Enjoying your next bike ride adventure could be a spontaneous, pleasant endeavor.
To really better the odds of FUN all around, a bit of planning is required.
If you are better prepared, the outcome of your next bike trail ride becomes more predictable and the way YOU want it, and not by chance.
Because cycling is an outdoor sport and at times a very solo recreational activity, you are better set to come back from a great bike ride than a miserable or short-lived outing.
Here is a handy list of ten things you should review before heading out on your next bike ride. Mentally check them off every time you head out and the odds are good you will be bragging about it over a beer — rather than crying in it!
1 – Weather – Don’t overlook the most important part of your ride adventure. Without knowing the local weather for the next few hours you may get stuck out on the trail and overheat, freeze, get wet, fight a headwind or even see snow!
2 – Clothing & Shoes – Next we need to be comfortable for the ride. Not over or under dressed. Wear layers of synthetic material that breathes well and wicks sweat. Cotton is ok for only the most leisurely of rides, as it gets heavy and feels cold when damp.
Also wear bright, colourful gear so no one runs into you, and hunters can see you. Shoes need to be a bit stiff and worn with socks. Generally I recommend being a little underdressed as you will warm up on those hills. If it might rain, bringing a backup jacket will make you glad when it pours. And let’s add bug spray and sunscreen to the list if needed.
3 – Food & Water – Don’t forget fuel for the body. Bring more than you need as an emergency option. Drink lots of water, before you’re thirsty, especially on hot summer days.
Snacks: granola or power bars are light and have quick energy for your motor. Leave fruit (apple, pear, banana) trail mix, other snacks, more water back at the car for when you drive home.
4 – Bike Maintenance – Is the bicycle you use to enjoy the ride fit for the task? How has it been running? Does it shift well, are the wheels true (not warped), enough air in the tires?
Are the brakes doing a good job? Does the chain need cleaning — give it a bit of lube before you head out. And definitely ride with a Tool Kit (spare tube, patch, pump, multi- tool, chain link at a minimum) it could be a long walk back!
5 – Time – How much time have you got and pad it just in case stuff happens. You need time to pack, drive there (traffic uggh!), time to saddle up, time to ride the trail and get back home. And will you grab an apres beer and burger with the buds?
6 – Company – Is this a solo outing or with others? Good company on a bike ride can be the best part of the whole experience. Other times your choice of ride mates can bring disagreement at every trail juncture; out come the maps and GPS units.
Ride with others that have the same level of skill, endurance and temperament who all know the plan. Otherwise someone will be disappointed with the experience and it could be you or others that take off or drag you back.
7 – Location – Finding the right spot to ride has to be the right fit. You want a good experience. Enough to feel satisfied but not a ride that will break you. Are you looking for a mellow ride with the girlfriend/boyfriend or a kamikaze MTB run? Are you looking for a scenic, historic or urban experience?
8 – Terrain – What kind of terrain do you seek? Is your stamina and the bike up to the challenge? Getting the right mix of distance + hills + technical skills is your personal preference, and the better prepared the more enjoyable the outcome.
9 – Maps – Sometimes a ride without a map is a pleasant adventure. A more predictable bike ride would have a paper map in your pocket, a phone/GPS device for guidance or better yet ride with a local. This is not always practical as many MTB areas have few maps to use.
If you bring a camera or phone, take photos of the map in the parking lot to view later. Most park trails are well marked, just be sure they are.
10 – Emergency Plan – Tell someone where you are going and when you should be back! Actually going with a riding buddy on a MTB or Rail trail is a good thing just in case bad things happen. Bring a phone, map, ID, money, extra food, water, jacket (rain) in cooler climates.
Now you are set. As with most things, a well laid out plan brings much success. Enjoy your well earned recreation time doing one of the things you love – bike riding. I am sure you are already doing some of these things as you prep your ride.
Happy trails to you – Dan