Cycling Tips: Equipment Checklist

Bicycle checklist for what equipment is needed for your safety, emergency repairs, and to insure a pleasant day of cycling.

One of the things I enjoy about cycling is the independence it gives me. When I'm out in the countryside, I can mend a tire, fix a flat, repair the gearing and brakes; I can even put in a new drivetrain. If the car breaks down, I have to call "ňúTriple A'. With a checklist, you can insure your day of cycling goes well in spite of mishaps.

Your first checklist is yourself: Identification, emergency phone numbers and names. Also include medical information: blood type, insurance, allergies, medical conditions and medications: what medics need to know about you in an emergency to save your life and get you sound medical treatment. I put this information in a sealed plastic bag kept inside each kit on my bikes and in a coin purse tucked in the pocket of my jersey.

Clothing is another checklist: My winter gloves are kept in the pocket of my bike jacket, so that if the weather turns cold, I grab the jacket and have the gloves as well. Sunscreen and cycling glasses go together and if you have the room, your bike shoes and helmet are a good combination to store together. It's quite easy to forget something if you have them scattered around the house. By grouping certain items with the essentials, you won't forget to put sunscreen on, or that your body is warm but your hands are ice cold. The helmet and shoe combination came from leaving either my shoes or my helmet at the house when I did a remote start, making for a very frustrating day, especially if it's the shoes. You might think of something, camera or such to put on your list and if you tie it to another object you use; it helps in remembering to bring it.

For the bicycles, I have a kit for each one, rather than one kit to take off and on. Each bike comes stocked with everything I'll need. Every cyclist should have basic gear for fixing flats and tires, a couple of multipurpose tools, pencil and paper. Any of the bike bags on the market that fit under the seat will have room for the essentials. If you plan to carry more, such as a camera, get a bike bag that can expand as needed.

The checklist for your bicycle kit should include: two good tubes, if you're riding clinchers or a tubular secured under the saddle if you ride sew-ups; patch kit, either glueless or with glue and tire irons; boots, cut from a worn bike tire to repair a cut in the tire. If you're unfamiliar with what a boot is, anything that will fit inside the tire where the tire has a cut that exposes the tube. In an emergency, you can use a dollar bill folded up or a wrapper from an energy bar. I carry three in different size lengths I cut from an old tire. Tools: I recommend a tool pod. All of the tools you need are in one. They would include hex wrenches, flat and Phillips screwdriver, chain tool, spoke wrench and box wrenches. You can buy any variety of tool pods, or individual tools but make sure they have the sizes you need for the equipment on your bike, almost all the tool pods do. You want to make yourself familiar with using these tools before you ride. Practice at home on a rainy day, how to use your tools in the correct manner.

I keep a couple of other items as well. A bolt or two in the size I need for my bike, just in case a bolt should come off. A section of chain, four or five links long, should you have chain failure and need to replace a damage link. When you replace your chain, keep a short section from the excess to place in your bike kit. Paper and pencil are very important. If you are in an emergency, involving you or someone else, you will need something to write addresses, phone numbers and directions.

Pumps are vital on your checklist. They're a number of different pumps on the market. Most used for on-site repair are the mini pumps and air cartridge guns. I prefer the air cartridge, but I keep a mini pump just in case. The reason is; you can inflate a tire in seconds with an air cartridge, while you can exhaust your arm pumping a tire with a mini pump, especially a mountain bike tire. The mini pump is handy for finding the puncture in the tube, saving you a cartridge, or if you had a really bad day and used all your cartridges-I carry three, you always have the pump as a backup.

Now a checklist for the bicycle: Before every ride, look at your tires. Pick up the front or back end and spin the wheel. Do you see any debris, such as glass embedded in the rubber and what is the condition of the tire itself? Are there gashes or threads from the casing exposed. Check the pressure by pushing on the tire with your thumb. A slight or no give on a road tire means it's inflated. If you can push in, then check the air pressure. As the wheel spins, check if the wheel is in true - that means there is no or very little wobble of the tire. A wobble could mean you have a loose or broken spoke. Check your brakes, give them a squeeze and see how far the lever goes before stopping the wheel. You might need to tighten your brake cable if the brake lever touches your handlebar before the wheel stops. Now check your water bottles, making sure you filled them.

Before putting on your shoes, check the cleats making sure they're tight and have plenty of wear still on them. You might want to think about carrying an extra screw for the cleats in your kit. Check your pedals, making sure there is no debris lodged where the cleats engage. If dirt collects in your pedal system, you can have a problem trying to click in or out of the pedals. After you remove the debris, use a little household furniture polisher to spray on the pedals, wiping the excess off. The cleat will then slip right into the pedal.

If you work on your bike you need a checklist for the workbench: A floor pump is an absolute must. One or two quick pumps and you have your air pressure at the proper level. Keep a can of household furniture polisher handy. The cheapest brands seem to work best at cleaning your bike. A set of hex wrenches that are full size are nice to work on your bike without having to use the small tools of your pod when in the garage. If you can afford one, a bike stand makes working on your bike much easier and saves you from bending over the bike. A truing wheel is nice also; if you can afford it but not necessary, you can turn your bike over and use the brake pads as guides for truing your wheel when needed.

I buy tires and tubes when they are on sale and keep them at the ready when I need them. A dozen or so tubes and at least two extra tires will save you a trip to the store or a wait for delivery.

One last checklist: Every good racer does this before the event. They make a mental image of what they're going to do and where they want to be in the pack. Whether you're a weekend warrior or just a casual rider, before going on your ride make a mental checklist. Let's say you have a long hill climb, get yourself ready by making a mental note of how you will attack the climb. Where you feel your best effort should be made, where to slow down and take it easy. This will save you from sprinting up the hill passing everyone, only to end up gasping by the side of the road as they pass you by. A windy forecast might mean you want to take turns pulling for each other and for how long. You need to know where and when to stop, by having a mental checklist; you can gauge your performance between stops and thereby complete the ride as planned. It makes for a better day of riding and that's what makes checklists important.

© High Speed Ventures 2011