Embracing the Self-Sufficiency Spirit
Cycling is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental wellbeing, even during a global pandemic. Cycling responsibly during this time means embracing the bikepacking principles of self-sufficiency and leaving no trace. Here’s a guide to what you should be carrying with you on even short rides.
Restrictions on cycling vary by country and your first priority should be obeying regional rules and recommendations. If outdoor leisure cycling is not allowed, then you should restrict yourself to indoor training. If you are able to cycle outdoors, try to minimise risks and avoid putting extra strain on healthcare resources in your area.
Bikepackers are a curious breed. Many of us are most comfortable training and riding on our own. Part of the appeal of our sport is the solace it brings and the opportunity to reconnect with the world around us. That said, it’s not only the people we are(n’t) cycling around that we need to consider and responsible cycling during the Covid-19 pandemic means considering your impact on a much larger scale.
As a general rule, stick close to home and limit the length of your rides so that you are able to carry everything you need with you. Café stops or service station resupplies shouldn’t be part of your ride plan. Not only do they increase the risk of you being exposed to the virus, but they also risk you spreading the infection to remote locations, putting locals at risk and stressing regional healthcare systems.
That doesn’t mean you can’t still have an adventure though. How well do you know your backyard? Now is the time to find the local hidden gems and get to know your neighbourhood intimately. Not only will this make it easier to carry all the supplies you need, but it also means that should the worst happen, you can walk home and avoid putting anyone else at risk by using public transport or arranging a lift.
Here’s everything we recommend responsible cyclists carry on even short rides during periods of social distancing:
Food and water for the duration
Aim for 350-500ml of water stored on your bike for every hour you intend to ride and 30-60g of carbohydrates for each hour to ensure you don’t run out of energy. If you don’t have enough space for that much water on your bike frame, food pouches are an easy way to create more storage space for bottles.
Carry at least two spare inner tubes in case of a double puncture and a good hand pump. It’s worth also carrying a puncture repair kit, complete with patches, glue and a tire boot as extra security. Duct tape (or similar) can be useful for holding repairs in place and electrical tape wrapped around your pump handle has many uses, including emergency rim tape. If you run your tires tubeless, consider carrying spare sealant and a repair kit for bigger holes and tears in your tires.
This is likely to be more than fits in your day-to-day saddle pack but should fit comfortably in a small frame pack.
Hopefully, you already carry tire levers and a multi-tool on rides, but now might be a good time to consider whether your multi-tool has everything you need. It’s worth checking you have tools that fit every bolt on your bike and making sure you can tighten them mid-ride.
It’s rare that chains snap or need to be broken, but carrying a chain breaker is a sensible contingency, as is a spare chain link. Carrying a spoke key will also help get home if you break a spoke or your wheel goes out of true. You should be able to fit all the tools you need in a small saddle pack or tool pack.
If your bike has cable-operated brakes and/or gears, carry a spare cable for emergencies – they weigh almost nothing and take up very little space. Check whether your brake pads are wearing low and consider carrying spares (or better, changing them before you leave). Consider also carrying a lightweight spare layer, regardless of the forecast. If you have a serious mechanical and end up outside longer than expected, being able to stay warm and dry will be invaluable. A spare mech hanger is also worth considering to cover worst-case scenarios. These should all fit easily in a small frame pack.
Check before you go
The best way to avoid a mechanical is to make sure your bike is in good condition before you head out. Check that your brakes work, that your gears are shifting cleanly and inspect your tyres for flints and damage. Replace, clean or fix anything you are at all concerned about – now is not the time to risk a worn cleat that ‘might’ be OK. In many countries, bike shops are considered ‘essential services’ and remain open, so it may be worth booking your bike in for a service (but disinfect it before and after!).