What to carry on a ride depends on your priorities, your ride length, the amount of ride support you’ll have and your own comfort level. Whether you ride minimalist or with everything but the kitchen sink, there’s no shame in taking a page from the Boy Scouts and “be prepared”! Have your pack ready to go at all times so you never have to look for the items you want to put in it.
Level I: Weight Weenie
You want the smallest, lightest, most compact bag possible.
A tire lever (or two)
Tube – out of box and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to be compact and not open up
Patch, glue and emery cloth (essentially a patch kit without the box)
Cash (for food, bus fare or as an emergency tire boot)
CO2 and inflator
I.D./Insurance card/debit card (Note: Debit card does not work as replacement for cash in a tire boot.)
Level II: Easy Rider
You ride solo a lot and are weary of getting stranded.
Duct tape (1 ft wrapped around a small piece of cardboard)
1-2 additional tire levers
Small multi tool
Presta-to-Schrader valve adapter (which you can simply leave attached to your valve)
Pump (may be carried on bike or in pocket)
Level III: Not counting grams
You’d rather be safe than sorry.
Emergency energy gel or nutritional bar
A master link or replacement pin for chain repair
Go to a bigger multi tool with all the bells and whistles
Level IV: Going the Distance
You’re in it for the long haul. You’re randonneuring, have a really long commute or are on a self-supported bike tour. You’re not afraid of the weight, but weary of the cold dark rain. Your small seat pack has morphed into a carrier clamped to the seatpost.
Lightweight jacket/extra clothes
Emergency spoke replacement
More extra food
4″ crescent wrench
Anything else you don’t think you can live without
Tori Bortman is a mechanic and instructor who runs classes through her company Gracie’s Wrench.