Don't Leave Home Without It: Answers to the Question "What should I bring on a ride?"

By : edurkee · August 11, 2009

The Square Lake Film Festival is coming up on Saturday the 15th! Not only is this exciting because it's a really big biking event, the group ride out on Saturday morning is probably the first long ride for many people. Before you leave your house on Saturday morning, or any morning for that matter, and ride off into the sunrise or sunset, here are some things that you should probably always have on you whether you're riding 2 miles or 200 miles.

This list is based on what I personally carry in my bag or have in the past wished I had when the time came to fix a flat on the side of the road.

1. A Wrench

2. Hex Wrench Multi-Tool

3. Tire Levers (2)

4. An extra Tube

5. A Shim (Square or circle of flat rubber. This comes in handy for blow-outs or large holes in the tire.)

6. Some way to fill that extra tube (Either CO2 Cartridge and attachment or a frame pump. Make sure you know how to use them before you need them!!)

7. Your Lights- Front and Back (Don't get caught in the dark)

8. Water

9. ID

10. Phone

11. Bus Fare

A while ago, after getting a long screw in my back tire, still 5-6miles out from downtown on the North side of Minneapolis, I had to change my tire by the side of the road in 90 degree weather. Luckily, I had just added a new tube and CO2 Cartridge to my little bag of tools and had everything I needed to change the tube, shim the huge hole in the tire, and go on my way. I did, however, have to call my partner and get instructions on how to fill my tire with the high pressure cartridge because, while I had seen it, I'd never done it before. I've switched to carrying a tiny tiny inefficient pump in my bag because eventually CO2 gets expensive. You get the gist. Stay calm, it only gets easier with experience.

When you are going on a short ride or commuting, I would recommend bringing a backpack with you. If you are like me, you also like to have your books and computer, etc. etc. However, if you are going on a long ride (say, over 15 miles) I would highly recommend both bike shorts and a jersey with back pockets or a very light bag. Don't make riding any harder for yourself.

Make sure you have a water-bottle and cage on your bicycle so you can still carry water and fill up those pockets with only the necessary. Tools for changing a flat and your pump or CO2, your ID, some cash, a credit card in case you need to go to a shop and buy a replacement for something major, and a snack that is easy to eat while you are riding (trust me, getting a low blood-sugar attack at mile 20 only means tears and is perhaps the easiest thing to avoid, unlike that random flat or wipe-out on a bad road.) And above all, bring your phone. The last thing you want is to be completely stranded in the middle of nowhere and no-one knows where you are. Catching a bus to the nearest shop or getting a ride from a well-meaning stranger is not always possible and not always, in the case of the stranger, a good idea.

I never leave the house without my tools and a tube. What do you bring with you when you ride?

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Thanks for the great list! My list is longer, but I swear it doesn’t seem like I carry that much stuff! I just thought I’d throw this out there- maybe it will help someone else who is trying to figure out the details of what to pack on a commute. When I commute to work I pack my bag the night before and I actually have a list that I keep in my bag that has the following items:

1. Tools (Includes your suggestions of a wrench, plus I have a Park multi-tool with hex wrenches, a screwdriver, knife.)
2. Tire (Includes extra tube, tire levers, patch kit)
3. Pump
4. Lock (+keys!)
5. Lights (Never leave home without them!)
8. Water
9. Helmet and gloves
10. Work stuff- Clothes, lunch, ID badge
11. Bus fare
12. Small tube of sunscreen
Not on the list, but I always carry: My wallet, sunglasses, chapstick, phone, bus fare, tiny first aid kit, tissues or a hankie, big ziplock bag- just in case I get caught in the rain I can throw my electronics in the bag, MAP.

Backpack, panniers

I used to put all of these things in a backpack for my commute to work. My backpack has handy side pockets that I can reach while riding, and I would keep my sunglasses and phone in there for easy access. This worked fine for riding 3 times a week into work for about 3 months. I finally got tired of having all of that weight on my back and bought a set of panniers. Much easier on my back, although there is more room available in the panniers so I really have to fight the temptation to put more heavy junk than I need in there! The panniers were definitely a good purchase, but I did get by just fine with the backpack. On swimming trips to the lake or riding to BBQs or shooting around trails I will take the backpack, because panniers can be awkward to carry around in some situations.

CO2 vs. hand pump

I would like to add some info about pumps here, if you don’t mind. You probably can’t get your tire up to full pressure with a hand-pump style pump, but I would strongly urge against CO2 cartridge pumps in most situations. Even though the cartridges are usually recyclable, they are one-use which is pretty wasteful (especially considering the price). You also can’t use them to top off a tire, and if you don’t know how to use them you can go through a few of them before you get your tire inflated. Of course they are probably a good choice if you are racing or something like that because they are lighter and easier to stow, but for riding around town I would recommend the Topeak Road Morph G Bike Pump. Reliable, mounts to the frame! My two cents.
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