Thursday, August 1, 2013

Essentials for Long Distance Bike Riding

Which is the most important item in this picture?
This photo taken from the seat of my bicycle represents security to me. When I am out on a ride and will be out for four or five hours, I want to be prepared, and on the day that I took this photo (the 3rd day of a 7 day bike ride 420 miles across the state of Iowa #RAGBRAI) I was ready for anything. During the ride that day I helped 6 people who
needed something that I had. So today, I am going to take you on the inside of my rolling home (my bike), which does not have a name...I am open to suggestions!

The components of my handlebar gear from left to right:

  • a bandanna, I usually have 2 but gave one to a passerby who has dripping in sweat and needed something to wipe the stinging salt out of his eyes
  • my carry-all bag (contents described below)
  • on the left side of the carryall bag on the outside is a thermometer and compass clipped to the side and another clip on the same side has the key to my support vehicle
  • on the right side of the carryall bag on the outside is a clip with sunscreen and another (usually) with an antiseptic, it is missing from this picture because I gave it up at a porta-potty that had no toilet paper;
  • in the direct center is my computer which gives me very accurate and vital information about distance, speed, cadence, time as well as a lot of other things that I haven't been able to figure out. It comes with a 58 page instruction manual that I haven't found the patience to read
  • and the best idea on the handlebars is the little blue, white and green bag hanging directly next to the computer...any idea what it was originally designed to be? I'll tell you a little later, but it is a snap-on bag that I can easily take off and carry around when I stop. I'm going to describe its contents first, because of all of the things I have on my handlebars, this is the most valuable.
Bandannas can be used for medical
emergencies, tying things to the bike
as a tablecloth and as this picture depicts
a navigation tool. I use colorful
bandannas to help my support
crew distinguish me in a crowd
What's inside?
  • The pacifier pod...yes, that is a pacifier carrier that I found one day while shopping for my grand-daughter...the pacifier pod is so convenient because of the the following essential items fit nicely into it and easily come with me when I make a stop:
    • 2 individually wrapped handi-wipes - used for toilet paper or as a disinfectant wipe
    • 1 individually wrapped insect repellent wipe, for so many uses...
    • my presta-valve protector for inflating tires - keeps my tire valve from breaking when inflating it at high pressures (110 psi)
    • 1 - $5 bill - appreciated by vendors who do not have a lot of small bills for change
    • 5 - $1 bills - always appreciated by vendors selling items for $1
    • 1 - $20 bill - in case I have a problem on the course and need to have it fixed by one of the bike repair shops that are set-up along the course
    • 1 credit card - in case I have a major problem on the course, like a spoke breaking and need to have it fixed, this has also been valuable when there has been a vendor on the ride who was selling a larger ticket item that I just had to have...and I learned recently, that the credit card on my bike can be used to pay a taxi that I have to call because the bike repair is bigger than can be easily fixed...
    • insurance card - so far never been used, but a requirement when riding with 34,000 other bicyclists of varying capability, alertness and altered states
    • my business card - you never know...
    • a snack sized baggie with allergy medicine and 2 Tylenol, both medicines are fast acting and used frequently
    • 2 band-aids
    • 2 chewable pepto-bismol for a variety of uses
    • 1 small stick size of baby sunscreen for my lips - if hydrating appropriately (8 ounces of fluid at least every hour out) sunscreen must be applied hourly
    • 4 never know when you will need to use a pay phone because all of the riders on #RAGBRAI crash the band-width and no calls can be made on smartphones.

The greatest thing about the pacifier pod is it holds exactly everything that I need when I stop to refuel and I don't have to dig around for anything. I also throw it into my backpack or purse at the end of the ride and I still have everything I need. I have been asked countless times by people standing in line with me where I got the bag - and so now all of you too...can take advantage of this fabulous time saving, convenient tip.

The Carry-all Bag

Aptly named because indeed, I have enough in the bag to save me if I ended up riding my bike onto a deserted island. The bag weighs more than my bike and is continually surprising me with the things that keep coming out of it. My carry-all bag is tailored to best suit me and certainly has more items than are essential. For brevity sake, I have taken a photo of the contents of my bag and then have highlighted the most critical elements of the stash, and in full disclosure, for this article I simply emptied out the contents of the bag - so you are seeing raw footage of the actual contents.
Yikes! No wonder it is so hard to bike up all of those hills with the weight I am carrying !
And now it makes sense why I make so many friends on the course...
something for everyone...from my table, or cupboard to yours...
10 Essential Items for the Carry-all Bag:
  • Bike pump (the 8 inch skinny silver thing in the right hand side of the screen
  • Tools - all that I need in the top part of the screen, blue and silver
  • Epi-pen...for my wasp and hornet allergy
  • Shot-blocks - an electrolyte jelly 
  • Sports beans, for both electrolyte and caffeine replacement
  • Nut butter for immediate protein and sugar
  • Chamois creme for those longer rides
  • Dates for the magnesium and sugar replacement
  • Pen - a really hot commodity on a ride
  • Bike tire tube - not shown here, I have a separate bag to carry tat and the tire irons needed to replace a tube, but since I am creating a top 10 list - a tube would have to be on it. I choose not to carry it in my supply bag because I don't want the tools etc to poke a hole in the tube.
Even with all of this stuff in my bag I usually have room for a hat and a light raincoat. And I am prepared for anything.

So this article began with the question about the most essential element in the photo and what a tricky question it was...I am curious about what you think? Am I missing something that works well for you? Are there some items here that you never thought to carry but will now? Or are you laughing like many of my team members at how much stuff I cart around with me? I would love to hear from you.

#RAGBRAI is such a great family experience for us and I want to share some of the things that make it great. Being prepared is one of the tips I have for you. Whether you want to be uber-prepared like me, or go simply and carry the bare essentials, having the equipment and supplies to ensure your safety and health will help you enjoy your experience...and know that if you forget something, there are always people like me who will stop, help and share.

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