There's nothing more discouraging for a road cyclist than having to call someone to come and get you because your bike is unrideable. No matter whether you're two or forty miles from home, it's embarrassing. Like the Boy Scout motto says, "Be prepared": preparation is the key for finishing your ride.
The first rule is to keep your bike in good working order. Regular tune-ups keep a bike running smoothly and efficiently. You should always do a pre-ride check of your brakes, tires and drivetrain to make certain everything is properly adjusted and in good condition. Everything else comes down to carrying the essential equipment for road cyclists.
Flat Tires are a Fact of Life
Unless you have solid tires, you are going to have flats, and Murphy's law says that they'll never happen half a mile from home. No matter how far you plan to ride, always carry what you need to fix a flat - two flats if you're on a long ride. No rider should ever hit the streets, whether for two miles or a hundred, without:
- a spare tube, to replace one with a hole
- tire levers, because you can't get a tire off the rim without them
- a pump, to re-inflate the repaired tire
- a patch kit: if your replacement tube gets punctured, you'll be glad you have it. That's another reason not to just leave the old tube by the roadside, like some do.
There are lots of pumps out there. Be sure yours can produce the pressure you need for a road bike; at least 100 psi. Some riders carry CO2 inflators and cartridges; others prefer a hand pump that fits on the frame, like the one in the picture, or mounts on the water bottle bosses.
Last but not least: Learn how to change a flat out on the road! You should be back in the saddle in under ten minutes. No kidding.
More to Carry
Mini, Light-weight Tools for Roadside Repairs
Besides your flat-tire kit, you should also carry a multitool. The cyclist's version of a Swiss Army knife, multitools have the hex-head wrenches and screwdriver tips you'll need to make minor repairs and adjustments on the side of the road. If you know how to use one, bring along a chain tool; though for most riders a damaged chain means you're done riding for that day.
ICE: In Case of Emergency
Carry a cell phone so you can call for help in case of an accident or major breakdown; maps and GPS applications in smartphones are also handy for when you get lost. Always carry ID and emergency contact information in case you are injured.
Do not ever ride for more than a few miles without taking water. Mount a bottle cage (or two) on your bike and take water whenever you put foot to pedal. For long rides, consider hydration systems like CamelBaks, and plan your route to stop at convenience stores and gas stations where you can refuel. Carry some pick-me-ups, too: energy bars and energy gels provide a boost if you feel you're starting to fade.
Something to Keep It In
Though that sounds like a lot of "stuff," most of it is small and light. You probably don't want to carry everything in your pockets, though, so have a look at the available storage. There are several places you can stash small items on a bike, places that are out of the way and won't slow you down.
A small seat pack like the one in the picture keeps a surprising amount of tools and spare tubes out of the way and out of the wind. Most have a tiny zipper compartment underneath for stashing ID, contact information and some cash for the road.
For items you want to near at hand like phone, keys and snacks; consider a top-tube pack. These open-top boxes ride on the top tube in the wind shadow of the bike's head tube and stem. Most close with velcro, so you can open them on the move to grab a tissue or a snack.