what to carry on a bike ride

What To Carry on a Bike Ride or Cycling Adventure



By Jim Rutberg,
CTS Pro Coach,
co-author of “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”,
Training Essentials for Ultrarunning

Whether you’re riding for one hour on the road or 12 hours in the woods, it is important to know what to take on endurance rides and epic cycling adventures. There are a small number of essentials you should carry on every ride. And, of course, there are the foods and fluids to take for rides of any length. The items you add to your endurance ride checklist depend on the length of your planned ride, the type of ride, and the resources that will be available (or not). To keep it relatively simple, we’ve organized the list into “everyday rides” and “epic adventures”.

What to carry on everyday rides

In addition to food, water, an ID, and probably your phone, here’s what should be on your endurance ride checklist for every ride.


CO2 cartridges are lighter and quicker, but a pump can be used over and over again. It is better to be prepared for multiple flats than it is to get air into a tire more quickly once or twice.

Tubes (and Tubeless Tools)

If you’re running tubed tires, carry two tubes. If you’re running tubeless tires, you still need to carry two tubes. I love tubeless wheels and tires because they reduce the risk of flats and can run a greater range of tire pressures. But they are not flat-proof. If you’re just losing pressure and the tire bead is still seated firmly on the rim and you have extra sealant, you can try adding more sealant through the valve stem (you’ll need a valve core remover) and inflating.

If the hole in a tubeless tire is not sealing but the bead is still on the rim, you could use “bacon strips” (tire plugs) to plug the hole and try to reinflate with a pump or CO2. When the tire is no longer seated on the rim or has a cut sidewall, throw a tube in it and get on your way. If you go the latter route, make sure you have the hand strength or tools to remove the tubeless valve stem.

Tire boots and patch kit

Many a cyclist has been stymied by a cut sidewall. You can’t just put a tube in and go; you have to place a non-stretchable material between the tube and the cut. Wrappers from gels or bars work well, or you can use cash or spend cash on a tire boot that has adhesive on one side so it stays in place. A patch kit is also helpful in case you go through your supply of tubes.

Tire levers (2)

Tire levers can be metal or plastic and both have their pros and cons. I’ve snapped my share of plastic ones, but you also must be careful using metal levers with carbon rims. Even if you can technically remove and remount your tires without levers, still carry them because they are good for scraping tacky mud off tires and frame parts.

Multitool that contains a chain tool

I haven’t gone on a ride without a multitool in 20 years. Just make sure yours has a chain tool. You may need to remove bent links in order to piece the chain back together with a power link. If your bike has Torx bolts, make sure you have the right size wrench in your multitool, or carry individual Torx wrenches as needed.

Rain Jacket

I don’t take a rain jacket on every ride, but the weather changes rapidly in the Rocky Mountains. In addition to being waterproof, a rain jacket can be an effective wind barrier and help keep body heat from escaping as quickly.

What to take on epic cycling adventures (road, gravel, or MTB)

When your derailleur hanger snaps off in the middle of nowhere your choices are limited. You’re either going to make your bike into a single speed or walk, unless of course you are carrying an extra derailleur hanger…

Epic endurance cycling events like SBT GRVL, Cape Epic, Breck Epic, and Rebecca’s Private Idaho are supported, but the courses are in remote areas and aid stations are few and far between. If your bike breaks you either need to be able to fix it with what you have on you, settle in for a long walk, or call for rescue (if possible) and be disqualified. Essential tools and replacement parts are crucial to your ultra endurance ride checklist, but there’s also a balance between being prepared and being weighed down by too much stuff.

In addition to the everyday items above, the endurance ride checklist of parts and tools below will get you back on your bike in most situations. This is more stuff than the top competitors carry because they are willing to accept greater risks in order to lighten the load. For athletes who prioritize finishing over winning, and who are going to be out on course far longer than the top competitors, the added weight is a small price to pay for peace of mind and the ability to get yourself rolling again.

Here’s the pared down contents of a saddle roll and athlete might use for endurance events like SBT Gravel or Unbound.

Hydration pack

The more remote the course and the greater the distance between aid stations, the more you need to rely on hydration packs in addition to bottles. If the wind shifts or you have a mechanical your time to the next aid station could increase by an hour or more. For truly remote adventures, take a water filter so you can refill from streams. Hydration packs also provide room to carry some of the gear below.

Derailleur hanger

This is another very light, very small piece of equipment that could save your day. When it rains in the Flint Hills of Kansas, for instance, there’s enough clay in the soil to turn a gravel road to the consistency of wet cement. It sticks to your tires, jams the space between your wheels and frame, rips derailleurs clean off the frame, and stops you in your tracks. In mountain bike stage races, rocks can rip derailleurs off, too. It’s so easy to carry an extra derailleur hanger, and it saves you so many headaches if you end up needing it. If you are riding a bike using using SRAM’s Transmission derailleurs, there isn’t a hanger to carry and the design of the system aims to avoid damage from mud and rocks in the first place.

Set of extra brake pads

No matter what type of brakes you’re running (caliper, cantilever, disc), a set of pads is small and weighs next to nothing, but will be extremely helpful if you end up needing them. Why would you ever need them? Wet and muddy conditions can chew through brake pads much more quickly than you think, and during epic-length cycling events, burning through a set of pads can put you in a dangerous position. If you are trying to put new disc brake pads into your bike trailside or roadside, remember to push the pistons back as best you can (with the old brake pads in place) before installing new ones. Your multitool may have a tool for this, or this can be a place where a medal tire lever can come in handy because they are typically thinner than the plastic ones.

Shifting Hardware

Depending on your bike setup, this means carrying a long derailleur cable, a long eTube wire (Shimano Di2) or an extra battery (SRAM eTap). Basically, you want to have a backup for whatever is controlling your rear derailleur. These are small and light, so there’s really no good reason for not carrying one.

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Quick links (2)

You’re not going anywhere without a chain, and if yours breaks a quick link is the best and easiest way to put it back together. You may need to use your chain tool to remove damaged links, so afterward be careful about shifting into your easiest gear, as the repaired chain may be too short now. Quick links are so small that I carry them in my saddle bag for all rides.

Set of cleats (2 cleats, 4 screws)

Cleats for the bottom of your shoes are small and light, so just put an extra set in the gear you’re carrying as insurance.

Duct Tape or Zip Ties

You don’t need a whole roll of tape, but wrap about three feet of duct tape around a piece of cardboard and add it to your gear. It has a variety of potential uses, but the ones that are most relevant are booting a tire or taping a tire to the rim in the event of a blown tire bead. In the latter case, tightly taping it around the tire and rim can prevent the tire from jamming in the frame and hopefully hold together long enough to get to the next aid station.

Zip ties can be used to hold a tire together, as seen below in a post from CTS Coach Josh Whitmore. In this case, the repair involved a tube and a tire boot. However, the hole was so big that the boot started to push out through the hole. The zip tie provided the added support to keep the boot in place and the tube from escaping. This fix held for another 2+ hours of trail riding to get back to the trailhead.

endurance ride checklist

For events, I put the tubes, tape, tire levers, cables, and patch kit into a saddlebag, and put the small parts on the list (derailleur hanger, quick links, tire boot, cleats, brake pads, multitool) into a small plastic bag. That way, I can fix most flats with just what’s in the saddle bag. Then, the plastic bag keeps essential items together so I can quickly transfer them to a new jersey or new hydration pack if necessary.

What to Pack in Drop Bags

This is a bonus addition to the endurance ride checklist. While centuries and Gran Fondos might have aid stations every 10-15 miles, epic cycling adventures typically have fewer aid stations farther apart. Some gravel events, for instance, only have aid stations every 50 miles. And it’s not the mileage that counts so much as the time between aid stations. When the ride time between aid stations is 3+ hours, you have to plan accordingly.

How you pack drop bags for aid stations depends heavily on whether one bag will be transported from station to station or whether you need to pack multiple bags because they will be delivered to specific locations and stay there.

I have ridden the Leadville 100 ten times, Unbound Gravel 200 twice, and SBT GRVL once and my philosophy on drop bags is to have clothing and parts to handle almost any contingency. This means:


Depending on logistics and the crew you have available, an extra set of wheels is a good option if possible. If it’s not possible, then at least have a set of tires in your drop bag. You can boot a tire to get to the next aid station, but once you get there it’s wise to stop and replace the tire completely. I save old tires for this purpose.


While carrying cleats is easy because they are small and light, I don’t want to carry an extra set of pedals. But in the off-chance your pedals explode, having a set in your drop bag can save your race. This is especially important if you have traveled a far distance to participate.

Chain or chain segment

If you snap a chain between aid stations and have a power link and chain tool you can get going again and get to the next aid station. But if your chain has additional damage and likely to snap again, take advantage of the opportunity to change it out. This is also a good time to remind you to refresh drivetrain parts before major events.

More Tubes

At Unbound and the Leadville 100 my drop bags always contained four extra tubes. It might seem like overkill, but one experience with multiple flats will cure you of that notion.

Chain Lube

Sometimes I’ve carried this with me, but I always have it in drop bags. If you are on a dusty course, ride through a rain storm, or ride through creek crossings, you will want to re-lube your chain. I forgot lube during one Leadville 100 and my squeaking, screeching chain nearly drove me nuts and made me worried my chain would snap any minute.

Extra clothing

My coaches made fun of me for packing winter cycling gear in my drop bags for the Leadville 100, until the year a cold rain soaked the race for the first 40 miles. My drop bags always contain what professional cyclists refer to as a “rain bag” and I affectionately call an “oh shit bag”. It includes a replacement cycling kit (shorts/jersey) as well as warm gloves, a skullcap, long sleeved jersey, rain jacket, knee warmers, and arm warmers. Better to have it and not use it than not have it in the first place.

Epic events call for epic preparations, and packing the right gear can mean the difference between a small inconvenience and a DNF-inducing mechanical. Your training prepares your body; now make sure you have the gear to reach the finish line!

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Comments 16

  1. I would add a set of disc brake pads, especially for longer rides. In bad weather, especially on gravel, you can easily chew through a set of brake pads in one day.

  2. Out of other options, I once used a zip-tie to “fix” a tube. Doubled over the tube at the puncture & used the zip-tie as a tourniquet. Added quick-clot to my 1rst aid kit when on a remote ride a friend was attacked and mauled by a dog. Wound would not stop bleeding.

  3. As I recently discovered, a quarter to remove the RS-2032 battery cover from your SRAM wireless shifters so you can actually remove and replace the battery.

  4. Pingback: How to Build an Everyday Carry for Cyclists: Essential Gear Guide – Option Gray

    1. Post

      We have a post on “What to eat and drink on rides of any length”. I’ve pasted the link below and we’ll update this post with a link to that one.


      Jim Rutberg
      Media Director

  5. Tire levers, use Pedros because they will not break and metal tire levers can easily damage a carbon wheel. Since I ride in Arizona, cactus country, I carry tweezers for the inevitable brush with cactus needles. I also carry a small folding knife. Alternately a small Swiss Army knife has tweezers but they are not very powerful and so I carry a full size set.

  6. Great tips. I also would recommend carrying a few Band aides, alcohol wipes, and nitrile gloves (keep your hands clean when doing dirty chain work and also amazingly effective as a second layer inside glove on cold days).

  7. Pingback: The Scariest Things Cyclists Fear, And How to Overcome Them - Chris Carmichael

  8. KT tape for saddle sores. (Bring whole strips or cut in half.) NOT just for muscles, but also for that darkest hour when the chamois cream fails you and your best chamois becomes your worst nightmare. Works similarly to moleskin over a blister or cut, except it’s more flexible and you can add tension as necessary.

    Great read!

  9. Pingback: Gear You Do and Don't Need to Pack for Gravel Rides: Experts Weigh In

  10. Pingback: Gear You Do and Don't Need to Pack for Gravel Rides: Experts Weigh In

  11. I’m surprised that you didn’t list Chamois Butter on the list. I’ve known plenty of folks that after a long period of riding, especially if it’s wet or extremely humid, need chaffing relief. It’s it just not feasible on the more epic rides?

    1. The single serving packets are a good idea if you think you’ll need to re-apply. or a jar of it in your drop bag.

      First aid materials are also a good idea. Adding a piece of gauze, plus the duct tape you already have, makes for a good emergency bandage.

      1. You can make your own single servings by putting some in small ziplock bags. If you turn the bags inside out when applying you will keep your hands clean. Great write up!

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