Tips for packing for a ride

published 15 Aug 2016 by Developer in Riders category with 0 comments

Having now logged over 27,000km on Strava since mid-2010, I’ve picked up a few good and bad habits in my cycling. However, I like to think I’m pretty good at cramming as much as possible into my three back jersey pockets. With that in mind, I’ve put together a little guide of what I fill my pockets and saddle-bag with and why.

The middle pocket:

          Snack sized ziplock/snaplock bag

          Mobile phone

          Money (either cash or cards)

          ID (driver’s licence, student card, etc.)

          House key

          Hand pump (if not attached to frame)

          Medication (asthma puffer, etc.)

The most important pocket contains your call for help, your emergency funding and your ID in case the worst happens. I have two rules when going for a ride: 1) pack from 4°C to 44°C (living in Melbourne, you never know what the weather is going to do, even in the height of summer!), and 2) hope for the best, plan for the worst. Your middle pocket is what you use if you’re in need of some help, be it helping yourself or getting the outside world to help you.

The snack sized ziplock bag is to keep your phone and cash/cards dry in case of a sudden downpour. The last thing you want is to be 10 minutes from home after a great ride only for it to begin raining and ruin your phone (trust me, I know from experience). Leave your wallet at home too. No need to carry around an extra bit of leather and cards you don’t want or need. Make sure you also have a decent small hand pump and any medication you might need. Finally, ID is always important, just in case you need to be identified by emergency services and can’t do that yourself.

One reason why I use my centre pocket for these items is because I’ve fallen off my bike a few times and found that things that are in your side pockets bear the brunt of the impact. Hence, having your phone and other valuables in your centre pocket should save them. Plus they’re hard and the other items in other pockets are a little softer so should help avoid the worst of impact injuries.

Side pocket one

From here, you can fill up either side pocket whichever way is more convenient. I tend to put things I might want to more readily access on my right side as I’m right-handed. Some prefer to reach behind their back with their non-dominant hand so that they feel safer on the bike. Entirely up to you. However, my side pocket strategy is to have one for things that I might need whilst on the move and others that I’ll need to stop to use.


o   <1 hour – not required

o   1-2 hours – 1 bar

o   2-3 hours – 2 bars, 1 gel

o   3+ hours – at least 2 bars and 2 gels

          Spare packet(s) of electrolyte drink powder (e.g. Gatorade, Hydralyte, etc.)

Depending upon the length of ride, this will either be my emptiest or the most crammed of all three pockets. The guide for food above is just want I use. There’s lots of different nutrition theories out there for fuelling your ride – my advice is to experiment a bit and find what’s ride for you. But basically, the above has worked for me over the years. In terms of hydration, I tend to have both bidons filled with just plain old H2O to begin with and will add a sachet of hydralyte to my third bottle. Again, this is a strategy that’s worked for me over the years. Some people will need more electrolyte, others will need less. Experimenting and finding out what works best for your body is key.

Side pocket two

In my other side pocket (on my left hand side), I’ll usually keep anything else that I might need whilst out on the ride but won’t have to reach for whilst I’m moving. This will be weather and route dependent but I usually take out at least the following:

          Spare tube

          Spare CO2 canister

          Rain jacket


Usually, I’ll already have a spare tube and CO2 in my saddle bag (I’ll come to that in a minute), however, if I’m going to ride any gravel, rough roads, in the rain or on a section of road notorious for idiots throwing down tacks, I’ll have a double back-up. If you know you’re not going to need a rain jacket, this third pocket can also be used for any clothing you may have taken off during the ride (e.g. wind vest, long fingered gloves, knee warmers, etc.).

Finally, not so important for the winter months, but I usually have a roll-on or little tube of sunscreen between late-August and late-May in Australia to re-apply as needed.

Saddle bag

Many people forego the saddle bag to put all of these items in their back pockets. However, this doesn’t leave a heap of space for anything else. Hence, a saddle bag is super important. Besides, not everyone is a pro in the peleton at the Tour de France with a team car with everything they ever need.

          Spare tube

          Tyre levers

          Spare CO2 canister and valve

          Multitool (should have at least a 3, 4, 5 & 6mm hex wrenches, spoke key, phillips and flathead screwdriver and preferably a chain breaker as well)

          Patch kit

You don’t need to have two spare tubes unless you feel you might need them. Hence, if you want to get away with only one, best to stash it in your saddle bag. Tyre levers are also essential in fixing a flat. What you do for reinflation is up to you. I usually have two methods in case one doesn’t work – a CO2 canister (which you can buy for around $10 each at your LBS) and valve, as well as a hand pump. My primary option is the CO2 as its much faster and easier than using a hand pump. However, in the event that it doesn’t work, or you flat again and don’t have a spare canister, the hand pump is a nice back-up. I also use the hand pump to put a little air in the tube before inserting it back into the tyre to avoid getting a pinch flat.

Multitools are also super important. If you have a mechanical and need to do some repairs on the fly, or just want to make yourself a little more comfortable, its your mobile workshop. I’d grab one that has at least a 3, 4, 5 & 6mm hex wrench on it, as well as screwdrivers (Phillips and flathead) and preferable a spoke key (in case you need to do a crude wheel true) and chain breaker (in case you jam a chain or just need to fix it to get home.

Obviously, I could go on and on about packing for a ride but the above are some of the things I’ve picked up over the years!