15 sportive essentials - the gear you need to ride a sportive

The must-have kit you'll need to get through your first sportive

You’ve just signed up for your first sportive – maybe you’ve been inspired by the recent Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 (entries for 2016's event are now open, by the way) and have committed to ride a full century.

You’ll need to do a lot of (perhaps fear-induced) training, but your fitness can quickly be scuppered by mechanical issues. So how can you ensure the ‘best of mechanical luck’ on the big day? By checking out our sportive essentials of course!

Bike

The trek emonda alr6 is a great bike with an aluminium frame and good spec: the trek emonda alr6 is a great bike with an aluminium frame and good spec
The trek emonda alr6 is a great bike with an aluminium frame and good spec: the trek emonda alr6 is a great bike with an aluminium frame and good spec

Yes, it’s obvious, you’ll need a bike to tackle your sportive, no matter the distance. You might already have a trusty steed or perhaps you’re borrowing one. In either case, get the bike serviced by a local bike shop to sort any niggles before they become real problems. Replacing frayed cables, a worn chain and thinned-out tyres is a must.

If you’re thinking of buying a new bike, there’s never been a better time to do so as technology that was the reserve of professionals only a decade ago is now available at much friendlier prices. Do your research. BikeRadar’s road bike reviews can help guide you, along with verdicts from friends.

Helmet

The limar 778 is extremely light for the price:
The limar 778 is extremely light for the price:

Whether or not you believe in the efficacy of a helmet as a safety device, virtually every single event requires the use of one. Getting a correctly fitting helmet is vital, so visiting a local bike shop to try a selection on is a great way of making sure you get a comfortable helmet in the right size for you. Prices vary, but all have to meet safety standards – usually, the more you pay, the lighter and / or more aerodynamic the helmet will be. Check out our latest road helmet grouptest.

Sunglasses

Madison's mission sunglasses are a good value option: madison's mission sunglasses are a good value option
Madison's mission sunglasses are a good value option: madison's mission sunglasses are a good value option

Unless you want grime, grit, dust and insects plastering your eyeballs, a set of sunglasses is a must. You could use any, but the benefit of cycling specific types is that many come with interchangeable lenses so you can pair your optics to different riding conditions. Typical combinations are clear, red (for low light) and mirrored for sunny days. You’ll find all our sunglasses reviews here.

Bib shorts and jersey

Dhb shorts are a good starting point for many riders: dhb shorts are a good starting point for many riders
Dhb shorts are a good starting point for many riders: dhb shorts are a good starting point for many riders

There’s a rather odd tradition in road cycling that saddles tend to be rather hard (this actually helps reduce saddle sores) while shorts have thick pads. Bibs are one area that it pays to invest in quality – you’ll likely be doing plenty of training miles in them and the last thing you want is an uncomfortable pair. That doesn’t mean they have to cost the earth though, several ‘budget’ options actually offer excellent performance – you’ll see plenty of Wiggle’s own band DHB gear during your event.

For male riders, check out our best bib shorts grouptest, or for females, there’s our best women’s bib shorts review and mid-range bib shorts review

Jersey wise, you’ll looking for something that fits well, is comfy in the riding position and has ample pockets for storage. A full-length zip offers the best ventilation options. You may also wish to invest in arm and leg warmers, especially if your event is likely to start cold and warm up during the day. A packable shower-proof jacket is a good idea too, depending on conditions.

Clipless pedals

Shimano's pedals offer good value and durability: shimano's pedals offer good value and durability
Shimano's pedals offer good value and durability: shimano's pedals offer good value and durability

They take a bit of time to get used to – and a bit longer to get over the fear of a slow topple at a junction – but clipless pedals are an instant way to make cycling easier. So called because there are no toe straps, clipless pedals, such as those made by Shimano, Look and Time use special cleats that bolt to the bottom of shoes in order to securely engage with the pedals. This means massively increased efficiency thanks to both feet being engaged through each pedal revolution. Getting in and out takes a bit of practice, but soon becomes second nature. Prices start from around £25 online.

Multi tool

A tiny multi tool like this lifeline model gives peace of mind as much as usefulness: a tiny multi tool like this lifeline model gives peace of mind as much as usefulness
A tiny multi tool like this lifeline model gives peace of mind as much as usefulness: a tiny multi tool like this lifeline model gives peace of mind as much as usefulness

All bolts should be secured and checked the night before an event, but sometimes things can get rattled loose. A multitool is ideal for quick tweaks if a brake goes out of alignment, a bottle cage wobbles free or your saddle slips. Pick one with a selection of hex keys and a Phillips screwdriver in case your derailleurs need adjusting. While you’re at it, learn how to do this yourself with our video. You can view our multi tool reviews here.

Spare tube

A new tube is a must – make sure the valve is longer than the depth of your wheel rims: a new tube is a must – make sure the valve is longer than the depth of your wheel rims
A new tube is a must – make sure the valve is longer than the depth of your wheel rims: a new tube is a must – make sure the valve is longer than the depth of your wheel rims

Carrying at least one spare tube is essential. In the case of a puncture, just whip the old tube out, check for foreign objects in the tyre, put a fresh tube in and pump the tyre back up. If you’re unlucky enough to suffer another flat, fix the tube you’ve already removed first, then swap again. Be sure to buy a tube with a long enough valve for the wheels you’re using. If you’ve no idea how to change a tube, check out our video.

Tyre levers

Tyre levers like these park tools tl1c are certainly essential in case of puncture: tyre levers like these park tools tl1c are certainly essential in case of puncture
Tyre levers like these park tools tl1c are certainly essential in case of puncture: tyre levers like these park tools tl1c are certainly essential in case of puncture

In order to swap your tube, you’ll need to get the bead of the tyre off the wheel rim. For that, you’ll need tyre levers. Two usually suffice, but three would be ideal. Go for plastic ones, which are less likely to damage your rims. Park Tools’ TL1C levers are a safe bet.

Puncture patches

You can't beat park tools' super patches for fast puncture fixes: you can't beat park tools' super patches for fast puncture fixes
You can't beat park tools' super patches for fast puncture fixes: you can't beat park tools' super patches for fast puncture fixes

You can avoid the hassle of carrying around a full old-fashioned puncture kit by investing in some good patches, which just peel them off their backing paper and press onto the tube over the puncture. Again, you can’t go wrong with Park Tools’ Super Patches.

Saddle bag

A saddle pack is the ideal way to store all your essential gear – this is lezyne's road caddy, which can fit a tube, two tyre levers, multi tool and patches: a saddle pack is the ideal way to store all your essential gear – this is lezyne's road caddy, which can fit a tube, two tyre levers, multi tool and patches
A saddle pack is the ideal way to store all your essential gear – this is lezyne's road caddy, which can fit a tube, two tyre levers, multi tool and patches: a saddle pack is the ideal way to store all your essential gear – this is lezyne's road caddy, which can fit a tube, two tyre levers, multi tool and patches

You’ll need to carry all this on your bike, so a saddle bag is a better idea than weighing down your jersey pockets. There are loads of options on the market. If you’re swapping between multiple bikes, those with Velcro or clips are a good bet. Others come with plastic mounts, letting you easily secure and remove the bag.

Mini pump

A mini pump is essential – make sure it can get up to a decent pressure: a mini pump is essential – make sure it can get up to a decent pressure
A mini pump is essential – make sure it can get up to a decent pressure: a mini pump is essential – make sure it can get up to a decent pressure

A good mini pump is a must-have on any ride. You need to find one that will, with a bit of hard work, allow you to get to a decent pressure to avoid further pinch punctures. Check out some of our mini pump test to help you narrow your search.

Bottle cages

This elite custom race cage has seen a lot of use but is still going strong: this elite custom race cage has seen a lot of use but is still going strong
This elite custom race cage has seen a lot of use but is still going strong: this elite custom race cage has seen a lot of use but is still going strong

Not all bottle cages are created equal! Cheaper models tend to be heavier and can be less effective at keeping your bottle in place. We’d recommend Custom Race cages from Elite as a good crossing point of value, performance and price.

Bottles

Bottles come in various sizes. on the left is camelbak's podium big chill, which keeps drinks cold. specialized's purist hydroflo on the right is easy to glug from: bottles come in various sizes. on the left is camelbak's podium big chill, which keeps drinks cold. specialized's purist hydroflo on the right is easy to glug from
Bottles come in various sizes. on the left is camelbak's podium big chill, which keeps drinks cold. specialized's purist hydroflo on the right is easy to glug from: bottles come in various sizes. on the left is camelbak's podium big chill, which keeps drinks cold. specialized's purist hydroflo on the right is easy to glug from

You’ll need to pick bottles that will give you enough fluid between aid stations. More expensive models tend to have better spouts that keep water in without spilling and make drinking easier. Some are also designed to keep your water tasting like water, not plastic while others have extra insulation to keep drinks cooler longer. Whichever you go for, ones with rubber spouts are kinder to your teeth.

Food bag

A top-tube mounted fuel bag can save unnecessary rummaging in your back pocket: a top-tube mounted fuel bag can save unnecessary rummaging in your back pocket
A top-tube mounted fuel bag can save unnecessary rummaging in your back pocket: a top-tube mounted fuel bag can save unnecessary rummaging in your back pocket

Some traditionalist roadies might refute this inclusion but while you can carry all your nutrition in your jersey, a top-tube mounted bag makes life so much easier. There are various designs and sizes on the market, so when you’re shopping for one, take a handful of gels, energy bars or whatever you’ll be eating on the day to make sure everything you need fits.

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