Planning for your first long ride is exciting. Knowing what to bring and how to prepare your bike will give you more confidence going into your first long ride. As long as you know that you are prepared to fix minor problems, you can focus on enjoying – and finishing – the ride rather than worrying about things that could go wrong.
In this article, we’ll take a look at items you’ll want to bring on a long ride and how to prepare your bike and yourself for the ride. We’ll tell you how to pack them, too. And lastly, we’ll take a look at some extra items if you’re planning on an ultra-long ride. Let’s get started.
How Long is a Long Bike Ride?
The answer depends on how experienced you are as a cyclist. If you just got started cycling, maybe 50 km or 30 miles is hard and you might need to bring snacks for the ride. For experienced cyclists, a 100 km or 60-mile ride might not be too hard so they only bring two bidons and some cash with them.
It also depends on how far away you are going. If you ride 100 km within the city, you won’t probably need to bring spare tubes and a pump with you since you can go home easily. If you ride 50 km to a remote area, you definitely want to bring extra supplies with you.
Basically, if it’s outside of your comfort zone, you will want to be extra prepared. And it’s better to be overprepared than not.
Table of Contents
- What to Bring on a Long Ride
- How to Pack Your Gear
- Additional List for an Ultra-Distance Ride
- How to Prepare Your Bike
- How to Prepare Your Body
What to Bring on Your Long Bike Ride
If you’re going for a long ride, you’ll definitely want to bring along the following items.
Two bidons. Never ride without hydration! You should be drinking 1 to 2 bidons per hour, so if you ride more than two hours, plan some stops in your ride to refill them. You can also fill one of your bottles with plain water and the other with electrolytes.
Some people prefer having one large bidon and using the other bottle cage for storage. That’s okay too, but if you have a small bike frame it can be difficult to take and put the bidon back in the cage when you’re on the road.
Tubeless tire plugs. Tubeless tires will reseal if you get a small puncture. For a large puncture, though, you’ll need some tubeless tire plugs. They come in small packages that are easy to pack on your bike or in your jersey pockets.
Spare inner tubes. Even if you run tubeless, bringing spare inner tubes is a good idea because sometimes they can fail to seal the hole. If you use clinchers, make sure you bring more than one tube. Using TPU inner tubes can save some space, but they can be tricky to install.
Tire patch kit. Patch kits are useful if you run out of spare tubes. They take up almost no room, so always bring some of those along. Self-adhesive patches are the easiest to apply when you’re out on the road.
Three tire levers. Even if you can take off your tire at home without them, it’s still a good idea to bring tire levers on the road because your hands might be tired from the ride. You need at least two levers, but if your tire is new or hard to take off, bring three tire levers in case you break one of them.
Tire boot. A tire boot is a heavy piece of paper or cotton that goes inside your tire if it gets a long slice. If you leave the hole open, the inner tube will get pinched and blow. Some people use dollar bills, duct tape, snack packaging, or dry leaves as a tire boot in a pinch.
Mini pump or CO2 pump. A high-quality mini pump is a valuable asset on a long ride. Cheaper versions will work, but you might spend all day pumping up your tire! You can choose to attach it to your frame or fit it inside your saddle bag. Many people prefer to use a CO2 inflator, if you’re one of them, bring along a nozzle and a couple of mini CO2 canisters. If you’re not experienced in using CO2, bring more canisters.
Multitool with chain splitter. Always bring your multitool, even if you don’t know how to use it. If you have a mechanical, you might be able to fix it with your multitool – or flag down a passing cyclist who can. Even if you don’t have a mechanical, you might need some minor adjustments to your seat or bars if you have pain on your ride.
Choose a multitool that has a chain splitter on it. If your chain breaks, this will make it possible to fix it on the road.
Chain quick link. The chain splitter is useless if you don’t bring a quick link with you. Some multitools have hidden storage for quick links, but I personally don’t use them. Make sure your chain links are stored in waterproof storage because they get rusted very easily.
Energy gels or bars. To fuel your ride, you should be taking in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour, which is around 120 to 240 calories. So make sure you pack enough energy gels or bars for your entire ride.
Sunscreen. If you’re going to be gone for a few hours or more, you’ll need to bring along some sunscreen so you can reapply it to protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer. Most sunscreens last up to two hours, or less if you sweat a lot.
You can also bring sun protection clothing if you prefer to reapply sunscreen multiple times.
Warm and waterproof layers. The weather during spring and autumn can be totally unpredictable, so you’ll want to pack (or wear) some extra layers if it’s cool. Consider wool for warmth and a packable raincoat to keep you dry.
Headlight and taillight. You should always have these with you, not just for long bike rides. A headlight and taillight will make you more visible to passing motorists, helping you to stay safe on the road. If you plan to ride at night, make sure to have at least 600 lumens on your front light, or brighter if you’re outside the city.
Cash and mobile phone. So bring along some cash in case you need food, water, or other items. And don’t forget to pack your cell phone so you can call for help or an Uber or just take pictures for bragging rights.
How to Pack Your Gear
You’re probably wondering how to pack all of these goodies on the bike. Here are a few ideas to help you safely stash everything you need.
In jersey pockets: A jersey with good pockets is a great place to pack some of your most essential items: your mobile phone, money, ID, keys, and energy gels. Also, if you need to, you can stash your mini pump in a jersey pocket, especially if it can’t be mounted on your bike frame or packed in your bags.
Saddle bag: A good saddlebag can fit a lot of items. It’s a good spot for your spare tubes, patch kit, tubeless plugs, tire levers, tire boot, multitool, and quick link. Pack your items carefully so that nothing rubs or puts a hole in your tubes.
Handlebar or top tube bag: These are my favorite bags to stash food, sunscreen, and your spare clothes. A small top tube bag makes it easy to reach your treats and eat them on the go.
If your bags aren’t big enough for the rest, bring panniers or put your tools and tubes in a spare bottle.
In terms of aero drag, a saddle bag is better than a top tube bag, and a handlebar bag is the worst. So, if you only bring the most essential items, use a saddle bag unless you want them to be accessible while riding the bike, then a handlebar or top tube back might be best.
What to Pack for Ultra-Distance and Multi-Day Rides
You’ll want to consider some additional items if you’re going on ultra-long rides. If you’re going to be on an all-day ride or a multi-day ride, bring along some of these:
Chain lube. A squeaky chain can be really annoying over the course of a long ride, it’ll make you slower, and it can cause damage to your drive train. If the weather is wet, your lube will be washed off faster than you think. A little bottle of chain lube can help.
Spare tire. Tire boots are for emergency situations only. If you plan for an ultra-long ride, you will need a spare tire in case you get a big tear. New tires usually came folded nicely, but if you pack an old tire, here’s a video on how to fold them.
Zip ties and duct tape. A little bit of duct tape and some zip ties can fix a multitude of problems. You can attach a broken derailleur hanger, wrangle a wayward spoke, or attach a broken bag strap with these.
You don’t have to bring a whole roll of duct tape. Instead, make 10-30 cm strips and wrap them on your seatpost or seatstay. Make sure to clean the surface first.
Extra jersey, bibs, and socks. If the weather is cold and wet, you could suffer from hypothermia. Extreme heat or rain can cause chafing and saddle sores. Extra bike clothes can be a massive help for long rides.
First aid kit. We hope you never need it, but it’s good to bring it along just in case. You can create your own or find specialized cycling first aid kits that fit in a jersey pocket.
Chamois cream. Prevent chafing and saddle sores with some extra chamois cream mid-ride. One application can last up to 3 hours.
Power bank. If you have one of those bike computers that connect to your phone via Bluetooth, you’ll realize that your phone battery will drop very quickly even when you don’t actively use them. Pack a power bank so you can recharge while you ride.
Wet wipes or compressed towels. If you need to clean your hands after a mechanical, wipe up to eat, or clean your equipment, some compressed towels or wet wipes will help you out. Bring a small pack in your jersey pocket or saddle bag.
Tent and/or sleeping bag. If you plan on sleeping outside.
Spare electronic groupset battery. The biggest downside of an electronic groupset is that if you run out of battery there’s nothing you can do in the middle of the road. Bring a spare battery or two for an ultra-distance and don’t forget to bring the charger too.
If you’re riding with your mates, you can divide up who brings what items. For example, you’ll each need your own cycling clothes, snacks, bidons, and chamois cream, but you could decide who will bring a multi-tool, a first aid kit, and even spare tires if you need to lighten your loads.
Getting Your Bike Ready for a Long Ride
It’s important to make sure your bike is ready for the challenge. There are a few things you can do to get it in shape for the big ride.
Here’s what to prepare at least one week before the long ride:
Clean up and lube your bike. Before you embark on the ride, it’s important to give your bike a good deep cleaning. This includes removing dirt and grime from the frame and components as well as lubing the chain with a lubricant of your choice. Cleaning your bike will help ensure it performs optimally during your long-distance ride. If you have a creaking sound, find the source and fix it.
Properly index the groupset. Hearing ticking noise and getting chain skips during a long ride is super annoying. Make sure your groupset is perfectly tuned.
Check for wear and tear. Check if your tires, chain, cassette, cables, and brake pads, are in usable shape. If not, replace them immediately, and don’t wait until one or two days before the ride day.
It’s not a good idea to replace drivetrain components too close to the long ride because you might not have enough time if something goes wrong. If the chain, cassette, or chainring is slightly worn out but still usable for a few hundred kilometers, it’s probably best not to replace it just before a long ride.
Stop adjusting your bike fit. If you need a bike fit, do it no sooner than one week before the big ride. Your body needs to adapt to the new position, and doing it too late might do more harm than good.
Don’t change contact point components. For the same reason as bike fit, don’t get new handlebar, saddle, pedal, and shoes one week before the ride.
Check your tubeless sealant. If you use tubeless and haven’t refilled the sealant for months, make sure it’s not dry. To check, move the valve to the bottom and open it, then insert a small stick and see if it’s still wet.
Try your new bags. If this will be the first time you ride with bike bags, give it a try with all the gears packed. You need to get used to how it feels riding with bags, and it might not be that easy if you pack heavy.
And here’s what to do the day before and just before the long ride:
- Charge your power meter, bike computer, lights, and electronic groupset
- Check for tire pressure
- Re-lube your chain if you ride a lot in the last week
- Make sure your lights and brakes work
- Slightly lift and drop your bike to check if there’s an abnormal rattling sound
How to Prepare Yourself for a Long Bike Ride
Our final type of preparation is how to get yourself ready for the long ride, mentally and physically. This will probably take the longest time if you account for the total time you need to train. But if you have a good endurance base already, the rest is just a matter of fueling and knowing what to do during the ride.
How to fuel correctly for a long ride. It’s a long topic on its own so we have a separate article talking specifically about cycling nutrition and how to fuel yourself during a long ride. Give it a read. In a nutshell, you need to eat 30-60 grams of carbohydrates every hour of your ride and 1-2 bidons of water or electrolyte per hour.
Ride in zone 1 and 2. The most common mistake for beginners is going all-in at the start of their first long ride. Your ride shouldn’t feel hard at all, at least for the first 50-70% of it, unless you’re trying to win a race. If you have weeks to train for an endurance event, increase your distance gradually over the weeks.
If you ride in a big event, your heart rate monitor might not accurately show your zones during the first few hours because of nervousness and your heart rate will be higher than normal. It’s a good idea to learn how it feels to ride in zone 2 if you don’t have a power meter.
Get your body used to your bike. Believe it or not, the biggest challenge for many first-timers to finish a long ride is not the aerobic endurance itself, but the soreness they feel in the upper body – shoulders, neck, lower back, and hands – because they are not used to sitting on a bike for a long time. Even with a proper bike fit, your upper body is bound to get sore if you’re not used to it. Increase your duration on the bike gradually over the weeks.
Don’t race other people. On a mass start event, you will likely be riding with people stronger than you and it’s easy to get pulled along with them. Staying on someone’s slipstream is a good way to save energy, but make sure you don’t go outside your endurance zone just to stay on their wheels.
Remember that you can’t recover your muscle during a ride, so if you’re going too hard at the start, no amount of fueling can fix the fatigue you will get on the second half of the ride.