When preparing for a longer race, like a half or full Ironman, long rides are an essential part of the training plan. But the longer the ride, the more potential for things to go wrong: flat tires, getting lost, bonking, heat exhaustion… dozens of variables can make the difference between nailing that mega session and hailing a Uber for you and your bike from the middle of nowhere. But fear not – a little preparation can go a long way. By crossing things off of a long ride checklist and stashing the right gear on your bike and in your jersey pockets, you’ll be able to ride on (and on, and on, and on…).
Long Ride Checklist: On Your Body
Before you put any clothing on your body, cover your skin in sunscreen – experts recommend an SPF rating of 30 or higher, and applying a shot-glass sized amount from head to toe 15 minutes before outside activity.
Chamois cream can quite literally save your rear end on long rides. Avoid chafing and saddle sores by applying the cream to the undercarriage and inner thighs just before sliding into your bike shorts.
Bonus Stash: Some cyclists find that carrying a small tube of lip balm keeps wind-chapped lips from becoming a painful distraction in the final miles.
Pro Tip: Sunscreen wears off two hours – even faster when a person is sweating profusely. UPF gear, however, has serious staying power. Consider investing in arm sleeves, which will keep you sun-safe, no matter how long you’re riding.
Long Ride Checklist: Under the Seat
Two spare tubes
C02 and Dispenser (or hand pump)
Bonus Stash: Carry a small multi-tool, too. They come in handy for everything from mid-ride seat adjustments to tightening loose bolts on a bumpy route.
Pro Tip: If you don’t know how to change or patch a flat tire, get to your local bike shop, STAT – many offer tire-changing clinics.
Long Ride Checklist: On the Bars
The night before your ride, plug in any electronic components you’ll need, which may include a bike computer, head and tail lights, GPS watch, or electronic shifters.
Bonus Stash: Don’t forget to charge up your cell phone, too. Nothing’s worse than being stranded with a broken bike and a dead cell phone (It happens. A lot. And it’s really not fun).
Pro tip: If you’re prone to forgetting these items, place a brightly-colored sticky note on the handlebars to serve as a visual reminder to get connected before rolling out.
Long Ride Checklist: On the Frame
Hydration (traditional bottles or aero)
Always plan ahead for your hydration needs. Calculate how much fluid you need to drink per hour; if you can’t carry the total amount on your bike, plot out a route where you can refill your water bottles at regular intervals, either at home, a public water fountain, or a gas station.
If you use a powder or tablet for electrolytes, be sure to mix your bottles pre-ride and carry extra to mix in for refills. Though any powders are available in individual-serving packets, a more affordable (and environmentally-friendly) option is to reuse a pill bottle: scoop one serving into the bottle, then mark the level with a permanent marker. Add additional servings as necessary, marking the level on the bottle each time for easy measurement when dispersing.
Bonus Stash: Keep a $20 bill somewhere on the bike, like your under-seat bag. If you make an unpleasant detour to Bonk City mid-ride, you’ll be glad for the ability to purchase an emergency bottle of cola.
Pro Tip: For super-hot summer rides, fill your water bottles halfway with your water-electrolyte mix, then freeze overnight. On the morning of your ride, fill the rest of the way. The ice will melt over the miles, keeping your drink cool without diluting your electrolytes.
Long Ride Checklist: In the Jersey Pocket
Calories are critical on a long ride! Some opt to take their calories in liquid form, but for many, some kind of fuel – be it gels, chews, bars, or real-food sources – is a must. A good rule of thumb is to carry enough calories for every hour of riding, plus a “just-in-case” serving. In other words, carry the gels you know you’ll eat, but keep a bar or waffle in the pocket, too, just in case gels suddenly sound disgusting or you take a wrong turn somewhere and have to ride for longer than planned.
Bonus Stash: Most bike jerseys and triathlon kits have ample pocket space to carry nutrition. But if your super-sleek aero suit is lacking in stash space, consider installing a bento box on the top tube. This aero addition keeps food within easy reach without adding drag to your bike.