1. Spare Tire and Pump
It might seem somewhat obvious, but the first thing that comes to mind is a spare tire and a pump. As my younger self can attest, being stranded without a spare and waiting forever for fellow cyclists to pass by—or being forced to hail a taxi—isn’t fun.
While getting stuck can sometimes lead to new adventures—like a warm day back in May when I was biking through the country and got a double puncture only to have my awesome wife come pick me up and enjoy the weather and a late lunch with freshly harvested asparagus—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Now, I always pack one spare tire and repair kit in my saddlebag and affix it with some velcro under my seat so it’s out of the way.
You never know when a short ride might turn into an epic journey, so having cash on hand is smart. You might go for an entire ride and spend nothing, but it’s nice to have a few dollars in case you want to swing by a local bakery for coffee or if you find yourself in need of a new tire.
3. Identification (and a Fully-Charged Cell Phone)
Having some form of identification on you at all times is a must. I always keep one ID card in the pocket or my jersey and another in a RoadID on my wrist. Early in my career—before the internet and mobile phones—I went on a ride from Berlin to my parents place about 280 km away. I’d done it a few times before, but this time the combination of rain, a huge semitrailer, and poor timing led me to slip off the tarmac, crash, and break my collarbone. I was lucky enough to be able to hitchhike to the next city’s hospital, call my wife, and have her rescue me. But this incident made me realize the importance of having identification—especially when riding alone.
4. Liquids and Food
I carry two bottles on my bike at all times—one with plain tap water and another with syrup mixed in. Why? Water aids in hydration, and a mix sweetened with sucrose (table sugar) can help give you that extra boost of energy when fatigue sets in. I also bring along some fuel such as bananas and muesli bars in case hunger strikes.
5. Light Jacket
I try to limit what I bring out on the road, but depending on the weather I tuck a light rain jacket or windbreaker into one of the pockets on my jersey. Sometimes I can’t help but feel like some kind of kangaroo with all of my pockets stuffed with food, money, and drinks, but I’m always prepared.
Needless to say, a helmet is always a must. Not convinced? Look at the numbers. An Australian study of more than 64,000 cyclist found that helmets reduce the risk of a serious head injury by nearly 70% and that cyclists who wear helmets reduce their chance of a fatal head injury by 65%.