A bike ride should be an enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t take new riders long to realize things happen. Flat tires, bike problems, loose dogs, injuries and hunger are more or less inevitable. A little preparation can make these situations less disastrous.
You may not be heading out on a multi-day cycling tour, but you still need to pack a few items. The following list includes essentials for every road ride, whether you head out for a quick spin or a daylong leg crusher. They will fit in your jersey pocket or saddle bag, and you will hardly notice them.
Carry your drivers license or another form of ID. It can also be wise to bring along a health insurance card, emergency contact information, and information regarding medical conditions and allergies. Companies such as Road ID create identification products for athletes. They include your name, emergency contact info, and important medical information and are designed to be worn on your wrist, ankle, shoe and other visible places.
Pack a snack, even if you only plan to be out for an hour. Riding back when you bonk can be miserable, and you never know when your ride could be extended due to unforeseen circumstances such as a flat. Bars, gels and bananas are all good options.
Bring along a bottle of water. On a hot day or during a long ride, pack a second bottle filled with sports drink for electrolyte replacement. The recommended amount for a one-hour ride starts at 16 ounces per hour in cool weather and more for longer rides and warmer temps.1 If you plan to ride for a few hours and can’t carry enough liquids, be aware of places to refill or purchase water (or sports drinks) along your route. If your bike only has one water bottle cage installed, you may want to add a second. Otherwise, jersey pockets can accommodate extras.
You don’t have to use it, but you will be grateful to have your cell phone if you have a mechanical issue, get hurt, or become lost and need assistance. Put it on silent so you can enjoy your ride in peace, then place tuck it away in your jersey pocket or saddle bag. If you are worried about moisture, place it in a small plastic bag or invest in a product such as JerseyBin, a waterproof pouch designed to fit in a jersey pocket.
A small amount of cash can be a lifesaver if you unexpectedly need to purchase food, drink or a bike tube to repair a flat. It can’t hurt to bring along a credit or debit card, too.
Flat repair tools
Flats eventually happen, and they aren’t always conveniently timed within a short walking distance of your home. At the very least, have a patch kit. Ideally, have an extra tube, tire levers, and a CO2 cartridge—in lieu of or addition to a CO2 cartridge, you can also mount a small frame pump to your bike.
In a worst-case scenario you may have to fill your tire with a gas station air pump. As such, it can be helpful purchase and carry a presta to Schrader valve adapter so it’s possible. Be careful when filling your tire this way; it’s easy to over-inflate and explode it.
Chains can—and do, occasionally—break. A chain tool allows you to put yours back together and keep going.
Ideally, you will apply sunscreen before you ride. If you plan to be out for awhile, you will need to reapply. Buy a travel size or use a small container you can refill between rides. Bring along SPF lip balm, too.
This is more of an optional item. Check the weather. If conditions look iffy or you live in a climate where temps fluctuate throughout the day, you may want to have a rain jacket, windbreaker, or arm and knee warmers along just in case things cool down or get wet.
This list may sound like a lot, but it’s really not much. These are the kind of things you will be grateful to have along when you need them. Talk to friends and family who ride to see what they never leave home without. Visit your local bike shop for help selecting essential tools and clothing—some shops even host new rider clinics and information sessions.
1McGinnis, Marianne. “How and When to Hydrate.” Bicycling. N.D. http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/how-and-when-hydrate