Bike trip to Estonia: Looking back at my pack list

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my forthcoming bike tour to Estonia and listed the stuff I’m going to take with me. The trip was a great success and looking back, it was a good idea to pay attention on what to pack and what not.

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Riding on the city streets of Kallaste, Estonia.

We didn’t originally have a fully planned route. The trip ended up to be five days (4 days riding, 1 day travelling back on train and ferry). We started in Tallinn, rode to the east to Lahemaa National Park, then towards Rakvere and Lake Peipus, visited The Onion Route, and finally ended our trip in Tartu. On the fifth day, we took the train back to Tallinn.

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What worked

I really enjoyed our choice of route. The scenery is quite similar to the Finnish countryside except that there are no hills which is pretty great when you’re on a bike tour. The roads are very well maintained even in the rural Estonia (at least in these parts of the country), there were a surprising amount of separate bike paths, and the drivers behaved remarkably well. During the whole trip, there were maybe one or two cars that drove too close past us, but even they didn’t cause any accidents.

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To carry most of the items, I used Thule Tour Rack and a pair of Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers. The Thule rack is attached with straps instead of screws, and I was a little worried that it wouldn’t stay on its place. However, on my Bianchi and with the amount of stuff that I had, it worked perfectly! If I had a bike that has screw holes, I would probably choose a regular rack, though.

The Ortlieb panniers are called Classic and not without a reason. They are well made, stay in their place, and now tested to be watertight. Highly recommended!

My Bianchi Via Nirone 7 is a nice bike and it didn’t have any technical problems during the trip. The riding position could’ve been a little bit more relaxed as my wrists started aching during the days. Having a little break every once in a while always helped and the pain never persisted.

After the trip, I was surprised how well I had packed for the trip. I basically didn’t have any extra items, apart from the first aid kit and the bike fixing kit, and I wouldn’t have left without them anyway.

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The weather turned out to be a little colder and more unstable than what we hoped for. Gore Windstopper jacket worked superbly in those conditions, and I was really happy I didn’t leave it at home like I originally thought. Also, the leg warmers I bought from AliExpress for a few euros were great on a chilly and rainy day.

What didn’t work

There’s not much to list here. The lightweight cycling rain jacket from AliExpress was so-so; it either wasn’t very water-resistant or it made me sweat a lot, but after biking a couple of hours in the rain, my jersey was all wet. Probably the Gore Windstopper jacket wouldn’t have been much better in that weather, anyway, so I won’t say the rain jacket was useless. In the afternoon the weather got better, so thanks to having two jackets, I still had a dry Windstopper in the bag.

Because of the rainy weather, I didn’t use the SP Connect stem mount for the phone that much. Even though there is an extra rain cover provided, the phone is very open to the elements when mounted. I used the Apple Watch for tracking distances, and we used Regio’s Estonian cycling routes map (yes, it’s on paper!) for checking the next targets while we had breaks. A few times in the towns, especially in Tallinn, I had the phone mounted on the stem and actively used Google Maps navigation.

There were only a few items I ended up not using. I didn’t need the fouta (hammam towel) because all the places where we stayed provided us with towels. I didn’t use the swimming trunks because the weather was too chilly. Also, I didn’t use the lights for the bike, because we never rode that late in the night or early in the mornings. And as said, we didn’t have any issues with the bikes (or their riders), so we didn’t need the first aid kit or tools.

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Fields somewhere south of Rakvere.

What I would do differently next time

Not much. Our daily distances were 93 km, 107 km, 79 km, and 72 km. Next time I would probably plan the distances to be more on the 70–90 km scale than over 100 km.

I won’t say that 100 km was too much, but it‘s not something I would like to do for many days in a row. If I was to go on a longer trip spanning over more days, I would probably plan a 1-day break after 4–5 days of cycling to relax and wash the laundry.

Our trip was relatively high-speed, so we didn’t stop by anywhere during the days except when having coffee or lunch breaks. It was always a bit awkward to enter a café when you’re all sweaty, walking uncomfortably in clip-in shoes, and dressed in lycra. Having a longer break every once in a while would also allow us to do tourist-y stuff like sightseeing. Riding with lower speed and sweating less would of course be an option, but I’m not sure if it’s viable for me.

And will there be a next time? Well, we already started to discuss taking the ferry from Helsinki to Lübeck and riding towards the Netherlands. Maybe next summer!

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Here we have just reached our destination on the Day 4.

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Web developer, consultant, and a father of two.

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