10 Things I Never Leave Home Without
1. A Helmet. It’s the law in some places, but it’s a good idea everywhere. The chances of having a wreck on your bike are pretty low, the chances of being run off the road by a car are lower, but if either happens you’ll be glad you’re wearing a helmet. My motto is “Better safe than sorry” as far as a helmet is concerned.
2. A Plan. I’m not saying you have to be married to your predetermined route, but it’s a good idea to give someone else a general idea of where you’ll be and how long you’ll be gone. It also helps you stay motivated when you start to get tired if you know you only have 5 more miles to get home, especially if you’re riding hard. And the longer you plan to ride, the more things you need to consider in your route (water, bathrooms, stretch break, photo ops, etc).
3. Water. Your bike should be equipped with water bottle cages, or at least one. If you’re riding for more than half an hour, you should have water on your bike. If you’re planning to ride for more than an hour, you may need two bottles and a plan to stop to refill them somewhere along your route (see #2). I like to find places like a park where I can get to a water fountain and refill bottles for free.
4. Identification. In the unlikely and tragic event that you do get hit by a vehicle, it is a good idea to be able to tell emergency responders who you are, what allergies you have, your spouse’s contact information, and more–even if you’re unconscious. I highly recommend purchasing a Road ID. They make a great product, for not a lot of money.
5. A Spare Tube (or two). Whether you carry an extra tube, or a patch kit, sooner or later you will get a flat. You will also need some way to reinflate the new tube. There are plenty of great options for bike-mounted or pocket pumps and CO2 inflators. You should practice a few times removing your tire and replacing the tube before you get a flat in the middle of nowhere.
6. A Multi-Tool. There are many bike tools on the market. What tools you need versus what are out there can be quite different. Find one that is small enough to fit in your jersey pockets or your saddlebag but has all the tools you are likely to need. Most options will have the following: a chain tool, 4, 5, 6, 8 mm allen wrenches, and maybe tire levers. That will be all you need in most circumstances. Almost anything on your bike can be adjusted with those few tools.
7. Food. Again, if you’re planning a ride that will last longer than around an hour, you will need to carry or buy some food. There’s an entire segment of the prepackaged food industry devoted to us endurance athletes, and the options are practically endless. There are enough different products out there that practically every diet and taste can be satisfied with several choices, and most of them are pretty tasty. Same goes with hydration–water is one of a seemingly endless variety of drink choices in the endurance fuel industry.
8. Sunglasses. Not just for keeping the sun out of your eyes, but keeping everything else out, too. Bugs, wind, sweat, small dogs–all kinds of stuff gets in your eyes if you’re not careful.
9. A Cell Phone. I don’t recommend having a wireless headset so you can answer calls on the ride, just have your phone so you can call for help if you get in a jam. Nobody wants to do it, but anybody who has ridden 50 milers repeatedly has probably had to make the call of shame at least once (whether they admit or not).
10. A Saddle bag. You’re going to have a small collection of things to carry and you’ll need some place to carry them. Again, there are loads of options and bags of different colors and sizes to hold everything you need. Some are reflective, some have flashing lights for visibility, some are just solid black–the bag you want is out there.
This is a basic list of necessities. Not that you can’t ride your bike if you don’t have all ten things, but these are a good idea of things to get and take with you if you plan on riding regularly. Log enough miles and you’re bound to find yourself needing something on this list. Get out there and enjoy the ride in front of you! Chances are you won’t need anything on the list, but you’ll have what you need just in case