One of the best parts of mountain biking is that it enables you to journey farther and faster into the woods than you could on foot. This also means that when something goes wrong, such as an injury or a mechanical, it will likely be up to you to address the problem.
With longer days come longer rides. And if, like me, you enjoy spending all day on the trails, you should plan and pack accordingly.
In addition to nutrition, hydration and identification, here are 20 items to bring on your next backcountry mountain bike ride.
Like most tools, these items are only useful if you know how to use them. It’s always best to ride with a group. If venturing deep into the woods alone, be sure you have a basic understanding of first aid and also know how to:
- Install a tube
- Patch a tube
- Apply lubricant to a chain
- Fix a broken chain
- Realign a disc brake caliper
- Repair or replace a loose or broken spoke
- Adjust a rear derailleur
- Adjust a front derailleur
20 essentials for all-day mountain bike rides
1. Spare tubes (2)
Carrying two spare tubes is a must for long mountain bike rides. Double flats happen — usually a split second after you call out to your riding buddies "Hey! Watch this!" High-speed descents through rock gardens and jumps with flat run-outs are notorious for pinching tubes and tires.
When riding with a group, I carry one tube for my wheel size and, regardless of what bike I'm riding, also carry a 650b (27.5in) tube. Why? Because in a jam a ‘tweener’ tube works well enough for both 26in and 29er tires that I can help out a fellow mountain biker in need.
2. Patch kit
Patch kits take up very little room in your pack and are a necessity when you’ve used your last tube. Glueless patches (shown here) are much faster to apply but don't have the longevity of patches that use a vulcanizing agent.
3. Tire pump
The first two items are pretty useless without a pump. A CO2 inflator and cartridges are optional; they will get you back up and rolling quicker, but a mini pump will work every time.
Never leave home without a good multi-tool. I always opt for a multi-tool with a built-in chain tool, a T25 torx, flathead and Philips screwdrivers, and at least 2.5 3,4,5,6 and 8mm Allen keys, and the most common spoke tool sizes. The Crankbrothers multi-tool shown here is good; a multi-tool that also has a built in pair of pliers and wire cutters is even better.
5. Tire levers (2)
While many multi-tools have a tire lever built into them, they’re generally not as useful, nor as well constructed, as standalone levers.
6. Shock pump
Modern air shocks are quite reliable, but it’s still a good idea to pack a shock pump in case you develop a slow leak or (more likely) if you find you need to fine-tune your suspension during your ride.
7. Chain lube
If you're likely to encounter multiple stream crossings, dusty trail conditions, or a chance of showers on your ride a small bottle of chain lube pack a small bottle of chain lube. Tip: use a rubber band to wrap a section of cloth from a rag or old shirt around the bottle - use it to clean grime off the chain before applying fresh chain lube, as well as to wipe off excess lube after application.
8. Lip balm
Keeping a stick of lip balm (preferably with an SPF rating) in your pack is a good idea when riding in dry environments.
9. Sun screen
The long days of summer mean long, rides but also mean more exposure. Pack a small bottle of sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) and reapply when needed.
Smart phones can do a number of helpful things, but the most important is to phone home in case an emergency. Be sure to have an "in case of emergency" contact listed in your phone's address book.
11. Packable rain jacket
Weather can be unpredictable, particularly in the mountains. A lightweight, packable shell, such as this Endura Pakajak, will keep your core dry and warm, should you encounter a sudden downpour.
12. First aid kit
A small first aid kit in a waterproof package is a must. Bandages, gauze, disinfecting wipes, and tweezers are all items to include in your kit. Like the tools in this list, a first aid kit is only useful if you know how to use it - a basic understanding of first and CPR may come in handy.
13. Derailleur hanger
A bent or broken derailleur hanger can mean the end of your ride (or an impromptu singlespeed conversion). Carry a spare hanger with mounting bolts just in case. Problem Solvers Universal Derailleur Hanger is a good backup option, if you’re packing for more than just yourself, though it won’t work with the increasingly common 142x12mm rear axle.
14. Extra links of chain with a master link
Keeping a few links of chain, along with a master link, in your pack will ensure you can replace bent or broken links and still have full use of your gears.
15. Chainring bolt
Chainring bolts occasionally shear off or rattle loose. Keeping a spare in your pack will allow your to continue on with all your rings intact.
16. Extra cleat with bolts and backplate
It rarely happens, but when it does it can turn a great ride into miserable, one-legged pedaling misadventure. Keep a cleat along with the bolts and backplate (the part that goes in your shoe) in your pack. This way you have all three parts, should you need them. Tip: Keep the cleat bolted to the backplate so you don't lose any of the items.
17. Zip ties
Zip ties come in handy in a number of ways. They can be used to wrangle errant cables, replace a broken or missing chainring bolt (just long enough to limp home), and keep your shoe tight if a buckle breaks.
18. Spare spoke with nipple
Keep a spare spoke and nipple on hand just in case. Like the spare cleat, keep the nipple threaded onto the spoke so you don't lose it.
Money, that stuff that makes the world go 'round, can also make your bike go 'round. Carry the coin of your realm (in paper form) in your pack. In addition to being useful to procure a post-ride beer and/or burrito, it can also be used as a tire boot.
20. Small but bright headlight
If there's a chance you won't make it home before nightfall a small light, just bright enough the illuminate your path, will lead you safely home.
A small bag, like this Backcountry Research Tülbag, will keep your smaller essentials in one tidy package
In sum, the items shown here weigh 1,560g (3.4lb) and are worth every gram.
That's my list. What do you carry with you on all-day mountain bike rides?