Normally I write articles from a competitive cycling point of view (more or less), but this article is applicable regardless if you race or not. As a matter of fact – maybe it’s especially applicable for those who are competitive cyclists. I have found that, even though one might be brave enough to pin a number on and rub elbows in a sprint … it doesn’t mean that one is completely aware of a few foundational rules of the road, so to speak.
You might have also noticed that I mentioned ‘country’ riding in the title – yes, that was on purpose. The following tips (or rather: must haves) will prevent you from becoming severely inconvenienced. After all: Uber doesn’t work when you are at the corner of Dead Possum and No Signal – where you are more likely to see a buzzard than another human being… Or maybe a cow.
You can’t always figure someone else will have what you need either; it’s best to be self-sufficient for a host of reasons that I won’t go into here.
#1 Bring a Saddle Bag. Get over it Weight Weenies, after all, it’s a training ride so consider it a part of your regimen to get stronger. The saddle bag should contain 2 tubes (not just one), a CO2 cartridge & nozzle, and tire levers. If you are really smart you will also carry a valve extender and a small set of tools. I am probably a girl scout because I also carry a pair of rubber gloves, a patch kit, and a tire boot (in case of tire gashes). Oh, and a bit of duct tape – because, heck, you just never know. Half of this lives in my jersey pockets and goes with me on every single training ride… just in case you were imagining a saddle bag big enough to haul small children.
Here’s a great video with some good tips on packing appropriately for a longer road ride without looking like a complete dork.
TOP TIP: Match your spare tube valve length to your wheels. If you only have 40mm stems and your wheels are 60mm deep… you might have an issue on your hands.
#2 Two Water Bottles. Always, always, always, always carry two water bottles unless you carry a camel-bak or are actually a camel. Especially in the south. Particularly in the summer. Hydration is arguably more important than changing a flat although, in some parts of the country, you could run out of water before you see someone to give you a lift if you can’t change your flat. On Sunday rides when some country stores are closed: you might even want to carry three water bottles – just in case. I don’t need to tell you to take electrolytes do I? …Do I??
TOP TIP: Top up your water bottles every chance you get, even if you only think you have 20 miles to go and all is well. You. Just. Never. Know. There’s no harm in the ‘extra weight’. If a water bottle matters that much – train harder.
#3 Carry More Food than you think you need. Running out of food is almost as bad as running out of water. Anyone that has attempted to pedal through a ‘bonk’ can attest to that. Going hypoglycemic on a ride can be a severe issue. Some days your body will need more fuel than others, so bring a little extra. Once you ‘bonk’ there is no magic that will save you other than more fuel for your body.
Another nice video by our favorites at Global Cycling Network about correctly fueling for rides so you don’t fall off of your bike or other embarrassing scenarios.
If one doesn’t ride outside of the city very often, some of these considerations might seem a bit much. Inside urban areas you are likely to find food, water, and transportation much easier – but this is not always the case when you leave the city. Also: if you train on your race bike, don’t forget to strap on your saddle bag after your race. This is also a common “Oopsy”. If you just cannot stomach the saddle bag then I hope you have expansive jersey pockets, you fashionista you.
TOP TIP: Make a bike kit bag that has a little bit of everything, including your saddle bag for your bike (so you won’t forget it) and make a part of your vehicle-packing routine when leaving for rides.
My bike duffel bag might actually have the Lost
Ark in there, I’m not sure. Everything from Band-Aids to baby wipes. Extra tubes, food, sunglasses, gloves, socks, sunscreen, chamois butter, and so on. It’s like a portable bike store! Point is: it goes in the car anytime that my bike goes and decreases the impact of those forehead slapping moments when we forgot to bring something.
I hope these points help you avoid some severe inconveniences in the future! As I ride by myself quite often, I am acutely aware of the need to be self-sufficient. However, it’s just good practice to have the bases covered, even if you are riding in a group. A little extra weight is just good training.
Ride On Friends!