Like the Boy Scout motto says, you must be prepared. It's easy to set
off on a bike ride, especially near your home, carrying nothing except
your wallet and keys. We've all done it from time to time. But even on
the shortest spin through the neighborhood or local park it's wise to
have a few items with you. Some riders carry all of the following items
on every ride, some carry only some of the items some of the time. But
each of these could prove to be a real lifesaver:
1) A helmet for your head. They don't call them "brain buckets" for
nothing. Don't get on your bike without one. Many parks require helmets
and the ones that don't, should. Just as you wear your seat belt when
you drive, wear your helmet when you ride. Make sure yours fits properly
and strap it on securely.
2) Food and water. Being hungry or thirsty spoils a good time, and it
can also turn into a potentially dangerous situation. Even if you aren't
the least bit hungry or thirsty when you start, you will feel completely
different after 30-60 minutes of riding. Always carry at least two water
bottles on your bike, and make sure they are full of fresh, clean water
when you head out. Add ice on hot days, if you wish. For a two- to
three-hour ride, 100 ounces of water is not overkill, especially in
summer. Many riders prefer to wear a bladder-style backpack hydration
system, which usually has extra room to carry a few snacks or car keys.
Always bring some form of calories with you, even if it's just a couple
of energy bars. If you carry extras, you'll be the hero or heroine who
gives them to a rider in need.
3) Cycling gloves and cycling shorts. These make your trip a lot more
comfortable. Cycling gloves have padded palms so the nerves in your
hands are protected from extensive pressure when you lean your upper
body weight on the handlebars. Cycling shorts have chamois or other
padding in the saddle area, and it's obvious what that does.
4) A map of the park or roads you are riding. Sometimes trails and roads
are signed, sometimes they're not. Signs get knocked down or disappear
with alarming frequency, due to rain, wind, or souvenir hunters. Get a
map from the managing agency of the park you're visiting; all their
names and phone numbers are in this book. For road rides, take along a
detailed AAA or other map for the region.
5) A bike repair kit. How much and which tools to carry is a great
subject of debate. If you're going to be farther than easy walking
distance from your car, at the very least carry what you need to fix a
flat tire. Great distances are covered quickly on a bike. This is never
more apparent than when a tire goes flat 30 minutes into a ride and it
takes two hours to walk back. So why walk? Carry a spare tube, a patch
kit, tire levers, and a bike pump attached to your bike frame. Make sure
you know how to use them.
6) Extra tools. Many riders also carry a small set of metric wrenches, allen
wrenches, and a couple screwdrivers, or some type of all-in-one bike
tool. These are good for adjusting derailleurs and the angle on your
bike seat, making minor repairs, and fidgeting with brake and gear
cables. If you're riding on dirt trails, carry extra chain lubricant
with you, or at least keep some in your car. Some riders carry a few
additional tools, such as a spoke wrench for tightening loose spokes, or
a chain tool to fix a broken chain.