This article mainly focuses on what to carry for a long day in the saddle. We’ll assume you’ve done your training, your bike is ready and you’ve done suitable carbo loading the night before.
Firstly I’ll say there are plenty of ways to prepare but this is just from my experience having done the 165km, the 207km event and this year I’ll be doing the 250km.
For starters, don’t over dress, it might be cold in the morning but the last thing you want is to be carrying an extra long sleeve jersey for a hundred kilometres. Better to go with a gillet and arm warmers. Arm warmers can be tucked away in a pocket and you can leave the gillet on, unzipped.
So what will I be carrying?
- Sunscreen – Obvious I know, but it is amazing how many people forget it and on a sunny day, 8 to 10 hours in the sun is a long time and it won’t be your muscles that are the only sore thing at the end of the day if you forget it. Also from past experience it doubles as a chain lube in an emergency.
- CO2 Cartridges – This is a bit of an optional extra but if you are stickler for riding at the correct pressure, this is going to be the easiest way to get your tyres back up to pressure after a puncture without carrying a floor pump.
- Pump – Should be a standard item but I have seen people, especially on the shorter rides leave without one.
- Or new for 2012, you can combine the two, Topeak have a released a pump called a called a two timer, which combines a CO2 dispenser and a pump.
- Two Tubes – Never hurts to have an extra spare, just make sure you get the right valve type and valve length. If you are using deep rim wheels it might pay to carry a valve extender, just in case you need to borrow a tube from a fellow rider.
- Adhesive tube repair patches – These are a great backup to carry if you are having a really bad day with punctures. They can also to used to patch a tyre, in case you are unfortunate enough to slash a tyre.
- Multi-tool with chain breaker– I carry a Park Tool IB-3, I carried it for three years without ever using it, but the day I snapped my chain 50km from home I was pretty happy I had it. Also make sure it has 4 and 5 mm Hex (Allen) key, as these are the most common bolts on your bike.
- Spare chain pin or a Missing link – While the prospect of breaking a chain is remote, if you do it is a bit of a game stopper. Spare chain pins or a missing link take up very little space so it doesn’t hurt to carry them.
- Tyre levers – Another obvious one, but just covering all bases here.
- M4 & M5 Hex (Allen) bolts – These are the most common bolts on your bike and can be really useful if you lose a bolt on your water bottle cage during the ride. Once again, they are very light and small so it doesn’t hurt to have a couple stashed away for emergencies.
- Small bottle of chain lube – Just in case you get caught in the rain for an extended period of time and the lube gets washed away. Being soaked through is bad enough without having to listen to your chain squeaking or grinding away. Finish Line make a great small 2oz bottle, which can be easily stowed away without taking up to much space.
- Mussette & Saddle Bag – My personal preference is to carry my food in a mussette, spares and tools go in the saddle bag. A medium size saddle bag will easily take all the kit listed above. I like using a mussette because it is light, as the day wears on and you have eaten your food you can just tuck the mussette in your back pocket. Backpacks weigh more and tend to leave you sweaty. With the mussette I’ve made slight modification which ensures the it will stay firmly on your back without swinging around to the front. Simply get a length of old bike tube and pin it to the corner of mussette. Then the other end ties around the front to keep it secure.
- MP3 Player – I know there are safety issues using these on a bike but 8 to 10 hours on the bike can be boring and some motivational tunes might help you get through the day.
While most supported rides such as Fitz’s Challenge supply food, don’t count on it. Firstly you might not like it, I’ve never been a fan of fruit cake and if you are a slower rider, chances are they might have run out by the time you get to the checkpoint. Better to keep your destiny in your own hands and carry some food. As to what to carry, well that is a bit of a personal choice but just make sure it is easy to eat and high in energy.
- Lollies – I know some people are a fan of lollies like snakes, personally I find they give you a bit of sugar rush and then you crash from the high.
- Power Bars I know they are favourite but I find them expensive and not really satisfying. Around lunchtime you are going to want something substantial and energy bars are not going to cut it.
- Sandwiches – I have a preference for simple sandwiches made with low GI bread and chocolate spread. This gives me short term energy from the chocolate spread and sustained energy from the bread. I carry a bag of sandwiches cut in half, easy to access and eat while riding.
- Fruit – Dried figs are an excellent source of sugars and potassium, good for stopping cramps. Bananas also have good levels of potassium but they are bulky and bruise easily, there is nothing worse than a squashed banana during the ride.
- Electrolyte tablets – These are the best way to carry additional electrolytes for when you refill your drink bottles. Just being able to pop a tablet or two into your water bottle is so much easier than trying to measure out powder from a bag. One tube makes up 15 litres. A tip I would suggest is to buy caffeinated and regular ones so you can carry a mixture on the day. Caffeinated ones are good to give you a lift, but too much can give you the jitters and excessive caffeine consumption (more than 500 –600 milligrams) can have diuretic effect leading to dehydration. So carry a combination and alternate your intake.
- Gels – I’m a big fan of gels for electrolytes and sugars, easy to carry and consume on the bike. One tip for gels is to get a couple of small water bottles like the one below and tip your gels into these. Easier to consume, less rubbish and no leaking gel wrappers in your pockets later.
And for Fitz’s my secret tip is a meat pie and coke from the Tharwa General store. Sure it breaks all the rules but in terms of comfort food, it hits the spot when you’ve done about 120km.
- Snap lock bags – Useful if it rains for keeping stuff dry, like your mobile phone, checkpoint card or route map. Also handy for keeping stuff organised
- Money – Never forget, if all else fails carry bit of cash. For food, water, coffee or for any other emergency that might arise. I’ve even been known to use a $5 note in an emergency to repair a slashed tyre.
Anyway that is what I’ll be carrying, if you have any other useful tips please leave a comment.