When you venture into the woods on your mountain bike, you must become self sufficient. Unpredictable changes in the weather, unexpected bike mechanicals, and unmarked trails that lead to unplanned extra miles can turn an enjoyable excursion into a misadventure--fast. Being unprepared or relying on others to fix common problems will only lead to misfortune. But bringing the necessary supplies will make your next journey into the woods both safe and fun. These are the items you should have with you on the bike at all times.
Bringing food with you on a ride--no matter the distance--is an important act of preparation that many mountain bikers overlook. Forgoing food could cause you to lose your energy and concentration, make mistakes or become injured. Even if I'm planning on a short ride, I make sure to bring along some food--and more often than not I end up eating it. When a ride goes longer than planned, or when I get tired quicker than I'd hoped, stopping to "refuel" keeps me going strong. You'd be surprised how energized you feel once food finds it's way into your belly.
So, what type of food sould you bring with you on the trail? Energy bars, gels and other "fitness-specific" food will provide your body with the essential nutrition needed to regain lost energy. Consider packing food that is high in carbohydrates (i.e., bagels or dried fruit, such as apricots or raisins). Rather than waiting until you become hungry to eat a large quantity of food, plan on eating small amounts throughout your ride. There is no set rule as to how much food you should bring on a ride. Let the length of your ride determine how much food you take with you.Water
This should be a no-brainer. People need water to live; active people need even more water than their sedentary counterparts to remain healthy. That's because when you're exercising, your body loses water. Too much water loss can lead to dehydration. Bring enough water with you to last the duration of your mountain bike ride. As a guide, you'll want to drink about eight ounces of water for every 20 minutes on the bike. Drinking water while you ride may be necessary, but how you do so is up to you--and what vessel you choose to drink from is strictly personal preference. Some like the convenience of drinking from a hydration pack while others prefer to carry their water weight on the bike instead of their backs.Tools
One of the most common problems you'll encounter on the trail is getting a flat tire. Having the appropriate tools to fix a flat will enable you to finish your ride on your bike instead of walking beside it. Bring along a spare tube, tire levers and portable pump to get the job done. (Learn how to change a flat tire here.) You should also carry an Allen wrench set, chain tool (or a multi-tool that covers both bases) and a cell phone. For those riding full-suspension bikes over longer distances, a shock pump can come in handy as well.Extra Clothing
Where you ride, how long you ride, the time of day (or night) you ride, and even what time of year it happens to be all play a role in how much additional clothing you will need to bring with you. Take into consideration the temperature at both the beginning and end of your ride. If you're out for a while, the mercury can drop substantially, leaving you shaking in your bike shorts. Arm and knee warmers, vests and lightweight jackets are ideal clothing options that can be thrown on or off when your body cools down or warms up. Regulate your temperature by layering your clothing--and you'll be able to ride in any type of weather.