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.

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

Phone

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!

Cash

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.

Extras

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.

Fuel

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!