Mountain biking is a fun and exciting sport, which provides people with exercise and exploration. The following 10 essentials are what I carry while mountain biking and has saved me and made my rides that much more fun.
1. Mountain Bike Pack
Your backpack for mountain biking will be the first thing to determine. There are many different packs out there serving a variety of purposes. Yes, that old school backpack in your garage could work in a pinch, but having a backpack, designed for trails and other outdoor adventures will be safer and last longer.
A mountain biking daypack should contain enough space so as to carry all your tools, necessities and Water. I personally use the Camelback MULE. It was the largest backpack I could purchase, but I knew that I would want to have enough space for whatever trail I road. The two things that won me over were:
- Amount of water I could carry; and
- Ability to cinch down the cargo area so items were not shifting my weight while I ride downhill
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2. First Aid Pack
A first aid pack is always a must while you are on the trail as you never know when these supplies will come in handy. I have had friends and strangers fall and scrape themselves and being able to clean and patch up a scrape can make a world of difference.
When determining what types of medical equipment to carry, use your best judgment. I personally make sure to carry cleaning wipes, band-aids, gauss, and medical ointment which will let me patch up, while I ride the rest of the way home.
3. Tyre Levers
Tyre leavers may seem like something small to be carrying, but can make your life that much easier when you get a flat tire 4-5 miles from your car. Tyre leavers are designed to easily lift the tire away from the rim so you can switch out the old tube for the new one, are lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
4. Inner Tubes
Inner tubes go right along with levers are always good to keep on hand whether you are running tubeless tires with sealant, or standard tires. During my early days of riding, I went out in the evening to put a quick 45-minute ride in. However, I ended up with 3 flat tires in about a quarter of a mile. From that experience I learned three valuable lessons:
- It’s always good to keep a tube or two on hand;
- 29” tubes will work on a 26” bicycle tire to get you home; and
- A hand pump is great to carry for when you run out of CO2 cartridges
5. Bike pump
As you can guess from the above section, I carry both CO2 cartridges and a hand pump. CO2 cartridges are a nice convenience, which I still recommend, but can potentially burst, thus letting all the air out prematurely. While pumping up your tire manually may take a while, it will get the job done, and you back on your ride.
6. Bike Tool
Selecting a bike tool can be a daunting task given the wide-variety of tools out there, but it really comes down to two key components:
- Chain breaker; and
- Hex wrench that match your brakes
The chain breaker is an essential component to allow you to quickly remove a bad link in a broken chain and either replace it with a masterlink or resize your chain. This will allow you to peddle instead of pushing your bike home.
Hex wrenches are equally important. I run hydraulic disc brakes, which sometimes become misaligned during rides causing the brake disc to continually rub against the brake pad (this causes friction and can make peddling difficult). The appropriate hex wrench will allow quick brake realignment and save me precious energy as I make my way home.
The masterlink is a small piece that will connect both ends of your bike-chain when it has broken, and allow you to continue your ride. When selecting a masterlink, it is important to keep in mind two things:
- What brand of chain do I have?
- How many gears do I have on the cassette?
There are two main manufacturers of bike chains, Shimano and SRAM. Each manufacturer uses a slightly different linking system. Likewise understanding how many gears you have on the rear cassette is necessary to match up to the rest of the links on your chain.
The types of snacks and drinks you pack are a personal preference but are extremely important to have while you burn off calories and lose fluid from sweating. For drinks, I will almost always carry water, except on longer rides, or when the temperature is above 90 degrees. For snacks, I prefer to carry apples and wasabi almonds. The apples provide the touch of sweetness I will crave during a ride, while the almonds will provide that the salt content and protein.
*A note on water* It is not only good to have for replenishing the fluids in your body, but also to wash out your wounds after an accident.
Always carry your phone with you, and make sure it is fully charged before you leave. If you are in an area with cell service it is great to have to let your loved-ones know if you are running late or that you have been in an accident. Moreover, with today’s smartphone technology using mapping software such as Google Maps, etc. can help you find your way home if you are lost.
When riding in new areas, I typically download a .pdf map of wherever I am riding to see what marked trails are around. This has helped me on more than one occasion to make sure I can find my way home.
Lastly, always carry some type of light made specifically for mountain biking. Will help for night rides and for when you are delayed out on the trail and need to find your way home in the dark (having a light while fixing a flat can make a world of difference).
While lights come in a variety of price-points, spending the extra cash to get a powerful light will be worth the money. This is helpful because unlike road biking, there are no lights out on single-track trails.
There are two standard mounting systems for mountain bike lights. The first is the handlebar mount. This will act like the head beams you would find on a car and light up the road in front of you. The second is the helmet mount, which is a good supplement to your handlebar mount and helpful for when you want to illuminate an area to the left or right of you.
I personally ride with a Night-Rider MiNewt. The mounting system is versatile, and while I will mount it to my handlebars for riding. I’ve been able to also mount it to my helmet for when I have had to work on changing a tire or fixing a chain in the dark.
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Those are the 10 essentials to carry while mountain biking. While items on this list may change depending on your specific needs. It is important to know where you are going, the types of trails you will be riding, and the length of ride you are going on to determine what you should pack.