Packing for a Long Ride

By Lon Haldeman

If you’re planning a relatively short ride of less than two hours and aren’t venturing too far from home, you can get away without having to take along too many supplies. But if you’re planning a long day in the saddle — perhaps a 100-miler or a five-hour ride — then the list of things you should consider taking grows considerably to enhance your comfort, safety and enjoyment while out on the road or trail.

Before you head out for a one-day ride, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you start:

  • Are there any services along your planned route?
  • Is your route primarily rural or will you pass through an occasional town?
  • Do you need to carry all of your liquids and food, or can you purchase supplies along the way?
  • Have you maintained your bicycle recently?
  • Are your tires worn or do they have any nicks and cuts?
  • Is your chain lubricated and has your shifting been working properly?

All of these factors will make a difference on how much extra gear you will need to take with you.

What repair equipment should you bring with you on a long one-day ride? Good question.

Some riders are content to just bring a cell phone and call for help if they have trouble on the road, while other riders prefer to bring a full arsenal of tools and parts just in case they need something. Somewhere in between these two extremes of being under-prepared and over-prepared is a balance of supplies a typical recreational cyclist should consider packing along.

Here is a short list of basic things to take on every ride:

  • Multi-Tool with Allen wrenches and screwdrivers to fit every bolt on your bike. There are several good brands to choose from that also include tools to repair a broken chain.
  • Tire Levers: The thin steel ones that are smooth will not break and shouldn’t pinch inner tubes when prying off or installing tight-fitting tires.
  • Spoke Wrench: With so many new, different and unique spokes on the market, every rider should be responsible for his or her own brand of spokes. If you don’t know how to fix a spoke, you should learn. A broken spoke on a 14-spoke wheel makes your wheel useless. You should be able to fix your wheels well enough to get you home.
  • Spare Spokes: For the same reasons mentioned above, if you’re using unique spokes on a 14-spoke wheel, don’t plan to ride a broken spoke home or expect a riding partner to have a spare that fits your bike. Bring the size you need. You can tape them under your left chainstay so your friends won’t see them and tease you about being a worrywart!
  • Inner Tubes: One is usually enough for a 50-mile ride and you should bring two on a century. Make sure your valve stems fit the depth of your rims!
  • Patch Kit: When all your tubes fail or you need to repair a slice in your tire, it’s always nice to have a patch kit with you.
  • Frame Pump or CO2 Cartridge: For inflating your tires.
  • Water Bottles and Pocket Food: Depending on the services available to you along your route, make sure you have a source from which to drink at least one 16-ounce water bottle per hour of riding. With regards to food, a general assumption is that a rider should consume one calorie per hour for each pound of body weight (a 150-pound person should eat 150 calories per hour). That equation should get you through a one- or two-hour ride or if you ate a meal before you left, but the longer the ride, the more calories you will need to consume. For rides nearing 100 miles, a 150-pound rider needs about 300 calories per hour. There is no short answer for this formula and everyone is different, but it’s safe to take along a snack for each hour of riding (a granola bar, energy bar or gel, banana, pack of Fig Newtons, trail mix, etc…)
  • First Aid: Road rash can generally be treated by supplies from the mini-mart – soap and water and gauze. Best to bring along a cell phone and call 911 if severe injuries occur.
  • Proper Clothing: Check the weather and terrain. You could be hot climbing a mountain grade, but the ensuing descent will be chilly. A waterproof windbreaker, arm and leg warmers, gloves and something to cover your ears could save you if the day calls for changeable weather. All of the tools and food items listed above should easily fit inside your jersey pockets or a small seat bag.

Here are some additional items you may want to pack away for that special one-day event:

  • Spare Shift Cable: If you have Campagnolo or Shimano levers, be sure to cut off the end you don’t need and put a crimped cable end on it to stop the wires from fraying in your seat bag.
  • Duct Tape: 18 inches ought to do, wrapped around your seatpost. Useable for roadside repairs and patching tires. You might not use it for two years, but someday you’ll need it!
  • Chain Tool: If your multi-tool doesn’t have one.

The list for things to bring with you on a long ride could expand as you worry about all the possible problems you could encounter out on the road. Unless you are crossing remote regions, you can usually find a way not to be stranded if your bicycle breaks. Remember that for every ten pounds you add to your bike, your average speed for 50 miles decreases by only one m.p.h. Also, having a working knowledge of how to repair your bicycle will improve your confidence and help you understand how to fix your bike with limited tools.


About Lon Haldeman

Lon has raced and toured across the United States more than 50 times. In 1982 he was the first cyclist to race across the United States in less than ten days. His fastest coast-to-coast record is seven days, 14 hours, averaging 383 miles per day. Lon currently leads full-service, 25-day tours across the country as part of Pacific-Atlantic-Cycling Tours ( He teaches roadside repair classes as the “Organic Mechanic” by fixing bikes with roadside junk. Lon also leads mountain bike tours in Peru.