As with everything related to cycle touring, careful planning beforehand can payoff big time. This is especially true when it comes to clothing. Weather prediction is a tricky thing, and having the appropriate clothing for any weather situation is difficult. But, with a few guidelines, you can make the right decision and pack your panniers with the right amount of clothing.
The key is to pack only what you need and not a thing more. As I look over my gear list for my last two tours (check them out here and here), I notice a theme. Many items have multiple uses. Versatility is the name of the game.
Tops. Cycling jerseys come in a variety of sleeve lengths. Sleeveless, short-sleeve, long-sleeve, three-quarter sleeve. The most versatile is short sleeves in combination with arm warmers. However, I’m starting to find long-sleeved jerseys to be the best for me, as it cuts down on the amount of sunscreen I have to apply. Plus, if it’s really cold, I put my armwarmers on under my jersey, and then with my rain jacket as an over-layer, I have 3 layers on my arms and I’m very comfortable. I usually bring one short-sleeved jersey along as well. If the jersey is made of a material such as wool, it can go a few days before starting to smell funky. I like to at least air my jersey out from the day, using a clothesline (such as this one) or just draping it over the tent. Unless it rains or is overly humid, it dries overnight. Another great thing about wool is that it lends very well to hand washing, which can be great in areas where you are away from a washing machine.
Bottoms. Cycling shorts also come in a variety of lengths, from super short shorts to long leggings, and everything in between. The most versatile would be shorts, in combination with leg warmers. I’ve found that two pairs of bicycle shorts are all I need on a tour. I wash the pair I wore that day, let it dry overnight, and wear the other pair the next day. I generally wash the shorts in the shower with me at night, making sure to get all the soap out. You can even wear the shorts multiple days in a row if required, just make sure the shorts are dry completely, because wet shorts can rub you the wrong way. I also like to bring a pair of rain pants, which act as a windbreaker layer as well.
Undergarments. The other essentials would be underwear, bras, and socks. I don’t wear underwear while I ride, because of the rubbing and chafing that can happen. I bring 2 pairs of easily washable travel underwear (like these), 2 sports bras, 1 regular bra (which I recommend for every woman. Sports bras can be so restrictive, and having an actual bra can make you feel more human at the end of a long day’s ride.), 3 pairs of riding socks, and one pair of camp socks.
Rain gear. Invest in a good set of waterproof outer layers. For more on what makes raingear great, see this post.
Camp clothes. I recommend bringing a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt to wear about camp. I prefer pants that unzip down to shorts, because this adds to the versatility.
Miscellaneous. Other recommendations are a beanie (to keep your head warm in camp), a pair of walking shoes (so you can enjoy exploring camps and towns), and a down vest.
By getting pieces that have multiple uses, you can cut down on the amount of clothing you bring with you on tour, and still be ready for anything Mother Nature can throw at you.