Riding in a group is the best way to improve your cycling ability, fitness and sense of fun. The level of support you get from the ride leader and other cyclists is huge, allowing you to go further, faster and higher without fear of getting stuck or lost. Whilst you benefit from the support of others however, there are certain things you should take with you on a group ride.
Every cyclist is a little bit different, so what they take on a ride can be personal to them, but there are a few staples that you should carry on a ride. Having a ride leader or friend to help you fix a puncture is great, but you don't want to be borrowing all the bits from them too!
We have included links to all products below to illustrate exactly what we mean, and to help you shop. We have used links to our partners as club members get 20-50% off. Find out about joining the club here.
It's worth noting that this blog doesn't take adverse weather conditions into consideration. Please check out our blog on the winter kit you actually need to deal with adverse weather conditions.
1. Puncture Repair Equipment
Being able to actually fix a puncture with a patch is a great skill to have, but not the sort of thing you want to be doing at the side of the road. It's time consuming, fiddly and often doesn't work. Replacing the whole inner tube is a much more sensible option. Again, the beauty of riding in a group is that if you don't know how to replace a tube then someone in the group will, but you will need to have a replacement inner tube with you to do so.
First thing's first - you need to know what size and sort of tyres your bike has, so that you're carrying the correct tubes. If you have the wrong tube type it won't fit in your tyre and will be completely useless. This information is written on the side of the tyre and the tube, but a much easier option is to go into your local bike shop or Cycle Republic branch and ask them to tell you. Note it down on your phone so you know for future, and buy a couple of spare tubes in that size whilst you're there so you're stocked up.
2. Water & Energy Snacks
"Bonking" is the official cycling term for running out of energy (seriously). Sometimes you can't avoid bonking, but the best way to do so is to keep eating and drinking throughout the ride. As standard we'd recommend having two water bottles on your bike (attached with bottle cages) and that you drink little and often. Some riders like to use 'electrolyte tablets' in their water to replace salts. Again this is up to you, but we'd recommend having one water and one electrolyte if you do decide to do this.
How much a rider needs to eat is fairly personal, but we'd always recommend bringing at least a couple of energy bars/snacks on a ride, and double that if it's a very long ride. What you eat is totally up to you - energy bars, bananas, peanut butter sandwiches - one member even once brought a chicken burger on a long ride once! It takes a bit of experimenting during your training rides to find out what works for you, but once you know then you can stick to that and work out the quantities you need to fuel through a ride.
Unless you have a real hankering for sweet sticky goo - stay away from energy gels. This is entirely personal, but they give you a short term lift (and subsequent crash) and are just a quick fix. If you really want to use them, keep them for the very end of your ride as an 'emergency'.
3. An Extra Layer
If you happen to be riding in the south of France in July, maybe leave the extra layer at home. But in the UK, even in July, an extra layer is a must. A lightweight jacket or gilet is perfect as it will offer you a surprising amount of warmth and you an roll it up and put it in your back pocket (see below) on those gloriously sunny occasions.
You can realistically use anything as your extra layer - a fleece, t-shirt, down jacket etc - but it's worth investing in a cycling specific layer, as they have been designed with exactly this in mind, and it will make your life easier.
4. Cash & Card
Maybe a very obvious one, but never leave the house without both. You may not be surprised to hear that the further away from an urban area you get the more likely you are to find a cafe or shop that doesn't take card. So stick a fiver or a tenner in your pocket (coins are heavy remember) for that all important coffee stop. You don't want to be the person scrounging for change from your ride mates!
Unless you make a habit of carrying large amounts of cash on you, you'll also need a credit or debit card. Even on the most gentle of rides, the mechanic gremlins can strike at any time, ending your ride early. This is no big deal, it happens and it's pretty easy to just jump on a train home (or worst case get a taxi). It's not so great if you can't pay for it though. The good news is that cards are very light, so no extra pounds to carry!
The humble muti-tool has saved so many rides it doesn't bear thinking about leaving home without one. They vary hugely in price size and style. Cousin of the famous Swiss Army knife, the multi-tool has many attachments and gadgets to fix various bits on your bike. Like a Swiss Army Knife, the more you spend the more gadgets you get. However, a basic '10 piece' multi-tool will usually suffice for most road side repairs.
We would recommend getting a multi-tool with a good selection of allen keys (sometimes called hex keys), a flat and phillips screwdriver and a chain splitter. You might not know how to use all of these right now, but someone on the ride will, and you'll learn over time.
From The Twittersphere:
We took to Twitter to ask the cycling community for there thoughts, and below are a snap shot of the best, the weirdest and a the most fun!
Cafe lock, ID, small square of old tyre, sweets (Haribo mostly), reading glasses, disposable gloves, chain link, cable ties, spare contact lenses, suncream, lip balm...
As you can see there are loads of options, and we include the above so you can see what others carry. Don't worry too much about bringing all of these things, as said before, these are the persona items carried by more experienced riders. You'll soon work out what you need/want to carry, and this list will get even longer!
But How Do You Carry It All?
Well you may ask, and at first that seems like a load of stuff to bring on a ride. Carrying a backpack is one option, but it's much nicer cycling without one. We would recommend investing in a cycling specific jersey with rear pockets and also a medium sized saddle bag. A saddle bag is a small pack that attaches to the bottom of your saddle, like below:
You can fit all of the above into jersey pockets and a medium sized saddle bag and you'll be much more comfortable than wearing a backpack, leaving you free to enjoy your ride!
Packing your rear jersey pockets is a skill all of its own, but it can be learner. Check out this GCN video on how to pack your jersey pockets to get started.
So there you have it - the main essentials you need to carry on a group ride. Over time you will start to work out what tools you like, what gilet fits best in your jersey pocket and maybe that you don't even want to carry a saddle bag. That's up to you, but when you're starting out this a good guide to what to carry.
All of the links above are to our partners Cycle Republic, as you can shop online and in store (it's always recommended to try kit on, get a feel for the size and weight of the tools and speak to knowledgeable staff. Also Dirty Wknd club members get 20% off online and in store. Become a member and cash in!