a backup.
- Any prescription drugs you need. NO illegal drugs.
- Camera if desired
“Nice-to-Have” Bike Equipment
- Rear view mirror—this makes a huge difference in safety.
- Patch kit for your tubes.
- Front/rear lights. We don’t plan to bike at night but it’s nice to have.
- Bicycle chain oil
- Cycling gloves
- Toe clips if you want them. (I personally do not use clips.)
- Tool Kit
- Spare tire
- Energy bars or trail mix—you will be able to find food on the road but it’s nice to have a reserve
- Spanish phrase book or pocket dictionary is nice
What I Will Provide
I will have some basic tools, a good air pump, a first aid kit and some other essentials. It doesn’t hurt to bring your own as well—especially with tools—but if you are a beginning cyclist and want to avoid the extra expense, don’t worry about these items.
What Kind of Bike to Bring?
If you are an experienced cyclist you already know what you’re riding. For a new cyclist, getting a bike does not need to be as expensive as you may think.
I personally ride a 1980’s road bike pulled out of an old storage unit. One of our other members, Pixi, rides an old bike she got for $25 at a garage sale. Cheap or used bikes are fine, but the type of bike and the condition it’s in DO matter.
There are two options for what kind of bike to use:
- A road bike, ideally with the widest tires that can fit onto it. Road bikes are meant to be faster and easier to ride for long distances. The wider tires will hold up better and give you a smoother ride on rough roads. Mexico has a lot of rough roads.
- A mountain bike modified to have a back rack (and possibly front rack) for holding gear. Be warned that mountain bikes tend to be slower and/or take more effort to pedal the same distance as a road bike. On the other hand, the shocks may make for a more comfortable ride and the wider tires will hold up to almost anything.
Please do not bring a fixed-wheel (1-speed) bike.
If you buy an old bike at a rummage sale, expect that it is not ready to ride until it has been fixed up. You may be able to ride it around the neighborhood but you don’t want it to fail you on the road. Take it to a bicycle shop and ask them to give it a full tune up, including:
- Changing the brake pads
- Putting on new tires—get the strongest, thickest road tires available; consider “hybrid” (almost mountain bike) tires
- Putting in new tubes—get “thorn proof” tubes and add tire goo if possible
- Cleaning the gears and chain
- Cleaning the ball bearings
- Truing the wheels
- A full inspection and tune up
All of this together can range from $70 to $180. Don’t be surprised if the bike mechanic recommends additional work, such as a new chain. Tell them what you are planning to do (ride hundreds of miles in Mexico) and get their opinion on what needs to be done.
Note that this assumes your bike is basically rideable. When you buy a used bike, make sure the wheels do not look bent (these are expensive to replace) and that the bike is operable. Often, it may be better to spend $50-150 to get a bike in good shape off Craigslist rather than spend $20 to get a rusted out one from a garage sale.
If you have any questions about what to look for in a bike, or whether yours is a good fit, just ask! I’ll do my best to help. And remember, learning to do some of this work yourself won’t just save you money, it will also help if you have a breakdown on the road.
What NOT to Bring
The short answer is “anything extra.” Every ounce of weight really does add up on a bicycle trip. I even turned down lucky charms from people, and I never carry more than one book to read. But there are some specific things you should avoid:
- A cell phone that doesn’t work in Mexico. (If you want one you can purchase a local pre-paid cell for about US $35.)
- Excess electronic equipment. I carry a laptop but that’s because I need it to work on the road. Laptops weight 5+ pounds which is a lot to bring.
- Stuff that can’t get wet. It does rain in Mexico, and unless you have waterproof saddlebags things may get wet.
- Too many extra clothes.
- Illegal drugs.
- A gun. NO!
Remember, every town in Mexico has a pharmacy where you can buy basics like aspirin, condoms, feminine products, etc. Bring what you need, but think carefully about each item.
What are we missing?