If you are going on an all-day cycling trip, you face several challenges. One is knowing what to (and in some cases not to) take with you. There is only so much you can carry, after all, before it literally slows you down.
Here are some things you should always take with you:
- Spare tube, mini-pump or Co2, and tire levers. Because sooner or later, on some ride, you will get a flat. It happens to all of us. If you're going somewhere remote, consider taking two spare tubes. Make sure everyone on the ride carries their own. Mini-pumps are easier and lighter to carry, but you might consider a frame pump if you have space, as they will fill the tire much faster.
- Gloves. Even if you don't normally ride with gloves, always take a pair. If the temperature drops, if you get a blister, or if you have to fix a flat (Gas canisters get very cold if you use them), you will be glad you had them.
- A good multi-tool, including Allen keys and a chain breaker. Get one that is intended for cyclists, and is lightweight. Some of these tools will let you fix anything, but those tend to be heavier. For a full day trip, especially in remote areas, it's worth taking a larger tool.
- If possible, a strip from an old tire, especially with heavier road or mountain bikes. Sometimes you need to patch with more than just an inner tube.
- A small first aid kit. There are special first aid kits designed for cyclists available. Make sure you get one with a waterproof pouch and look at the contents. Work out how you will restock it in the future. Some people prefer to design their own first aid kits.
- Sunscreen and insect repellent. Because you will end up needing at least one of these, and probably both. Make sure that you reapply sunscreen a couple of times during the ride. Most sunscreens only last about three to four hours.
- Rain jacket and pants. A lightweight waterproof jacket and pants are a good idea. Get actual cycling pants. Regular rain pants from an outdoor store can be too loose and may catch on the chain. Some cycling tights are also waterproof.
- Money and credit card. Just in case.
- A flashlight. Even if you don't plan on being out after dark, the best laid plans can go awry if there is an accident. A small LED flashlight is better than relying on the flashlight function on your phone, which will drain its battery very quickly.
- Electrical tape and/or duct tape. Handy for making quick, jury-rigged repairs. If you don't have much space or weight, then wrap a smaller piece of duct tape around a pencil.
- Chain lube and a rag. Always inspect and lubricate your chain before the trip, in any case.
- Plastic zip ties. Again, very useful for jury-rigging repairs.
- Sunglasses. Good for protecting your eyes both from the sun and from road dust. Or performance glasses if you have them.
- The phone number of an emergency contact, in case you end up unconscious in the hospital. We all hope this will not happen, but...
- Snacks - trail mix, energy bars, etc. Whatever will keep you going. Some riders prefer gels. Be aware that if you use caffeinated gels or energy bars, you may dehydrate yourself.
- Enough water for the trip, especially if going off road. Water bladders are often lighter than bottles. If you are prone to getting particularly thirsty, consider adding powdered electrolytes to your water bottles. Two bottles is right for most people, especially if you know you will not have a chance to refill.
- A map. Even if you have the route in your phone's GPS. GPS will go out or batteries die at the most inopportune moment. Take a map and mark your route on it.
- A solid, rugged case for your cell phone, just in case of an accident. Your phone will break before you do in the event of a wreck. And yes, do take your phone.
- Arm warmers. Lighter than an extra shirt and will get your arms just as warm. Plus, they are much easier to take off and you may be able to do so without stopping, with some practice.
- About that phone, bring an extended battery pack. Most of these do not weigh very much, and some double as flashlights. You could also get a lightweight crank charger, which can let you charge enough to call 911 if all else fails. Those are handy to have if you do any overnight trips, in any case.
Is there anything you should not bring? A key part of a day trip is traveling light. Although you should always bring rain gear, use your discretion on extra clothing. Real food is a luxury for some and a necessity for others, depending on where you are going. Take into account your route. If you are striking off into a rural area, then you may want to pack lunch. If your route happens to put you somewhere with a nice cafe, then you can probably avoid food and drop down your water to one bottle from two. Ultimately, you should test your bike fully laden to make sure you are not carrying too much.
Which brings us to how to pack. This is actually a major debate. Some road riders like to restrict themselves to only what they can carry in the pockets of their jerseys. However, most people will find this is not enough.
The two options for heavier loads are a small backpack - get one that is balanced for cycling - or panniers. If you use panniers, then bear in mind they may unbalance your bike. A handlebar bag is a good idea, but never put more than 8 pounds of weight in it or you will start to unbalance your bike forward and this may cause some real problems. Put stuff you need to access quickly in your jersey or your handlebar bag so you can get to it without stopping. Have at least one bottle of water in your cage, again, so you can get to it without pulling over. You should never be denying yourself water on the road!
Finally, make sure you are ready for your trip. Check your tire pressure, lubricate your chain and do a full inspection of your bike. Test the weight and balance of your load on a short ride. And always wear your helmet.