Kit lists for long rides and short blasts.
Don’t learn the hard way when it comes to knowing what you should take with you on a mountain bike ride. Just copy these two lists.
Born from decades of bitter experience, here we list all the items that you should have in your pack on a mountain bike ride. Never be caught out. And sometimes you’ll even be the heroic ride saviour.
First of all we’ll list is the bare minimum you can get away with taking with you when you head out on your mountain bike.
Kit list for short blasts
With judicious use of insulation tape and the right clothing, you can ditch your backpack with this kit list. All you need on top of this is a water bottle really.
Be warned: don’t head out into the big hills late in the day with just this little lot. If something goes wrong, you’ll be screwed and stranded in total darkness. Have you ever seen American Werewolf In London?
1. Inner tube
2. Mini-pump or CO2
No point carrying an inner tube if you’ve nothing to inflate it with. For short blasts, we often pack just a CO2 cannister (and an inflator adaptor), or we take a really diddy mini pump that fits in a jersey pocket. The sort of pump that is a pain to actually use but we’ll just about do the job and get you home in limp mode.
Again, we often take our ‘spare’ dinky multi-tool out instead of a full-on multi-tool. Something with a few Allen keys and flat head screwdriver on it is fine for 99% of tweaks.
4. Tyre levers
You might not need these if you have tyre and rim combos that enable you to remove/install your tyres with just your hands. If you have more troublesome tyres/rims then at least one tyre lever will be required.
Kit list for proper rides
We’ll be honest and admit that we don’t always take all of this stuff on every proper ride we do. But most of the time we take most of this kit.
1. Two inner tubes
One tube just won’t cut it. We all know that once you’ve punctured once on a ride it’s not unusual to have another one. It’s also good to be prepared for your riding buddies needing to cadge a tube from you. It’s all karma.
2. Decent mini-pump
When you’re out on the hills you don’t want to be struggling with a rinky-dink mini-pump. It’s not worth saving the weight. Get a decent mini-pump that’s efficient at shifting air and is comfortable in your hands.
3. Multi-tool with built-in chain tool
Again, leave your dinky multi-tool at home and pack a tool that has a full complement of Allen keys (2mm to 8mm), a flat head screwdriver, a T25 Torx wrench and a chain tool.
4. Tyre levers
Even if you’re tyres and rims can usually be removed/installed with bare hands, sometimes it’s just easier to use tyre levers. Especially if your hands are wet and freezing during filthy winter rides.
5. Puncture repair kit
For when two inner tubes haven’t been enough. Or you’ve had the time and inspiration to save using one of your spare inner tubes and actually repair a puncture out on the trail. We know, crazy huh? Inner tube patches can also be used to repair cuts in tubeless tyres (use them inside the tyre carcass and make sure the area is clean and dry before you start with the patching).
6. Shock pump
When you’re riding somewhere different or new it can reveal that your current suspension settings are a bit off, or just a bit unsuitable for the day’s terrain. And sometimes fluctuations in your weight and the weight of your riding kit can upset your bike’s handling a bit.
It rains every month in the UK. In fact, it rains pretty much every week in the UK. It’s a foolhardy rider who sets of for a proper mountain bike ride without a jacket outer layer in their kit to keep them warm and dry when the clouds burst. Which they will.
8. First Aid kit
There’s no need to go OTT here. If you or a mate ends up being seriously injured, no off-the-peg First Aid kit is going to be that much use. But taking some stuff to deal with cleaning/covering cuts and grazes is a good idea. Also well worth packing some painkillers and anti-inflammatories.
9. Survival blanket
This is the thing to take instead a suitcase-sized First Aid kit. A survival blanket to wrap around the injured person while you wait for mountain rescue to arrive.
10. Rear mech hanger
You don’t have one of these do you? Get one ordered now. You’ll need to get the specific one for your specific bike model, which can take some tracking down. Whacked rear mechs and bent hangers aren’t as common a problem as they used to be but you need to be prepared for the worst.
11. Powerlink or joining pins
Some way of rejoining your chain should it break. Everyone in the world other than Shimano employees prefer Powerlinks. If you are a Shimano-phile then you’ll need to get hold of some Shimano joining pins (in the correct speed).
12. Zip ties
You can probably* replace everything on both these lists with a 100x pack of zip ties. You aren’t a true mountain biker until you’ve had a ride saved by a zip tie. It’s only a matter of time.
*No, you cannot.
13. Leatherman or pliers
It doesn’t have to be Leatherman branded but everyone knows what we means when we say Leatherman. Basically some sort of pliers-and-knives multi-tool that can be used for epic bodges and hacks in the wild.
14. LED lights
LED light sets are so cheap and compact these days that’s it’s an easy thing to keep stashed in your hydration pack. Sometimes rides take longer than they should and there’s nothing worse than riding on dodgy roads without lights. Also useful for getting home after the post-ride pub pit-stop turns into something longer.
15. Brake pads
No one checks how much brake pad material they have before a ride. You never realise your brake pads need replacing until the moment they do. By which point it’s too late. Stick some brake pads in your pack.
16. Emergency tyre boot
As mentioned above, you can often use a normal puncture repair patch to deal with smaller cuts in tyres but for bigger rips you need a tyre boot (basically another word for a massive thicker patch).
17. Energy gels
We’re not crazy XC raceheads here but we have all at one time or another been saved by finding an emergency energy gel in the bottom of our bags. Something to help you over the last summit or the final slog back home.
Cash is king but almost everywhere takes cards these days so it’s often fine to just take your debit/credit card out with you (lighter and waterproof too). Very handy to be able to buy some food somewhere on a big ride.
Enough to last the duration of your ride. Roughly at least 500ml for every hour that you’ll potentially be out on your bike for.
Packed lunches eaten on top of a mountain are some of the finest dining you’ll ever do. We prefer ‘real world’ fuelling as opposed to the marginal gains science way of things. The key thing is to take a variety of things to eat. Sweet, savoury, soft, crunchy, creamy, zingy, healthy, unhealthy… mix it up.
Kit list for the kitchen sink brigade
The following five items aren’t essentials by any means but they can be rather nice to have with you sometimes.
Feel free to leave them out if your backpack is already feeling a bit heavy with everything else listed above stuffed inside it.
1. Electrolyte tablets
Water can be tedious to drink. It can also not be terrifically useful if you’re working really heard and/or you’re into the fourth and fifth hour of an epic ride. A ziplock bag with some electrolyte tablets inside means you can add flavour and salt-replenishing capability to your water.
2. Chain lube
We don’t recommend taking out a full-on 250ml bottle of lube. It’ll add excess weight and also quite likely lead to messy leaks. But decanting some lube into a portable dropper bottle means you can re-lube things on those rides that really rinse your drivetrain bare.
3. CO2 cannister
Only the very laziest or wealthiest riders use cannisters instead of a mini-pump but sometimes there is a place for them. Whether it’s to save time (ie. when being bitten to death by midges somewhere) or to help re-seal tubeless tyres post-burping, there’s a place for CO2.
4. Chopped and bent old spoke for chain rejoining
An old spoke trimmed down to about 10cm and bent into an elongated C-shape can make rejoining a chain much easier, quicker and safer. Insert a prong of the C-shape spoke into each dangling end of the split chain and takes away the tension, allowing you to repair things better.
Watch: How to set your tyre pressures
5. Digital pressure gauge
If you puncture, or even if you just feel like your tyres aren’t quite right, you can use a digital pressure gauge to check what PSI you have in your tyres. Warning: you may be obsessed with measuring tyre pressure!