Sportive season is quickly approaching – if not already upon us. Regardless if you’re brand new to mass participation events, or a seasoned rider, it’s a good idea to have a regular kit bag check list at the ready.
Ideally, you'll pack your bag the night before your big event so you can ride or drive off in the morning safe in the knowledge you won’t have to endure and nightmares at the event HQ.
Over time, this list will likely become ingrained in your psyche – but whilst it's ingraining, we’ve got a ready made one just for you. It’s worth running through this list at least a week in advance of your event, to give yourself time to pick up any essentials you’ve not already acquired.
A ready bike
Well, obviously you’re going to need your bike. However, you want it to be a smooth running, well-oiled machine that will help you attack those hills and whizz down the descents without too many clunks and clicks and bangs along the way.
The most annoying bike malfunction that can befall a rider is badly indexed gears. If your gears aren’t working properly, your chain won’t slip into its position as you want it to and you’ll be listening to it whirr all day, not to mention struggling up the hills unable to change gear or spinning in the granny ring on the flat. A week before your event, run all the gears through on your bike, if they’re not changing at each click, get it sorted – either at a bike shop or at home.
You also don’t want to be suffering repeated punctures, so check your tyres are in good nick, make sure your chain is clean and lubed, and that your brake pads have a good amount of tread left on them.
Finally, a clean bike is a quick bike – you know what to do!
Shoes and helmet
These are always the items I check for about twenty times before leaving for an event. You can get away with missing minor items, you can even pick a lot of clothing pieces up at or close to an event if you forget them. Shoes and helmet however really need to be yours – they need to fit comfortably and they’re generally pretty expensive, so you don’t want to have to buy one at the nearest bike shop en route (if they’re even open).
Make sure you've got these, and check that your cleats (if you're using cycling shoes) are not too worn down. If they are looking like they need to be replaced, do try to replace them at least a week before your big event so you can bed them in a bit. When changing cleats, either draw around the existing ones or use masking tape to ensure you replace the in the correct position - not doing so can result in knee pain and other niggles.
Comfortable Ride Gear (and a change of clothes)
You don't need 'all the gear' to be comfortable. However, there are key items that you'll be thankful for if you do have them. These are:
- A jersey that's breathable and wicks sweat, and has pockets at the rear to allow you to carry your nutrition and essential items
- Shorts with a quality chamois that you've ridden in before and trust not to give you saddle sores. And chamois cream if you use it.
- Arm and leg warmers so you can dress up and down depending upon conditions
- A gilet or packable jacket - the gilet will keep out the worst of the wind, whilst a packable is great if rain is on the cards. Both will roll up into a small ball to be stashed in your pocket
- Mitts or gloves - good quality padding on either option will prevent road buzz from numbing your hands
- A base layer, to catch sweat before it cools on your skin, and a good quality sports bra
- Spare socks for the drive home if you drove to the event! Plus underwear (sweaty sports bras all the way home are not nice) and a change of clothes.
Food and drink
Most sportives will lay on food and drinks at feed stations for you. However it's always a good idea to make sure your personally have enough nutrition to go the distance, as it's not ideal to test a new brand for compatibility with your stomach on event day!
Energy drinks, gels and bars are easy to consume and most people opt for these. However, there's no reason you can't wrap up a sandwich, rice cakes or flapjacks. There's more info on the pros and cons of real food vs sports nutrition here, and we've got some pocket sized treat recipes here.
You'll probably want a record of your ride (because: Strava), so don't forget your bike computer - and make sure you charge it the night before! If you're using heart rate, you'll want the monitor.
If you're opting to record riders on your phone, remember your event might be longer than your average ride - check out this post on how to save smartphone battery.
Tools in a saddle bag
There is an endless list of tools you COULD take, but you probably don't want to be lugging around an industrial sized aluminium tool box. So, the basics are:
- Mini pump (or Co2 - suggestions here), tyre levers and a spare tube and patch kit - plus knowledge of how to change a tube
- A multi tool, ideally with a chain tool - Lezyne have sine great slimline tools with a wide range of useful gizmos
- They're not really tools - but 'be seen' lights are a good idea in case visibility is reduced by rain or fog
Money, Phone, Keys, ID
We've now got to the items you probably take with you everywhere - the basic components of life that most of us can't get by without.
Both cash and card are a good idea, just in case you need to stop somewhere that doesn't take cards (or you need to purchase something expensive.. new bike, new legs..). Some form of identification, with an emergency contact detail, plus your phone and of course keys to get back into your car or home are always a good idea.
You can pop these all into your pocket loose, or opt to use a plastic bag to prevent items such as your phone getting wet. Alternatively, if you want to look super slick and organised, you can go for a riding case such as those available from VeloPac. Though far from essential, these do keep your belongings scratch free and separate from the residue of abandoned gels...
Looking for an event? Check out this round up of women's only sportives here. If you're training for a big milestone 100 mile ride, we've got training advice here, and some information on planning your own training here.