Your jersey pockets and perhaps a small saddle pack can hold enough kit to get you out of a lot of problems that could come your way during a ride. Here are the essentials we'd advise that you carry, along with additional suggestions from road.cc readers.
A puncture is the most common bike problem you’re likely to face out on the road. Something like Vittoria’s Pit Stop latex foam will repair many holes and re-inflate your tyre at the same time, but most people are going to want a spare inner tube tucked away. Or more than one. After puncturing both tyres on unexpected potholes a few years ago, editor-at-large John Stevenson now carries three spare tubes.
It might sound obvious but you need to know how to take the wheel off your bike and remove the tyre too, and how to replace both. It’s a straightforward operation, but if you’re in any doubt have a few trial runs at home first.
You might be able to get your tyre off the wheel rim and back on again without levers (some combinations are easy, some impossible) but it’s always a hassle so have some tyre levers stashed away.
You need a reliable way of inflating a replaced inner tube. CO2 inflators are quick and easy but when the cartridge has run out, that’s yer lot. A pump takes longer and requires more effort but you can use it multiple times if you have a bad day.
You can have the best of both worlds by using something like Zefal’s EZ Max FC CO2 Inflator which incorporates a hand pump too. Belt and braces!
Puncture repair kit
What if you puncture more than once? Assuming you’ve not taken multiple spare inner tubes along with you, you’re going to have to fix the hole. Some patches require glue, others don’t. Whatever kit you go for, make sure you know how to use it; by the side of the road as darkness looms isn’t the best place to learn.
If you’re nipping out for an hour and the forecast is for wall-to-wall blue skies you’re probably safe, but we all know that the UK weather is reliably unreliable. You can boil on a sunny climb one minute, shiver as you try to fix a mechanical problem in the rain the next. If you’re in any doubt about the conditions, take a packable waterproof in your pocket.
It’s not necessarily the best choice for everyone but the Gore C5 Gore-Tex Shakedry 1985 Viz Jacket we reviewed here on road.cc weighed just 127g and takes up hardly any space. You won’t notice you’re carrying it until it’s needed.
You might carry a multi tool for months and not use it, but just occasionally it’ll get you out of trouble if your stem bolts loosen, say, or your seatpost slips.
Check that your multi tool has all the bolts on your bike covered. If you have Torx heads anywhere on your bike, for example, make sure your multi tool has the relevant driver.
Even the most experienced cyclists sometimes misjudge the amount they have in the tank and end up feeling weak and feeble through lack of energy – and you can pretty much guarantee that this will happen when you’re miles from the nearest shop.
Energy gels and bars might not be to everyone’s taste but they’re a concentrated source of fuel that’ll give you a boost when you really need it. They tend to last for ages so tuck a couple away for emergencies.
Most of us have an unhealthy close relationship with our mobile phones these days, but it does make sense to have one in your pocket when you’re riding.
Just occasionally you might get caught out by freaky weather conditions, your bike might suffer a mechanical you can’t fix, or you might simply run out of energy and need help getting home.
It’s good to have your phone as a reassuring backup, but don’t rely on it too much because there might be times when you don’t have any signal or it has run out of juice.
Fold up a £20 note and tuck it away next to your inner tube. You never know when you’re going to need an emergency Snickers or two from the filling station, a new spoke from a bike shop, or even the train fare home.
Quick link for your chain
Chains don’t break often but it’s a major pain when they do. You don’t want to be messing around on the side of the road with a chain tool, a connector pin and a pair of pliers – a quick link is a much easier way of getting back on the road. After years of resistance, even Shimano offers one now (two for £11.99 at RRP).
Make sure your quick link is the right size for the chain you use.
road.cc readers’ suggestions
We asked road.cc readers what they take along on every ride and here are a few of the responses we got.
Iain TheCookiemonster Cable ties, multi tool with chain tool, chain quick link, disposable gloves and a couple of 2in sections of an old tyre.
Jon Wood Ibuprofen (used a few times), Imodium (not yet).
Michael Marks Tube, combined levers and CO2 head, two CO2 canisters, emergency £5.
Jamie Reeve A pair of latex gloves, Nurofen, Imodium, and spare cleat bolt and washer.
Peter Atkinson Small first aid kit.
Liam Nicholson Playing card to use as a tyre boot if needed. A fiver works very well too.
Ian Miles Cable ties, insulating tape, spoke key, pork pie and valve adaptor, just in case you meet anyone on other bikes needing help.
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.