Are you planning on tackling a sportive this year? If so, preparation is key and making sure you've got the right kit to tackle the challenge will help you achieve your goal and it'll make it an enjoyable day in the saddle too.
1. The right bike
You won't be going far without this! A well fitting bike is your most important piece of kit and if you're determined to do a series of rides or a long-distance event, such as the Rat Race Road Trip, consider a bike that's designed to help riders ride comfortably over long distances. Check out our Bike of the Year 2014 coverage for the pick of this year's sportive bikes.
2. Hydration system
AKA the water bottle. Never under-estimate the importance of this piece of thermoplastic. The importance of being well-watered goes without saying, so make the most of your bike frame's bottle bosses. For a cheap option, you can't go wrong with the Zefal Spring bottle cage, it's a bargain at only £5. It's important to keep the bottle topped up. Most sportives have regular feed stations along the route, so don't forget to make use of them.
3. Basic tools
Being prepared for a mechanical can make the difference between a good and a bad ride. It's never a bad idea to carry a spare inner tube, and if you do puncture a couple of times you'll need a set of tyre levers and a decent repair kit to patch them up. A good pump to re-inflate the inner is essential too, and don't forget a multi-tool either. The range of Allen keys and screwdrivers and chaintool will help fix most issues, such as a loose seatpost clamp or headset. Tuck a tenner into your puncture repair kit and use that as a gaiter if you rip the tyre wall.
4. Energy bars or gels
Nutrition often comes down to individual taste, so find out what works for you before your event and stick to it. The general rule of thumb is that if you're exercising for more than an hour, you need to start replacing lost minerals and energy to stave off a big drop in performance; ditto hydration. Gels are another option – particularly late in the event when you need a sharp, sugary pick-me-up.
5. Weather wear
This is the UK. Be prepared for any type of weather. A lightweight raincape will is useful for keeping out the rain, arm and knee warmers can be useful if it starts out cool and gets warm… but it could be blazing hot too, in which case you'll need to pack the sunscreen. Don’t forget a base layer either: hot or cold, a skin layer will help you feel comfortable all day long.
6. Pre-event checklist
We know this is supposed to be a top five but we couldn't fit it all in, and our most important recommendation is a pre-event checklist. Make a note of all the other essential items you'll need – shoes, jersey, gloves, shorts (a couple of pairs if you're doing a multi-day event), helmet and the items, and you're sure to have a great day in the saddle.