Mechanical Load Outs

So we were talking about being self-sufficient, and your bare minimum load out.

Basic Load Out

So this is the minimum I take? But why?

The smallest amount of mechanical kit I carry on any ride!

Spare Tube

You are not going to stand on the side of a road and do an old school patch. I don’t even patch the tube when I get home, I chuck it. I don’t want to pull out a patched tube and find it won’t inflate 50 miles from home in the cold and wet. Carry spare tubes. If you’re on a massive epic multi-day ride or something, yes, take a patch kit and patch in the evening so you don’t have to find somewhere to buy another. But for day riding, new spare in the load out is essential.

CO2 Canister or Pump

CO2 is a really good way to quickly inflate your tube when you change it. They’re simple and fast to use, see a nice GCN Video Here.  I have a couple of different CO2 dispensers, as I have toolkits pre-loaded on two bikes. This is my favourite type as it has a twist valve to control the flow. Generally my basic load out is just CO2. You could carry a pump instead. But you need at least one or the other.

Tyre Levers

Depending on your rim and tyre choice, as well as your hand strength and experience, you can change a flat without tyre levers. But always best to carry them. Mine are integrated into my Multi-Tool.


I carry a Topeak Hexus II that I’ve had for years. It’s got integrated tyre levers, chain tool and hex bits for all my hex heads on the bike. It’s also got spoke tools that work on my spokes and a few other bits. I’ve not had a situation where it doesn’t do what I need yet. I suspect it may have been discontinued and replaced with the Hexus X now, which has a few more tools and is 3g heavier. If I was upgrading I’d be tempted to look at Leyzene products as they usually seem pretty nice.

Quick Link for your Chain

Combined with a chain breaker. This is helpful in the event you break your chain, which is possible even if you aren’t some super sprinter putting out thousands of watts. I’ve done it. And I’m not that powerful! It’s also helpful in a total rear mech disaster. Break and shorten the chain, re-linking with the quick link to make yourself a single speed bike and still be able to ride home.

Know What to do With Them

It’s no good carrying this kit and relying on someone else to use it for you. There are some things that may be beyond people, but, you should be prepared to tackle a few basic problems yourself, and to have a go with advice and support at others with this kit.

Deal with a Flat

You must know how to change your inner. You can practice this at home. There’s a few basic things that trip up people who’ve not done it before:

  1. Release the brakes (unless it’s a disc brake)
  2. Put the rear in the bottom cog to remove the rear wheel easily
  3. Make sure you check the tyre for the source of the flat and remove anything that’s sticking in it to avoid a fresh new puncture!
  4. Put some air in the new inner before stuffing into the tyre

These are the little non-obvious things it’s easy to trip up on. But you should have the technique at least basically right. It’s easy to try at home. GCN to the rescue again here.

Adjust Your Brakes

Vital to understand how to adjust your brakes. If something happens, wheel goes out of true, brakes are too loose etc on a ride you need to know how to slacken them off or tighten them up to keep you safe. A good GCN Video Here.

Adjust Your Gears

If you’ve got a minor issue with your shifting, tinkering on the road if you’re not experienced is likely to make it worse. However, in the event of some kind of accident or issue that means you can’t ride the bike without a bit of a fiddle, then again, GCN have some tips here.

Buckled Wheels

Of course our road surfaces are rubbish. SO it’s quite likely you could buckle a wheel out on a ride and that cause you issues getting home. You should be aware how to deal with that.

Expanding Your Kit

So if you’re out on a solo ride for a shortish distance, you might get away with one tube and one canister of CO2. If you’re out on a group ride, if everyone has a tube and a canister, then that might be enough for many more rides, until the ratio of remaining spare tubes and canisters in the group goes down.

If you’re out for a longer ride solo, or a longer group ride, at least one person needs to be carrying a pump. Either negotiate the pump carrier. Or always take a pump, assuming you’re the one person stops you or your friends from being stranded.

There are loads of good compact pumps on the market. Small for going in jersey pockets. You don’t need a huge pump the size of your top tube!

If I’m going on a 100 mile ride, I just add a few bits, two more inner tubes, some zip ties and a cafe lock. Sometimes I also take some more industrial tyre levers, as my particular tyre/rim combo can be hard work!

Zip ties can be used to bodge things that are hanging loose when the shouldn’t be. The Cafe lock gives you a tiny amount of safety when parking your bike up at the cafe. It’s not exactly super-safe, but, it might be enough to give you time to stop a thief or have a casual idiot not bother.

Carrying the Kit

The Velominati would have us believe under Rules 29-31 we shouldn’t use a saddle bag or mount our pumps on our frames and should stuff it all in our Jersey Pockets.

Well that’s a load of rubbish. Generally, if I’m out for a club ride on a Sunday or a shortish solo I use a small saddle bag for everything except pump and cafe lock, I stick the single tube, chain links, multitool etc in the bag and the cafe lock and pump in my jersey.

If I’m going further at short notice, I might shove another tube in the jersey pockets. I’m more likely to shift everything to the bigger saddle bag which has room for my full load out, except the pump. On one of my bikes I have a pump mount on the bottle cage. I’ve been too lazy to buy and fit another for the other bike!

This keeps my jersey pockets free for the other essentials, that aren’t tools.

Be Self-Sufficient

You may be riding as a group of friends, with a club or solo. In all cases you should be prepared to look after yourself in a wide range of mechanical and other eventualities. This means carrying a minimum amount of “stuff” with you to be ready to deal with those eventualities, as well as simple things like having a back-up plan if it goes fundamentally wrong. Like that time my rear wheel rim failed in the middle of The Peak District.

The load-out you’ll need to take will vary depending on many factors, like how far the ride is, how many are out, where you start and finish, what the time of year and day is. But there’s always a core basic minimum that you might need to expand on. It doesn’t matter if you’re solo or in a group, you should always have these things to deal with your own problems.

Basic Mechanical Essentials

Basically, never go for a bike ride without:

  1. Spare Inner Tube
  2. Something to inflate it with
  3. Tyre Levers
  4. Multi-tool including a chain breaker
  5. Quick Link for your Chain

My specific version of this load out is this:

The smallest amount of mechanical kit I carry on any ride!

See Mechanical Load Out for more.

Basic Life Essentials

So with the mechanical stuff, you’re going to want a few extra things, on every ride, no matter what:

  1. Mobile Phone
  2. Cash
  3. Other Payment


In case of an emergency you need to be able to contact people. That means a mobile phone. You may be an an area with no signal, the advantage in riding in a group is that with people over different mobile networks, the blackspot chance drop a bit. This doesn’t really need any further explanation.

But make sure you protect your phone! Mine is in a Tech21 Evo case, this has some magic drop protection in it. Combined with the Tempered Glass screen protector (Anker) I’ve not damaged the phone despite many nasty drops.

If your phone is not water proof, then it needs to go in at least a small plastic bag. You can get dedicated phone carrying pouches etc. But I generally go with a small sandwich bag and that’s always worked for me!

Make sure if you’re using your phone to record your ride, it also has enough battery power you can phone for assistance in an emergency!


Small remote shops and cafes don’t always take a card. Carry cash. Carry a £10 at least. Some cafes on club rides turn out to be expensive. And if you bonk and need an extra shop or cafe stop, being able to buy more food is critical!

Other Payment

So this is either a credit/debit card or in my case my phone set up for contactless payment. The later is a bit of a risk. There are still lots of places that will take a card but don’t do contactless. I’ll pay with my phone as much as possible and keep the cash as a reserve system. This also means I’m never carrying change if I can help it!

So far, I’ve not run into anywhere I’ve needed to fail over to cash because of the card vs contactless thing. But plenty of places where I’ve needed to go to cash over a card.


I’m not really sure anything else falls into this category, except something I carry as personal choice, which is a set of dog tags. These have my name, blood type and emergency contact details on. There are other options. I like these. I’ve had a couple of crashes, including one that caused memory loss. So I like the peace of mind that I have these on me.


If you’re going epic, you’re going to need to carry fuel in the form of something to eat and something to drink. I always carry at least a 500ml bottle of water and an emergency gel (or small pack of Harribo, thanks wiggle!) Just In Case of unexpected bonking. But what you carry and take on on a ride is a big subject all of it’s own! Just don’t forget to take something!

Road Ride Rules

As far as I’m concerned there’s a few rules you must follow as a road rider on the roads of the UK. And I’m not talking about The Rules. Or even The Highway Code. The later being a given and the former being a thing of personal choice.

But these rules really, really matter if you’re going epic.

  1. Be self-sufficient
  2. Have The Route
  3. Look after those you ride with
  4. Respect Others on the road and be an ambassador for Cyclists

To an extent, these rules are self-explanatory. Perhaps to a newer rider or someone stepping up to Epic Hilly Road Riding they could do with some clarifications and explanations.

  1. Be self-sufficient

You may be riding as a group of friends, with a club or solo. In all cases you should be prepared to look after yourself in a wide range of eventualities. This means carrying a minimum amount of “stuff” with you to be ready to deal with those eventualities, as well as simple things like having a back-up plan if it goes fundamentally wrong. Like that time my rear wheel rim failed in the middle of The Peak District.

The load-out you’ll need to take will vary depending on many factors, like how far the ride is, how many are out, where you start and finish, what the time of year and day is. But there’s always a core basic minimum that you might need to expand on.

If you want to know what that is, then read up on being self-sufficient here.

  1. Have The Route

Bottom line is you need to know where to go.

Now if you’re riding solo, or leading the ride and know exactly where you are going for the full ride, or are off to explore on our own (or with a group who are happy with that approach to navigation) then you have The Route. Otherwise you need to make sure you have The Route.

Typically, this means you’ve got the route file as a GPX or TCX and loaded it on your navigation device. But if you’re taking part in a planned group ride with a specific route, or an event, you must make sure that you have The Route.

If there are only a few people with the route and something splits a group, or someone has an accident, or a mechanical issue, you’ll be lost. If it’s your turn on the front and you don’t have The Route you could miss a turn.

You also ought to have some idea of The Route. Is it hilly? (It had better be!) Which are the interesting climbs? Where are they in The Route? Where is(are) the cafe stop(s)?

It’s just basically incredibly rude to not have The Route. It’s even ruder to not have The Route and constantly ask about The Route. It’s also a risk because if you are the one with a mechanical, and your group fails to respect rule 3 you could get dropped and left somewhere with no idea where you’re going! I’d be sympathetic to breaches of Rule 3 with regards to people who didn’t follow Rule 1 and Rule 2!


  1. Look after those you ride with

We all have good and bad days. Some days this means you’re plagued with mechanical issues, despite how well you maintain your bike. Some days you’re just “off” and can’t hold the pace. Other days you get your fuelling wrong and bonk. Some days you’re riding with stronger riders. Some days you’re the strongest rider.

Look after those you ride with. Give them a wheel to follow when they suffer. Drop the pace. Help when there’s a mechanical issue. Even if they’ve not followed Rule 1.

When riding in a line or two-up line, make sure you call out or indicate dangers, like the pot holes, grids and other obstacles. Call out when the junction is clear. Warn of cars up and down the line. Make sure the rider behind you is still on your wheel. Take your turn on the front. Rotate off rather than burn out.

If we all do that, the group works fast and efficient. No-one is broken and left behind. Mechanical issues are fixed quicker. This is key to good group riding. And good group riding is essential for going really epic.

  1. Respect Others on the road

Looking after those we ride with has a core of self-interest. If we look after them, they will look after us. But we also need to respect others on the road.

We all have an equal right to be safe on the roads. This will come from respecting other road users. There are some who are a risk to us, and we must respect that risk and protect ourselves from it. There are those to whom we are a risk, and we must respect that risk and do our best to protect them from it. It’s a bit do-unto-others style.

Yes, the car driver who yelled abuse as he did a close pass on a blind bend over a blind hill was an idiot. So was the horse rider who didn’t look before turning across your path. As was the dog walker who failed to control their over-excited and aggressive dog.

But so is the cyclist who jumps the red lights, rides on the pavement, sits in the blind spot of the lorry…

There are idiots on the road in every group of road-users giving that group of road users a bad name. That bad name spreads and people treat that group of road users as people who should not be on the road.

We must rise above that, we must follow the highway code, be safe and considerate of other users. Respect other users of the road. We must set that good example.

Because it might be another group of cyclists who get into an accident because we were the ones who did the stupid thing. And we don’t want that do we?

Setting Up Your Garmin for Navigation

You’d think once you have put the GPX/TCX file on your Garmin, you could just ride it right? Wrong. Unless you change a few settings, navigation is a bit sketchy, trying to route you random ways, down footpaths, all sorts of rubbish.

What you need to set depends on your device. If you have a device that supports maps, but only have the basemap and not the expensive Navigation Bundle. You can get free, legal, fantastic maps. See my post on free maps.

Garmin 605/705

  1. Turn off recalculate route, with this on it will shortcut you home. Which is the start. Which is a short ride as you’re already there!
  2. Turn on Settings -> Map -> Lock on Road to keep you on road.

Took me some time to crack that. I had fun for a while, but with that everything is fantastic.

Garmin 800/810

  1. Routing => Bicycle
  2. Guidance Method => On Road
  3. Lock on Road => No
  4. Recalculate => Off or Prompted

I don’t have an 800/810, so I am not 100% sure of this. So if you know better, let me know.

Garmin 1000

  1. Click the Settings Icon at the bottom of the home screen
  2. Select Activity Profiles then select your preferred profile
  3. Select Navigation, then select Routing
  4. Set Routing Mode to Road Cycling
  5. Set Calculation Method to Minimize Distance (though Minimize Time shouldn’t be too different)
  6. Ensure Lock On Road is set to On
  7. Select Avoidance Setup and make sure all options are disabled. Since we are loading pre-planned routes onto the Edge, we don’t want it recalculating the route on us if it thinks there may be a toll, highway etc.
  8. Set Recalculation to Disabled.

Garmin Touring

Don’t know, sorry 🙂

Garmin 500

It doesn’t do fancy navigation and maps, it just points an arrow. No further setup required.

Downloading and Copying Files to Your Garmin

First step is to download from the Strava Route page. This will have options for “Export TCX” or “Export GPX”. You probably want a GPX file, unless you know specifically your device requires a TCX file (Garmin 500, 510 for example) . Click on the right button and your browser will download the file to your disk.

Where it goes depends on your browser and set up. I prefer Google Chrome. In this case you get a little box in the status bar for the file you have downloaded:



Click on the drop down arrow and select the “Show in Folder” option. This will jump you straight to the file selected in Windows Explorer. You can then right click on the file and select “Copy” from the context menu.



With Internet Explorer, it’s similar, but you have to confirm you want to Save the file:


And then select Open Folder:


You then need to navigate to your Garmin. On the tree on the left side of Windows Explorer there should be a GARMIN device, if you plugin your Garmin via the USB cable.



Clicking into this should show your Garmin folder, and inside that, your GPX (Edge 605, 705) or NewFiles folder (Edge 500, 510, 800, 810, 1000, Touring, Touring Plus). Click into there and press Ctrl-V, or right click and select Paste to copy the file in.

That should be Job Done. However, some users find that clicking on the GARMIN device launches various Garmin software. This is irritating Windows Autorun features. Just close whatever it opens and hopefully it’s let you in. If not, on the left hand side, when you hover over the GARMIN device you should get some little expander arrows or plus signs.


Carefully click on these smaller icons to expand out the folder structure until you can see the GPX/NewFiles folder and click directly into that to paste.

And that really is job done.


Using Routes on a Garmin

This is just a quick guide to help people load routes onto their Garmin’s for successful cycling navigation.

  1. Get your device set up right
  2. Get a route onto the device
  3. Ride with the navigation enabled

You need to make sure the right options are set on your garmin, or you won’t get turn by turn direction and you’ll get all sorts off odd behaviour. It varies by garmin. I only have a 705. Important thing is to turn recalculate off on all garmins, or generally it finds the quickest way to the end. Which given most rides for us start and end in the same place makes for short, confused rides 🙂 You may also need to turn on “stay on roads” or whatever the option is.

For turn by turn directions, like a car satnav on a 705, 800 or 810, you need to use GPX files. Unfortunately, Garmin Connect downloads the TCX option to your device. Which is why I re-draw club routes on strava as that lets me export the GPX file. GPX files go in the GPX folder on your garmin when plugged in to your computer.

500 it seems gives your best navigation option with a TCX file.

To get a route on your device from Garmin Connect, make sure you:

  1. Install Garmin Express
  2. Visit the course
  3. Click send to device

It should then be on your device as a TCX.

If you want a file from Strava, Click Export, pick your device type and follow the instructions (use the GPX file unless you have a 500/510).

When riding, choose the route to navigate.

Now, bit vague with these instructions, but, there are more detailed Ride with GPS specific details on the Ride with GPS support pages here. I will try and improve the info here when I have more time. Grab me at the start of a Club run if you can and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do to help, or grab me on Facebook.

Free Garmin Maps

Many people ride with a Garmin GPS unit. Some people have Garmin Edge 500 or 510, these don’t provide a map display. Some people ride with a Garmin Edge 705, 800, 810 or 1000. These do support maps.

Some people with the map supporting Garmins do not have the maps as the Ordnance Survey map bundles are pricey. Some people aren’t taking the upgrade plunge because of the map price.

Fortunately, thanks to Open Street Maps, there are free suitable maps you can use. Frankly, it’s a bit confusing finding out what you need and how to use it.

So this is it boiled down for cyclists in the UK who want a “just get me mapping option”

  1. You need a MicroSD card to go in the Garmin. You may already have one. You only need a 1gb one for the maps I recommend.  An 8GB Sandisk high quality card is less than a fiver from Amazon
  2. You need to download the maps, I use and recommend Talkie Toaster’s UK Contour Routable maps and have ridden with them for years now. Download this file. Or if you know what you want look here.
  3. When you download the file, it’s a zip file, extract the file there should be a GMAPPSUP.img file in it. That’s what you want.
  4. Follow from Step II here.

You now have free maps on your Garmin.