Now that the bike season is in full swing, a quick review of the essentials is worth review. Whenever you head out on your bike, there are a few necessities that you will want to carry with you at all times. It is all of our responsibilities to be safe and prepared while riding our bicycles.
First and foremost, never leave without your helmet properly fit, on your head with your chinstrap buckled. Too often, I have heard someone say, “I am just heading down to the corner and back.” Accidents can happen whether you are on a long ride or a short ride.
Don’t forget to bring sufficient fluids. We live in the high desert and it is HOT out there. It is VERY easy to get dehydrated. It does not matter what you bring. Some people favor plain water. Others prefer powdered training drinks like Scratch or Gatorade. For others, there are fancier (ie more expensive) options like Accelerade or Cytomax. Bring whatever works for you. It is perfectly okay to experiment with different drinks, combinations and concentrations. It does not take long to figure out what works best for you.
While some may not agree with me, I feel strongly that eye protection is a must. Besides the strong sun in Colorado, it is very easy to catch a particulate, a stone, smoke or a bug in your eye. Trust me when I say that you will not enjoy the experience.
Often forgotten is some form of identification. Particularly if you ride alone, this is a must. It can be a driver’s license, an ID bracelet (roadID makes a very good one for a reasonable price) or even your cell phone. This is particularly important for diabetic riders (or anyone with specific issues or allergies that might not be obvious to a stranger).
Bring your cell phone along as well. You never know when you will need it. You may find yourself out on the road with a broken chain or some other issue that cannot be fixed. Alternatively, it could start to hail (remember, we live in Colorado). Make sure that you program an ICE (in case of emergency) number into it.
If you are a diabetic or have some other medical condition, make sure to have whatever personal medical devices/supplies that you will need. IE blood glucose meters, insulin, glucose, allergy medicine etc.
Another often overlooked necessity is money. Whether you need to buy a tube or a latte, you will want to have some money along. I recommend $21 in your saddle bag. $20 can usually cover the cost of additional nutrition/fluids, a tube or tool. The $1 is in case you rip your tire. A tube can be easily fixed or replaced on the road. A tire is more difficult. A properly positioned $1 bill placed within a torn tire can protect your tube so that you can get home without further incident.
The most common issue on the road is a flat tire. It happens to everyone. Be prepared with a spare tube, tire levers and a pump (or CO2 cartridges). A patch kit is also a good idea. Even if you don’t know how to fix a flat, have the necessary equipment. Most bicyclists will stop to help a stranded fellow cyclist. Make sure that you are carrying the correct tube for your wheels. Tubes come in many different sizes.
There are other things that are a good idea, but are not necessarily a requirement for all rides. Nutrition is important as your mileage begins to increase. With any ride over an hour, you should have adequate food. Particularly diabetics should be keenly aware of their nutrition needs. This is another area worth experimenting. Some people are happy with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Some folks like sport bars or gels. Still others it is all about the chocolate. Your stomach will tell you what is best for you.
Another suggestion (particularly for the fair skinned among us) is sunscreen. We live in Colorado (lots of sun and altitude). There is nothing worse than a sunburn (speaking as a fair skinned person). Covering the face is important, but equally important is the back of my neck, your knees and the tops of your hands.
Finally, particularly if you are riding in the mountains, make sure that you have the appropriate clothing for any potential weather issues. Temperature shifts, sudden downpours, hail, and wind are all hallmarks of our wonderful state. Be prepared!
Don’t be intimidated by this list. Your bike is most likely fit for two water bottles and there is no shortage of options for saddle bags that attach easily under your seat. Also, your JDRF jersey (and most all other biking jerseys) have two to three pockets on the back which can easily accommodate lots of stuff.
JDRF Rocky Mountain Ride Coach