QUESTION: What should I pack for a 50- to 100-mile bike club ride? I’m comfortable doing short rides of 25-30 miles, but a friend has invited me to join him for some weekend club rides that are longer. I don’t want to show up unprepared, but I don’t want to load up with more than I need. —Albert H.
RBR’S STAN PURDUM REPLIES: I assume you’re asking about equipment, food, clothing and personal items.
Regarding equipment, if you are running tubed tires, it’s wise on any ride to carry a couple of extra tubes, and something to inflate them with — either a minipump or a CO2 inflator with two cartridges — as well as tire levers and a small multi-tool. If you are running tubeless tires, you should add tire plugs to that list and drop one of the tubes (but keep one as a “just in case” you get a flat you can’t fix in any other way). These items can be carried in an under-the-seat wedge bag or in a handlebar bag.
One nice thing about club rides is that if you do have a mechanical issue with your bike, other riders will often stop with you to help you deal with it.
For food, the nature of club rides is that they may not take breaks as often as you want to munch, so having some quick energy boosters you can eat on the bike, stored where you can access them easily, is useful. I favor fig bars and, especially in hot weather, pretzels (for salt replacement) but there are all manner of energy bars and gels available. I keep them in a top tube bag where I can reach them while pedaling.
For liquid, on hot days, I fill one insulated bottle with a diluted sports drink and ice, and I put ice water in a thermos bottle with a sipper top that fits in a water bottle cage. I drink from both bottles as needed, but usually consume the sports drink first since the ice melts faster in the insulated bottle than in the thermos.
On longer club rides, it’s not uncommon for there to be a planned stop for coffee and snacks or even a meal. One club I rode with had a route dubbed “the apple-fritter ride,” which had a midpoint stop at an Amish bakery where enormous apple fritters and other pastries were available. Most likely, you’ll know before you start if the ride you’re joining has such a stop, and if they do, that will likely reduce the amount of food you need to carry on the bike. And you’ll also be able to refill your water bottles at those locations. Some group rides might instead have a shorter, more informal stopping point at a convenience store or gas station, which allows you to just run in and buy anything you need.
Long club rides often mean that you need more clothing in the cool morning than you do in the warm midday, so look for items you can wear and then store on the bike or in the pockets of your jersey when you remove them. I have sleeves that go in my seat bag when I take them off, and a windbreaker that stuffs down small enough to go in a jersey pocket.
Personal items include stuff like sun cream (which may need to be reapplied at a stop), any meds you require and items that matter personally to you. In the latter category, some riders like to have a few individually wrapped handy wipes stuffed in a pocket or in one of their pouches. I know a rider who feels that he must floss his teeth after any eating, and so he always has a dental floss dispenser with him on the bike. He even keeps an “emergency” length of floss in his wallet. I’m not criticizing him. To each his or her own. But carry what you need to be comfortable on the ride.
Of course, you’ll also want your phone and a wallet or some arrangement to carry some cash and ID and the number of who to contact in an emergency, plus whatever medical alert info you may require.
Readers, is this too much stuff? Or did I leave something out? What’s your 50 to 100 mile group ride packing strategy?
Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. Stan, a freelance writer and editor, lives in Ohio. See more at www.StanPurdum.com.