Checklist for Road Bike Rides

A road ride checklist saves time and aggravation. It can also help you make friends and build community. Here are suggestions for fun and safety.

road cycling group

Have you ever shown up for a road ride without an essential …. a helmet, shoes, water, or even your bike?

It happens.

While driving to the start of a ride, I’ve pulled off the road to check my gear bag to make sure I packed my helmet and shoes. I’ve arrived at a meeting place only to realize that I left my water bottles at home. I’ve pulled up to a rest stop and realized that I forgot to pack my snacks or cash to purchase water or Gatorade. And, though, I’ve never forgotten my bike, I know someone who has.

Fortunately, friends and even cycling acquaintances have helped me. A friend has given me her extra water bottle. A man I barely knew handed me a $20 bill and told me to buy a snack and return the change. Food, drink, supplies, repair know-how, etc. have all been supplied by my cycling companions. Similarly, I have shared water bottles, cash, snacks, gloves, cool-weather tights, directions, and a bit of know-how.

So, I’ve realized that it makes sense to develop a checklist for rides on my road bike.

Store in your bike bag

There are certain items I carry in my bike bags at all times. These are:

  • tube
  • multi-tool
  • tire levers
  • hand-held bike pump
  • cash
  • sunscreen (small)
  • lip balm with sun protection

By storing these items on my bike in my bike bag (I have two bags, more on why later), they’re always available to me. Periodically, I check each item’s condition and replenish as necessary. You could stash these in jersey pockets but I like keeping them in the bag so they’re always there. Btw, if you have questions about what items are appropriate for your bike, such as what size of tire tube to choose, ask the pros at your local bike shop.

Store on your bike

Here’s what’s on my bike:

  • flashing rear light
  • flashing front light
  • bike bags
  • bike computer
  • mirror

The lights increase cyclist visibility. Between rides, I recharge my lights and bike computer. All are chargeable and last several hours on a single charge. If your lights are battery-powered, check them before a ride or carry replacement batteries with you.

I carry two bags: a wedge pack like this one at the back of my bike and a larger one that I carry on the top tube of my bike. Because I’m short (and my bike, smaller than most), there’s not much room for a large rear bag. In addition, my size means that my phone and cash don’t fit comfortably and safely in my jersey pockets. The larger bag seems like a suitcase but it gives me plenty of room for supplies.

The bike computer allows me to track my miles and miles per hour. I started with a basic computer and moved up to a more sophisticated one recently. I’ve tested various mirrors and don’t use one regularly but have added a mirror to the list for safety reasons.

Store in a designated place at all times

I keep the following in my car or a designated place in my house so they’re available when I need them:

  • floor bike pump
  • extra clothes (arm warmers, leg warmers, tights, etc. during cooler seasons)
  • extra gloves (full-fingered gloves during cooler seasons)

In the fall, winter, and spring, the weather changes frequently so keeping extra clothes accessible improves my ability to arrive at a ride with all the gear needed plus make last-minute clothing decisions. Almost always, I carry my bike pump in my car so pumping tires to the correct PSI is a snap. I especially like my women’s bicycle pump. Occasionally, I lend it to folks who have forgotten their bike pumps or left their homes without checking tire pressure.

Set out these items before a ride and wear or bring to the ride

There are certain items I like to bring on my rides. I consider all of these essential though some are more critical than others, such as the bike and helmet. Here’s what I include:

  • helmet
  • bike shoes
  • gloves
  • bike
  • bike jersey
  • bike shorts
  • water/hydration
  • sunscreen (full-size container)
  • snacks (gels, bars, etc.)
  • mobile phone
  • Road ID

Many of these items are available at a local bike shop. Some are available at Amazon; here are some of my favorites there: nutrition, jersey, and shorts.

Some of these items could be kept in your car. But many should be kept in a climate-controlled area. These include your bike helmet, water, snacks, and sunscreen. Virginia Tech has recently rated bike helmets; this list may help you select the right one for you.

Stash in your bike bag (or jersey pockets) before a ride

Before a ride starts, I’ll place these items in my bike bags:

  • mobile phone
  • credit card (if needed)
  • car key (or house keys if riding from home)

I place certain items, like cash and car keys in designated areas. For example, cash goes in a separate, zipped pocket in one of my bags. In this way, when I reach for and apply lip balm during a brief stop, I don’t pull out cash or my car keys at the same time and drop them on the road unawares.

More Items to Consider Carrying with You (optional items)

One of my cycling companions carries supplies that allow him to do almost any imaginable repair on the road. Some of my buddies have installed cameras to capture riding fun as well as aggressive or reckless drivers. These and other items that may be useful include:

  • helmet light
  • extra tire
  • Driver’s license or official ID
  • medical information (this information can be added or linked to a Road ID)
  • map or cue sheet (turn-by-turn directions of a specific route)
  • video camera
  • first aid kit

You can add these or other items to your checklist depending on your preferences.

Road bike riding is a tremendous source of fun and camaraderie for me. It’s given me insights into how cycling groups model communities. By being prepared, I can be accountable to the group plus support others. But if I happen to forget something, I can be honest about my mistake and accept help. I hope this checklist (Road Bike Ride Checklist – Working to Live Differently PDF) helps you have a fun ride.

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