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Preparation for Mountain Bike Rides

Modified on 2012/04/05 15:34 by Administrator Categorized as Cycling, MTB
Most of the riding I do is long-ish rides, 25km+ and over rough terrain. Often, though not always, I'm a fair distance from help and out of mobile phone range - though that's improving all the time. So in the event of an emergency or mechanical failure, I'm walking a long way. At 4km/h (indicative speed pushing a bike), it would take about five hours to get back from McMahon's lookout, for instance, so we're not looking at a trivial occurrence if the bike fails. And if an injury happens, that could be worse.

So here's a list of some preparations I make before going on a long ride. For short rides, I'll take a subset of these.

Check the weather

NSW Warnings are worth checking, as are specific forecasts for the area. I'm generally not too bothered by rain (it keeps one cool), but I do struggle in high temperatures. It's also worth checking a few days before, so you can get a rough estimate of the state of the track. Heavy rain can make some trails sorely unpleasant to ride, and heavy rain with an ensuing dry-out can still leave a trail rocky, eroded and rough.

Bike safety check and minor servicing

Make sure the chain is cleaned and well oiled, check tyre pressures. Make sure shifting is still smooth and suspension is moving freely. Brakes should be operating within normal limits, and no frayed cables or damaged hydraulics should be observed. Saddlebag should be on, and contain a small selection of tools and a spare tube - I have a Karrimor saddle wedge which takes a basic kit.

The bike should have been cleaned since the last ride, though on two-day rides sometimes you have to deal with it and muddle through, because you can't do a proper cleanup overnight.


Good bike shorts are essential, as is a breathable and wicking top. For short rides, a t-shirt is OK, though not ideal. Bike shoes should be cleaned and the cleats solidly fastened. For cold days, a polarfleece goes in, and my GoreTex jacket gets stuffed into the bag. Usually, in rain, I don't bother with a waterproof layer, but on a very long ride in the wet, it's a good idea to stay dry as much as practical. Bike gloves are essential.

A helmet - I still run my old Specialized Sub Seven, which at the time I bought it was the lightest on the market. I don't much like helmets, but for off-roading they're a bloody good idea. There's discussion on mandatory helmet laws over at CRAG, but they don't so much apply to off-road and racing. Besides, the extra bit of risk-taking a helmet might lead to on a trail is completely different to risk taking on a commute.

Bike shoes - currently runing Shimano XC50s, but I've been through several pairs of Beck shoes, other Shimano shoes and Nike Pubah and NGubas, back in the day. I mostly snapped the sole plates on the PuBahs

Sunglasses are usually attached to the chest strap of my backpack, if they're not on my face.

Hair tie + spare hair tie

Kit to go in the bag

My backpack is a Deuter Aircomfort, compatible with CamelBak and with adjustable capacity. It can easily carry enough gear for a long day ride.

  • 3L Camelbak bladder (full to the brim for anything over about 15km)
  • spare water bottle (sigg) for longer rides
  • puncture repair kit + tyre levers (if not carrying saddle wedge)
  • Spare tube (at least one, more for a very long ride)
  • Tripleshot mini bike pump - won't give me as much pressure as the trackpump, but will give me enough to continue the ride
  • Multitool + hex keys - a general toolkit for field repairs. Larger tools stay in the car.
  • Food. I often take a few fruit bars, But I also have a BananaGuardTM, which stops soft fruit getting too battered in the bag. I used to take PowerBars, though these days I tend not to bother with them and take "normal" food instead
  • Bike lights, front and rear. Even for day rides, there's a chance an accident might lead to a delay in returning, and thus lights are a damn good idea. I run Cygolite rechargable on the front and a USB rechargable on the rear, and I make sure I charge them the night before a ride, day or night.
  • Car keys and wallet go in the bag. Falling on one's keys is a comedy staple, but also genuinely painful, and it *is* possible to lose one's keys from a pocket.
  • Sunscreen. Massively important here, not so much in the UK
  • Nurofen tablets and ibuprofen gel.

When I rode in the UK, I used to also take laminated paper maps and a compass, in case of navigational failure, a Petzl headtorch and a compact first-aid kit. I should get back into this habit, really. Compression bandages might be an idea, because I have encountered snakes while riding in the Australian bush.

In the pocket

  • Mobile phone + headphones + JuiceBox battery life extender

Essential in case of emergency, but also my GPS tracker (via MapMyRide and Maps+), camera and music player, and I often print out directions to PDF and store them on the phone too. I also have a car charger, so that it's fully charged before I start (and afterwards)

  • printout of the intended route, or sketch map of basic directions, if it's a trail I've not done before.

Kit that stays in the car

  • Trackpump
  • Change of clothes
  • Gaffer tape
  • Towel (at least one, if not more)
  • Extra water
  • Cardboard to wedge disc calipers - if transporting the bike inside the car - otherwise levers can be knocked in transit leaving brakes binding
  • Chain oil
  • WD40 or equivalent (I use as a chain degreaser before adding PTFE chain lube, but good for other stuff)
  • Toolkit consisting of anything too big or rarely-needed to carry.
  • Beer money (depending on where the car is parked, this can go in the bag)
  • Bike lock


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