What do cyclists need to carry on a bike ride?

From tools and spares to nutrition, here is a list of everything we think you need to keep yourself safe, protected and prepared for whatever a ride can throw your way

Clock18:45, Wednesday 15th May 2024

It is easy to think that once you have a bike, helmet and some clothing that you feel comfortable riding in, you are all set to head out and enjoy the open road. Although you can head out with nothing but joyful enthusiasm filling your pockets it does leave you spectacularly unprepared in the event of a mechanical issue with your bike, a change in weather or a sudden drop in energy.

There are plenty of occasions where we’ve headed out for what we thought would be a quick and enjoyable ride, having taken no additional kit and ended up running into an issue. Typically this happens at the furthest point away from home, leaving an uncomfortably long walk back. If you want to avoid this ever happening to you, here is our list of the top things to carry with you on every ride.

Read more: How to carry accessories and spare kit on a bike ride

Essential repair kit

This is by no means an exhaustive list but if you take at least these essential items you can save yourself a lot of pain and easily fix some common issues. Keeping these items in a saddle bag, strapped to the bike or in a storage bottle is a great way to ensure that you never head off without them.

Puncture repair kit

It doesn’t matter if you are running inner tubes or tubeless, heading off without any means of repairing a puncture is a surefire way to end up walking with your bike for longer than you’d want to. A mini pump is a must. It depends on preference as to what size you go for, with the trade-off being that the smaller the pump the more effort it will be to inflate a tyre, but the more convenient it will be to carry around. A CO2 inflator and cartridge are a great idea but we’d always recommend having a pump as backup in case the cartridge fails.

Also carry at least one but ideally two inner tubes with you. Some punctures are simply too big for a tubeless system to seal and an inner tube will be needed to get you through the rest of your ride. Depending on your budget, investing in some TPU tubes will save on size and weight meaning that two inner tubes will take up no space at all.

Tyre levers are a good idea, especially in the depths of winter where they can save a lot of time, pain and faff when it comes to getting your tyres off the rim. We’d always recommend plastic levers as they’re less likely to damage your rims than metal ones.

Read more: Travelling light: How to pack a saddle bag

Finally, on the puncture repair front, it is always worth carrying a set of self-adhesive patches. These can be used to repair a punctured inner tube and take up no space. Even if it is unlikely that you might suffer more than two punctures in a single ride it is certainly a possibility worth preparing for.

Multitool

Bolts can work their way loose and things need adjusting from time to time. Investing in a multitool that has all of the tools you need specific to your bike is an absolute must on every ride. There are plenty of options on the market from small and compact ones all the way through to mini tool kits. A great option is to look for bottle cages that have a multitool attachment point. This way you can always be sure to have it on you when leaving for a ride.

Tubeless specific tools

If your bike is set up tubeless there is one additional tool that you should carry on every ride. A plug tool allows you to insert a rubber bung into a hole that is too big for the sealant alone to plug. This can prevent you from needing to go through the hassle of removing the tyre and fitting an inner tube. Instead, plugging the tyre and trimming off the excess should allow you to simply inflate the tyre and be back on your merry way.

Read more: How to fix a puncture on a tubeless tyre

Non-essential repair kit

If you’re heading out for a longer ride, especially if you’re on your own or on new and unfamiliar roads without easy access to support then it is worthwhile bolstering the essential kit with the following additional items. These should help keep you out of trouble in the event of more specific mechanical issues.

These take up no space at all and can be taped to a frame or concealed inside the handlebars. In the event of an issue with your chain where you need to break it, a quick link will allow you to quickly and effectively rejoin the chain together. If you have not used a quick link before it might also be worthwhile investing in a set of quick link pliers that make fitting and removing one a quick and easy affair.

Chain lube

Ollie Bridgewood would always advocate a waxed chain, but if you do lubricate your chain using a traditional oil-based lubricant it is worthwhile carrying a small drip bottle with you so that you can re-apply lube to your chain mid-ride. This is especially important on long wet rides or when it is dry and dusty as this can quickly remove the lubricant from the chain, leaving it to run dry - which is not good for your ears or your wallet.

Cable ties

As we see time and time again in the Hack or Bodge section of the GCN Show, cable ties have myriad uses. Carrying a few of these could help salvage a ride in a way you didn’t even know possible. All you need are a few cable ties, your imagination and a problem that needs solving. Having a few different lengths adds extra diversity and they can curl up neatly inside a saddle bag.

Health and wellbeing

Bike riding isn’t without its own set of potential risks, so bringing a few basic things with you can keep you out of harm's way.

First aid kit

On shorter rides, it might not be something that you feel is worth carrying. However, adding a few alcohol-free antiseptic wipes and a bandage to a saddlebag is worth the investment.

As the rides grow in length or as you head into more remote territory the more you’ll benefit from a decent first aid kit that can treat some common injuries out on the road. Painkillers, plasters, non-adherent gauze and tape can at least allow you to carry on riding until you can get some medical assistance. If you are riding in a group, splitting a first aid kit across all members is an easy way to share the bulk.

Hydration tablets

Having these with you can transform how you feel on a ride, keeping a pack tucked away somewhere will ensure that you can properly rehydrate even if you stop somewhere and refill your bottles. Drinking straight water is not actually the best way to hydrate on a ride due to losses of salts through sweating. Adding a hydration tablet to your drink will allow your body to take on board the water in a more effective way and reduce the potential for cramps when you are a long way into a monster ride.

Sunscreen

This is all too easy to forget, or even if you do remember to apply it before heading out for a ride, it very seldom gets reapplied throughout a ride. It is important when riding in the summer months that you protect your skin with sunscreen. If you are heading out for a few hours or more, bringing a small bottle so that you can top up your protection will save you from getting back only to discover you have been burnt.

Things to make the ride more enjoyable

These items definitely fall into the non-essential category but bringing them with you on a ride can make for a much more pleasant experience.

Map/GPS/Phone

Sometimes, heading out without any electronic devices can be a liberating experience. However, if you a looking to head to a new area or want to complete a specific route, investing in either a GPS head unit or using mapping software on your phone will allow your rides to flow that little bit better. If you do decide to use your phone be conscious of just how much battery navigating can consume. It may be worth carrying a back up battery pack. Some GPS units also have additional features such as crash detection that can alert a nominated person in the event of a crash.

Sunglasses

These are not only to keep the sun out of your eyes but also to prevent bugs, dirt or dust from impairing your vision. These days brands invest heavily in lens technology: the latest glasses aim to boost the contrast of colours, allowing you to more easily identify any hazards on the trail or road surface to hopefully prevent any nasty mishaps.

Lights

Bike lights are not just something you should consider for winter with studies showing that riders who use lights during the day, especially with irregular flashing patterns, are significantly more likely to be seen by other road users.

Fitting at least a rear daytime light will draw more attention to you out on the road which should increase your safety. Plenty of brands have specific lights that they identify as daytime suitable and can easily be recharged via USB. They’re also useful if your ride ends up being longer than you intended and the light begins to fade on your journey home.

Is there anything we missed off the list that you always carry with you? Let us know in the comments section below. For more handy guides like this, why not take a look at our how-to section where we have everything covered from skills to maintenance.

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