If Thomas Stevens could ride a high-wheeler around the world in the 1880s without so much as a tent, clearly you don't need any specific accessories to go touring. But some things are simply nice to have -- it's not a question of need, but of want.
Ortlieb Handlebar Bag: my panniers aren't Ortliebs, they're Maddens, but a handlebar bag is one place where the absolutely waterproof construction of Ortlieb's bags is a real boon. In a pannier I can pack things in dry bags or big zip-lock bags, but a handlebar bag is where I put things I want to get at in a hurry: my camera, wallet, maps, etc. A completely waterproof bag lets me keep these things loose within the bag, not packed in bags within bags.
Radio Shack All-Weather Radio: a cheap, water resistant AM/FM radio that stays strapped to my front rack with a toe strap year-round. It has a speaker, not head phones, and tunes with a round dial, not buttons, so it is easy to use when wearing heavy gloves. Some people don't like the idea of riding with a radio, and I certainly wouldn't impose my listening tastes on other riders without asking them first, but often a bit of music makes the rain a bit warmer, the headwind a little lighter, the hill not quite as steep. Plus, I get to hear weather and traffic reports.
Zefal Isotherm insulated water bottles are large-sized water bottles with screw-on tops and large nipples. Their foam insulation is flexible, unlike old fashioned thermic bottles, and they will keep coffee hot or water cold for an hour or more while riding. Just the thing for crisp pre-dawn rides with a cup of steaming espresso to ward off the chill.
Esge Twin-Leg Kickstand: yes, you may sometimes hear poseurs in expensive jerseys making snide comments about putting a kickstand on an expensive bike, but this is no ordinary stand -- it's a Swiss-engineered alloy stand that mounts behind the bottom bracket and has two legs that keep the bike bolt upright while you rummage through your panniers. It does make some annoying rattling noises on rough roads, but it's well worth the bother.
MSR Whisperlite International stove. One of the lightest camping stoves available, yet also quite powerful, the Whisperlite International will burn gas or kerosene, making it usable in every country I've ever ridden in. I use a large fuel bottle that fits handily in a water bottle cage, and carry it in the cage underneath my down tube so that any drips go on the road, not on my frame or into my panniers.
Stovetop espresso maker: REI and Campmor both sell a compact espresso maker with no moving parts. It fits easily in a pannier and makes a shot of espresso faster than a percolator makes a cup of coffee on an MSR Whisperlite stove. There are two sizes available, one that makes cute little demitasse shots of espresso, and one that can fill a whole coffee cup -- I like the big one. As a confessed coffee addict I find this an indispensable appliance when riding in places where coffee usually means watery instant goo.
This page written by Josh Putnam. Please feel free to email questions, comments, corrections, suggestions, etc.
© Joshua Putnam