There are some things that you simply shouldn't ride without. Being well equipped will help you stay out of trouble and get home safe. These are eleven essential items you should always carry in your bag or jersey pocket to make sure you don't get caught out.
We can try and avoid them with puncture resistant tyres or self-healing inner tubes, but punctures do happen despite our best efforts. It pays to be prepared so you don't get stranded with a flat tyre in the middle of nowhere. Get kitted out right and punctures don't have to be as much of a hassle. A puncture repair kit will allow you to mend a punctured inner tube with adhesive patches so you can re-inflate the tyre and get rolling again.
Punctures can sometimes be too big to patch and you should always carry at least one spare inner tube in case this happens.
Many riders choose to save time by simply swapping a punctured tube for a fresh spare while out on the bike and saving the repair until they get home. You should always carry a repair kit with you as well in case you puncture multiple times and run out of spares.
Tyre levers are an essential tool used to remove the tyre from the wheel rim and access the inner tube inside. They are often included in puncture repair kits but not always, so it worth checking.
It's no good fixing a puncture if you have no way to re=inflate the tyre! A mini pump will allow you to do just that. Mini pumps, unlike track pumps designed for home or workshop use, are small and light enough to carry with you on the bike. Many come with fittings so you can mount them to your frame. You can also carry them in your jersey pocket or rucksack.
One option to help you get back on your bike quicker after a puncture is a CO2 inflater. These small devices release gas from compressed CO2 canisters to inflate your tyre in seconds with no pumping required. They also smaller and lighter than a mini pump, helping save valuable space and weight in your pockets or bag.
Mini tools are handy items that combine a staggering array of different tools into one small package. You can pretty much build an entire bike from scratch with just a mini tool. While you shouldn't need to do that while out riding, it does mean that if anything should go wrong on your bike, if anything needs tightening or adjusting, the humble mini tool will probably be up to the job.
A chain tool is a vital piece of kit for putting your chain back together should it snap mid-ride. Some mini tools include a chain tool but take one separately if yours does not. Some riders prefer separate chain tools because they find them easier to use whereas others prefer the simplicity of having them on a mini tool with everything else.
Like with any high intensity sport, it is important to keep fully fueled while cycling. If you don't, you will experience what cyclists call 'bonking': total fatigue that can be enough to stop you riding all together. Experts suggest that we feed ourselves as often as every 20-30 minutes while riding to maintain peak performance, which can be tricky when you're riding hard.
Luckily, there is a wealth of different energy bars, energy gels and jelly sweets designed for easy use on the bike. Specially formulated to deliver the correct balance of carbohydrates and minerals, they are increasing produced with a focus on natural ingredients to make them tastier and easier to digest during intensive exercise. They fit nicely into jersey pockets or rucksack hip pouches for easy access while riding so you don't even have to stop to refuel.
Staying hydrated is also important while cycling and fluid intake can be as much as 1 litre per hour in hot weather. It is essential that you carry drink with you, either with water bottles in frame-mounted bottle cages or in a rucksack hydration system.
Water is adequate for shorter or lower-intensity rides, but if you riding longer and harder, you will want to use a sports drink. Hydration isn't just about replacing water lost through sweat but also electrolytes and minerals. Sports drinks help replace these as well to keep you fully hydrated and performing at your best. Fail to stay hydrated and you can suffer from severe cramps.
Some sports drinks also include carbohydrates to help you stay topped up with energy if you are struggling to get enough with solid food. These energy drinks are particularly useful for races when you'll often be riding too hard to eat enough.
Road riders tend to prefer using water bottles. With their focus on lightweight and aerodynamic gear, they find hydration packs too heavy and bulky. Hydration packs also prevent road riders from easily accessing food or clothing stored in the jersey pockets on their backs. Although many hydration packs do have quick-access pockets on their hip belt and shoulder straps, they are not convenient to use in a hunched-over road riding position.
On the other hand, water bottles are not as practical for mountain bikers as they can fall out of bottle cages on rough off-road terrain. Many mountain bikers also find that the extra weight of water on their frame impairs their bikes' handling and they prefer to carry the weight on their backs in a hydration pack. Mountain bikers also benefit from the increased capacity of hydration packs since they are less likely to pass cafés at which they can refill bottles like road riders.
Here is the UK, there's rarely a day when we don't risk getting rained on at some point. With a lightweight packable waterproof in your jersey pocket or rucksack, that needn't be such a miserable prospect and it certainly shouldn't stop you getting out on your bike!
It can be very difficult to keep riding once you get cold and wet. The power seems to drain from your legs and your arms just don't feel like they're up to keeping control over the bike. If you are prepared for the weather and carry a waterproof, however, you'll have made it that bit easier to get back home and have a nice warm shower.
Most of us never normally leave the house without our phones any more, and a bike ride shouldn't be any different. If you crash and damage your bike - or yourself - too badly to ride any further, you need to be able to call for a ride home. Whether that's your parter, your parents or a taxi, having a phone with you could save you a long and miserable walk home. If you or one of your friends crashes seriously, having a phone to call the emergency services might even be the difference between life and death.
If you are forced to get a taxi home, you'll need money to pay for it. But even if you've got a ride home sorted, it's a good idea to take some cash in case you need to pick up some extra food or drink. A cake or flapjack from a shop will give you that extra boost needed to get you home if you're feeling tired towards the end of a ride. Sitting in a café with a hot cup of coffee will do wonders if you're feeling cold. They might seem minor, but little things like that can make all the difference and it's well worth taking some money with you in case you need them.
Puncture Repair Kit
Spare Inner Tubes