Our MD Nick has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the age of 13. Today he enjoys trail and enduro riding, regularly heading out to the French Alps. Nick’s also a qualified mountain bike guide and bicycle mechanic.
We wanted to ask Nick what he carries with him on his mountain bike days out so we could share any tips with our lovely havebike fans.
QUESTION: So, Nick, if you’re heading out for a trail ride on your mountain bike, what do you take with you?
ANSWER: Generally if I’m going for 2-4 hours riding, I would always have the following bits of kit:
Helmet – I know for general day to day cycling there is a big debate over the use of helmets. However, for off road use, I’d never ride without one.
Top tip: you should replace your helmet every three years from the date of manufacture. You can find the date of manufacture inside your helmet. This is because the materials used lose their protection properties over time. Of course, if you’ve dropped or crashed and damaged your helmet you should replace it.
Glasses: I carry clear lens glasses as well as having a nice pair of POC sunglasses. As well as keeping the sun out of your eyes they protect your eyes from grit, dirt, rain, insects etc.
Top tip: as a general rule clear lens glasses will be used more in wet/muddy weather and therefore more easily scratched when you wipe them clean. You can pick up a pair of cheap (cool looking) clear lens glasses from builders’ merchants (e.g. Screwfix or Machine Mart) for about £4 and save your pennies for a nice bling pair of Oakleys or POCs for sunny days.
Hydration Pack – the trend at the moment seems to be ditching hydration packs in favour of water bottles mounted on the bike or in light weight waist packs. I’ve never been a fan of water bottles. They have a habit of coming out of the rack or waist pack when riding gnarly terrain. It’s never fun to come to the end of a section feeling thirsty and find your water bottle is no longer attached to the bike!
Therefore, I’m still with my hydration pack. I’ve used various brands over the years (Camelbak, Dakine, Fox and Evo). I tend to go for a minimum of 18ltr storage capacity as well as the 3ltr water capacity. I also like a bag that sits low on my back and has pockets on the waist straps so I can easily access a multi-tool and energy bar.
Top tip: if you’re going to be heading out on a warm day, fill the water bladder and stick it in the freezer the night before. The frozen bladder will help keep your back cool, will slowly defrost whilst you’re riding and your water will stay super cold.
QUESTION: What about tools and things in case repairs are needed en route?
ANSWER: Yes, it’s most definitely essential to carry some tools for trailside repairs:
Multi-tool – a nice small simple tool with #2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 hex (allen) keys, a flat and Philips head screwdriver plus a T25 head is my multi-tool of choice.
Chain breaker. I don’t like to carry really bulky multi tools with loads of tools on them – especially the chain breaker. I prefer carry a separate chain tool as they are easier to use.
Sometimes, the multi tool can be tricky to get to hard to reach bolts so I also carry the Topeak Ratchet Rocket. I love this tool but you have to be careful not to lose the bits!
Leatherman/pen knife with pliers. It’s always handy to have a good knife and set of needle nose pliers and this does the job perfectly.
Pump – when I did my mountain bike guiding course we were all introduced to the Mountain Morph. It’s like a mini track pump and gets your tyre full of air in no time!
Top tip: make sure you’re familiar with your pump before you go out on the trail. If you run Presta/Schrader valves, make sure your pump has been set up to inflate the types of valve you are using.
Digital tyre pressure gauge – pressure gauges on pumps can be inaccurate so I like to use this bad boy to ensure I am running my desired pressure accurately.
Shock Pump – I like to tinker with my suspension settings when I’m on the trails so this is a must for me.
Tyre levers – these come in handy if you have a particularly stubborn set of tyres. We like to use the Pedros tyre levers in our workshop as they are extra thick and more comfortable to use (and you can always find the pink ones are cheaper than the yellow ones!)
Inner tubes and patches – although I run tubeless tyres I carry back up tubes/and a method of puncture repair. Nothing spoils a ride like a flat tyre and no way to repair it!
Tyre boot/gaffer tape – if you rip a tyre, your inner tube will push through the rip when you inflate it. You can use a tyre boot or gaffer tape to patch the inside of the tyre where the rip is. You can even use a crisp packet/energy bar wrapper to achieve the same result.
Top tip: to save space wrap your gaffer tape around an old credit card a few times rather than carry a roll of it.
Spare bolts and chain links. Vibrations from mountain biking can cause your bolts to come loose, I carry a few spares specific to my bike, such as chain ring and crank bolts, brake caliper and disc bolts. I also carry a few spare chain links and a quick link in case I snap my chain.
Tweezers – handy for getting thorns out of tyres (and splinters from your hands).
Zips ties. So useful in so many ways for emergency trail side repairs.
Mech hanger: I’ve had a few mangled rear mech hangers. These are designed to break/bend on impact so if you have a spare you’ll be able to reattach your rear mech and carry on riding.
QUESTION: Anything else that people might overlook?
ANSWER: Yes, it’s easy to forget those things which you might not always need, but when you do need them… you need them!
First Aid Kit. As a mountain bike guide we are required to hold an outdoor pursuits first aid certificate and carry a first aid kit. I’d recommend anyone learns first aid. Mountain biking is an extreme sport so there’s an inherent risk. It’s always good to be prepared to deal with an accident – I’ve had to patch myself up a few times, not to mention sorting out my best mate’s broken nose on the first day of a riding holiday.
Pen and water proof card – this is a bit of overkill for general riding but as a guide it’s necessary to have these to make notes of incidents on the trail.
A few buffs. I love these things. They can worn in several ways including as a bandana, neck warmer, and wristband. Two buffs attached together can also make a very handy sling for arm/shoulder injuries.
Mobile Phone. As well as handy for calling the other half to say I’m going to be late after the post ride pint, a mobile phone can be used for navigation (best to have an old fashioned map as well) and checking You Tube videos for trail side repair help. You can also use it to call for help if you need to (remember to call 112 rather than 999 as you can call it free of charge from a mobile anywhere in the world to the local emergency services.
Top tip: it’s best to carry an old mobile phone (rather than your iPhone X) and make sure you store it in a waterproof dry bag which you keep in the middle of your trail pack so it’s nice and padded in the event of an off!
Wallet, cash & house keys: best attached to a lanyard and then attached to an inside pocket of your bag. That way you’ll be able to buy a post ride pint and sausage roll as well as being able to get back into the house!
Energy bars/gels: to give you that physical (and mental) push to get you to the end of the ride when you’re feeling that your energy levels are dropping.
Hipflask: for the celebratory train ride home when I’ve had a great day out on my bike!
QUESTION: you mentioned you like to go out for longer day/epic rides in big mountains. Is there anything else you would take?
ANSWER: yes if I plan to stay out all day (4 hours+ riding) I will add the following to my riding pack:
Spare spokes (and nipples): a snapped spoke will put your wheel out of true, possibly even making your bike un-rideable. If you’re out on an epic ride you don’t really want to be walking back. Make sure that you have the correct length spokes for your wheels!
Extra food: energy bars, gels, nuts, bananas, some Haribo (only two or three at a time to avoid massive sugar rush) have all featured in my riding kit and I make sure I have enough to keep me going until I get back to the car/pub at the end of the ride.
Emergency bivi shelter: if you get caught in bad weather, need to stay warm or keep the midges at bay (Scotland riders!), these are great and take up minimal space in the kit bag.
Sun cream and lip balm: Fairly obvious what this is for.
Head torch and rear light. If you’re held up or you need to ride on the road at dusk at the end of the ride, it’s best to be safe and visible. It will also help you see where you’re going if you’re still off road at dusk! However, if you intend to ride for long periods at night it’s best to invest in a proper set of off road lights.
Chain lube. If you’re on a wet and muddy ride or likely to have stream crossings it’s useful to be able to reapply lubricant to your chain to help keep your bike running smoothly.
Spare socks, pants and t-shirt. If you’ve been on a wet ride, it’s nice to be able to stick on some dry undergarments to keep you warm at the end of the ride.
Thanks Nick, great advice there, I don’t know how you fit it all in the bag!
Nick: Haha, indeed, but luckily most of the items pack up sneakily small so it’s not as much as it sounds! I use waterproof compression sacks to keep things dry, organised and compacted. All of the above kit will fit into an 18litre hydration pack. There are also frame/saddle/handlebar if you need extra room for long/overnight treks. They are quite good as they don’t get in the way too much or affect the balance of the bike.
I wouldn’t have been able share all this great knowledge without having been riding for many years. However, special thanks must be given to the following people who I have learnt much from and/or have supported me and havebike over the years:
Rich at Cyclewise – the best MTB guiding coaches in the business. These guys literally wrote the book, they are also great guys. Based at a fantastic trail centre in Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District, it’s definitely worth a visit. @cycle_wise
Andy at Dirt School – I thought I knew it all until I went for coaching here. Run by Chris Ball and Andy Barlow, former MTB pros, these guys really helped me ride faster and harder. A great day riding and learning. I can’t recommend it enough. @dirtschool
All at St John’s Ambulance – much valued clients and friends, this wonderful charity also ensures our workplace and bike guiding first aid training is up to date and relevant. @stjohnambulance @sjalondoncru
Darren at Mountain Bike Breaks/Alpine Breaks – based in Chatel in the Portes du Soleil (largest biking area in Europe) for years. Darren will ensure you have a great stay with your bike and knows the mountain like the back of his hand (as well as the post-riding entertainment!) @ChatelMTBbreaks
Our lovely suppliers who have kept us in bikes, parts and tools over the years including @coticbikes @cubebikesUK @orangebikes @bansheebikes @parktool @pedrosbikecare @futureteam (ATG Training) @zyrofisher @Topeak_Intl @pocsports @evocsports @endura @endura_cms