Bungee Cords & Bike Touring

Bungee cords, (or shock cords, or whatever else you might call elasticized, shock-absorbing cables with a hook at either end), are on the “essential” list for most travelling cyclists. Personally, I cannot imagine touring without them.

The most obvious use for bungee cords is to attach items to the rear rack (or, in the case of trailers, to fasten bags to the trailer). Backpacks, tents, sleeping mats, dog-sticks, machetes, and any other piece of equipment that doesn’t fit in a pannier (or that you need to grab quickly) goes here.

I use bungee cords to secure my bicycle when transporting it in buses, trains, pickup trucks, boats, etc. This prevents it from rolling around and causing damage (to itself or the vehicle). Most truck backs and bus luggage compartments have plenty of spots to hook your cord. I always make sure the cord runs through both wheels and, if possible, through any available loops in my panniers (I once lost a pannier that came loose and flew off the side of a small pickup on a very bumpy road).

When I’m camping, I use bungee cords to attach my tarpaulin sheet to branches. This method is faster and easier than playing around with lengths of string, and the cords will pull the tarp tighter, giving it a much better chance of standing up to wind and rain. I also hang the day’s laundry from the same bungee cords used for the tarps. (Tarps are also an essential.)


My rig. Just a bag of food on the back in this shot. Usually, there’s a little laundry too.

In good weather, I hang damp clothes from the back of my bike by tucking them under the bungees I have stretched around my tent and backpack. This is how I am able to tour with only two sets of clothes; I wash the clothes I wear at the end of one day and dry them on the back of the bike the next.

Bungee cords are sometimes difficult to find in Latin America, so I start each tour with at least four (I will eventually lose or ruin one). I’ve also now started keeping my old inner tubes; they make good substitute bungee cords when I’m running low.

The Bungee-Tandem!

Couples still deciding whether they should to tour on a tandem bicycle might consider this: you can get almost the same effect by running a bungee cord from the rear rack of one bike to the handlebar of the other. I call this the “bungee-tandem.” No, it is not going to have the same power transfer as a real tandem bike, but it’s probably much better than you think. Plus, you will have the flexibility of touring with two separate bicycles when you need to – good luck loading a fully-loaded tandem touring bike onto the back of a small pickup truck in an emergency.

Sometimes, I feel the need to get my heart rate up on a dull highway, or attack a hill. I feel guilty about taking off on my partner – I know, it’s a bicycle tour, not a race – but it’s not easy to stop being a “cyclist” altogether. So, I use the bungee-tandem system. My partner (who must still keep pedalling) gets a boost and I get to challenge myself. The bungee-tandem works well for long hills, for drafting in windy conditions, and for those long, flat, boring stretches when you just want to get there!

How many uses do you have for bungee cords? Where have you been able to find them in Latin America? Share your comments below.




Note: bungee cords have different names in different regions, so you may have to try a few different terms or use a descriptive sentence to be understood when you’re at the ferretería looking for one. Saying the word “bungee” with a Spanglish pronunciation (i.e. BOONshee) will usually elicit blank stares, but it works occasionally so it’s worth a try.

bungee cord: cuerda bungee; cuerda f de choque elástico con ganchos

hooks: ganchos mpl

hardware store: ferretería f


© El Pedalero, 2012.



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