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Safety: What to Carry for Mountain Bike Rides

2011-10-04 • SEND FEEDBACK
Related: backup, gear, Moots, mountain biking

What follows below is a discussion of what should be carried for local and remote rides, so as to avoid unpleasant consequences.

What I carry for every ride

Note that some underseat bags can split open or unzip themselves under very rough conditions, so be careful of bag choice.

I carry the following at all times in an underseat bag, which adds up to 1.5 pounds or so:

  • My Moots MootoX RSL and Moots YBB 26 have tubeless tires, so I carry one tube of Stan’s NoTubes sealant just in case a puncture bleeds out too much sealant, this way, I can top it off.
  • A small pump, such as the Lezyne, or a Blackburn. This is really for topping off tires really; if a tire needs a whole lot of air, then CO2 is more useful.
  • Two CO2 cartridges with mini spring-loaded attachment for tire inflation. This CO2 attachment is possibly redundant to the Lezyne pump, which is a good thing, since the Lezyne did fail me once.
  • One spare tube.
  • A patch kit for the tube (in case the tube also becomes punctured).
  • One tire iron (plastic with steel core).
  • Allen wrenches for the seat collar and seat (4mm and 5mm).

What I carry for remote rides

In late September, 2011, I was stranded for a long hike-a-bike high in the White Mountains of California, at 13,000' late in the day.

I was lucky, because I bummed a ride after walking about 3 miles (instead of 8 or so), but it taught me a lesson: assume equipment failure, and thus carry the gear and food and clothing appropriate for the distance one is from home/car.

Shown below is the scenario I encountered in September 2011. My car is barely a 1-pixel speck on the far hill (even at full image resolution). It is a long way away, it is cold, snow threatens, and darkness is only 2 hours away. I did not have a backup pump, so I was out of luck.

Click for a larger image.

A long walk back from 13,000' in the White Mountains, with darkness approaching
(altitude as shown here about 12,000')

What is a remote ride?

By a “remote” ride, I mean a ride where failure could mean a 10+ mile walk-a-bike out, and/or where weather, elevation, etc could pose real risks for those unprepared.

Assume failures

Plan ahead. Especially in the mountains, sunny skies can change to wind/snow/rain in a few hours or less.

  • Assume that you will stuck out after dark, so carry a light with at least a 3-hour runtime with good brightness, e.g. a Lupine Piko or other model. Such a light need not weigh more than 1/3 pound with its battery.
  • Assume that it might turn cold and/or rainy, so be sure to have at least a wind/rain shell. Such a shell need not weigh more than 8 ounces, e.g., the North Face Diad.
  • Carry extra food, at least 500 calories worth over and beyond your expected consumption for the longest expected ride duration. Extra water doesn’t hurt either— a spare liter.


For such rides, more space is required, and this generally means a daypack or hip-pack or other means to stow the gear.

I carry all of the usual stuff above, plus:

  • A spare tire (yes a TIRE, not just a tube). I used my spare just recently when a tire failed on me during a night ride; the sealant could not plug the hole.
  • Two or three tubes of Stan’s NoTubes sealant for new tire install.
  • At least three (3) 16g CO2 cartridges with inflator, to install the new tire.
  • A total of two (2) spare tubes (in case the tubeless tires cannot be repaired/sealed). Lightweight tubes are fine here, since they are backups.
  • A pump with decent volume.
  • A smaller backup pump.
  • Tire sidewall repair: a candy bar wrapper can work in a pinch, or a sidewall patch kit.
  • A Lupine LED light mounted on the bike, in case I get stuck out after dark, and/or for SOS emergency signal.
  • (for really remote areas) My SPOT personal beacon.
  • Extra food for some extra hours beyond intended ride distance: at least 500 calories.
  • Clothing for wind/cold; at least a wind shell with hood like the North Face Diad, and possibly a compact down shirt or Mountain Hardware Nitrous jacket, or similar stuffable item. Sometimes, a dry jersey.
Don’t get stuck— carry a repair kit
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