Exactly what you stash in your jersey pockets and saddle pack depends on how far you are riding and what the weather has in store, but there are some items you shouldn’t leave home without.
Here’s our guide to what to carry on a road ride.
Be Ready for a Puncture
Top of the list of must-haves should be a pump, a pair of tyre levers and a spare inner tube (or better still, two). Punctures are the most likely problem to strike out on the road, and you can bet the day you forget your pump is when you’ll hear the dreaded pffft of a flat tyre.
If you keep a pump attached to the frame, and spare tubes and tyre levers in your saddle pack, then there’s no reason you should ever forget them. Just remember to replace the inner tubes whenever you’ve used them.
Some riders still take a puncture repair kit with them. It’s a good call on long rides and for multi-day cycle touring, but replacing a tube is a lot quicker than searching for an elusive hole and patching it at the roadside. You can use a repair kit to fix the tube when you get home.
Some swear by CO2 inflators rather than pumps. These will inflate a tube and tyre in a second or two, saving time and effort, compared with a pump. On the other hand, a pump can inflate a tube time and time again whereas a CO2 cartridge has to be replaced after each use, so it pays off to carry two cartridges if you rely on an inflator. You can buy combined pumps and inflators, which give the speed and convenience of an inflator with the reliability of a pump, although they are bulkier.
Whichever you favour, make sure you have a pump or inflator with you on every ride.
All Tooled up
While flat tyres are the most common problem you might run into out on the road, there are plenty of other minor mechanical gremlins you may want to fix mid-ride. So a multi-tool should also be a constant in your saddle bag.
With a variety of Allen keys, screwdrivers, torx heads and maybe a chain splitter, a good multi-tool will tighten a slipping seat post, adjust gears or tweak brake alignment.
It’s worth taking a couple of spare chain links, too. A quick-release chain link is the speediest fix, so long as you’re sure to pack one that’s compatible with your chain.
Waterproof your Ride
You never know what turn the weather is going to take. For all-day rides—or shorter trips if the forecast is looking dodgy—lightweight, packable waterproof gear is a good bet.
If riding into the evening in cooling temperatures, take a gilet with you. Most stuff down to a small pack size and will help you stay warm as the temperature drops. They’re also useful to keep off the chill when descending in cool weather.
Stay Hydrated, Stay Fueled
Ride much beyond an hour and a half, and you can expect to get hungry. A banana or flapjack makes a good mid-ride snack and will give your energy levels a boost. Energy gels and bars do much the same job.
Even if you don’t take food with you, fluids are essential on all but the shortest rides. Take at least one bottle on your bike, and two if you’ll be out for more than an hour. Water will keep you hydrated, but energy drinks will keep your body better fuelled. Electrolyte drinks will replenish the minerals lost through sweat.
Ready for an Emergency
Always take at least some cash and a credit card with you. If you have a mechanical problem you can’t fix at the roadside, you’ll be able to pay for a train or taxi home. An emergency stash of cash also means you can buy food and drink if you underestimate how much you need to take with you.
Some form of ID is also a must. An ID bracelet will make it much easier for the emergency services to contact friends and family if you are in an accident. Have an ICE (In Case of Emergency) number in your phone, or download an app which turns your lock screen into an ID card. Be sure to check your phone is charged before setting off.
If there’s any chance you’ll be out after dusk, carry lights with you, too. Small LED lights weigh next to nothing but could help keep you safe and visible if a ride lasts longer than planned.
That might sound like a lot, but with a saddle pack and a jersey with pockets, there should easily be room for all the essentials. With punctures, mechanical mishaps, hunger and emergencies taken care off, you can get on with enjoying your ride.