Way back in the 80s when I first started riding and racing, I was taught to be self-sufficient on the road. That meant always having a tube or patch kit, tire levers and a multi-tool in my seat bag along with a frame pump. This was not just practical advice, it was also important to avoid wasted training days having to walk a flat tire home or having to end a ride due to something that was easily adjusted if I had the right tools. The only rides without the seat bag and pump were races.
These days, I still never ride without pretty much everything I need to avoid having to head home early or worst of all, having to call for a ride.
Even if you are doing a fully supported ride with a sag vehicle, it is a good idea to be self-sufficient. What if the sag wagon gets delayed by another rider, or what if you end up separated from the group?
All that being said, having the tools and parts is only the start. Knowing how to do the basic on the road fixes like swapping out a tube or making small adjustments to your bike is just as important. I have seen more than one rider with their bike upside down on the side of the trail pondering how to get their rear wheel out.
The title of this piece is “Ride over prepared” and what I mean by that it is a good idea to actually carry more than you need. I carry 2 tubes because I have given away countless tubes to stranded riders who were not prepared. I carry a frame pump versus a CO2 cartridge because I never know how many tires will need to be inflated. It is great to stop and help someone but at the same time you don’t want to become the stranded rider a few miles down the road.
Most of the time, when you see someone on the side of the road making a repair, they do not need your help, but there is no cost in offering. When I see someone stopped on the side of the road, my standard question is “Do you have everything you need?”. I may have it or I may not, but it can’t hurt to ask. And rarely has lending a hand ever taken more than a few minutes.
So why should you worry about being prepared to fix someone else’s problems? Here are a few reasons. Pick the one(s) that make sense to you.
- If you have ever been stranded, you can empathize with any other stranded rider.
- If you believe in Karma, or what goes around comes around, you can think of it as protecting yourself from being stranded and potentially losing a training day.
- It makes you feel good to help someone.
- It really does not take that much time and you can decide that you have to ride harder to make up for the time you spent lending a hand, so you might get some higher intensity training time.
- It can reflect positively on your team sponsors if you are riding in your team kit.
- Even an offer to help someone who looks in need can undo all the times someone passes them on the trail without announcing.
Ride over prepared for problems you might have and even issues your fellow two wheel traveler might have.
FWIW – This is what I have with me on every non race ride.
- Seat bag (5.5x3in when stuffed)
- 2 tubes
- 2 tire levers
- 1 multi tool with allen keys and screw drivers to fit everything on my bike and shoes.
- Small pack of speed patches (Just in case).
- Latex gloves to keep my hands clean.
- Silca Frame pump with steel head. (not in the seat bag)
B.J. Basham is a Peaks Coaching Group Master Coach and lives in Fairfax, Virginia