Preparing for their first trail bike ride, many cyclists make typical beginner mistakes and take nothing but a smartphone, cash, and a couple of granola bars. That’s why even the simplest mechanical issues can stop them in the middle of the route and ruin the whole ride. Cleverwander.com recreation experts recommend spending a while on proper preparations. Follow their guide not to have a spotless ride!
1. Inspect your bike
Take a close look at your bike. Even if it’s totally new, you should make sure that such crucial parts as brakes and chain work well. Next, clear the reflectors if they are dirty after previous rides and install the lights if you are planning to keep going when it gets dark, or there are tunnels on your route. All the adjustments should be made at home as it’s much more difficult to fix the bike on the trail.
2. Helmet Is a Must
Don’t even think about hitting the road without a helmet. Make sure that it’s not cracked and fits you properly. Try it on and tighten the straps before the ride. The safety gear list doesn’t end with a helmet, though. It’s also important to pack at least one (better two) band-aids, anti-friction chamois cream, and the health insurance card (you’d be happy to have it if something goes terribly wrong).
You should also remember about lip balm as continuous resistance to air may dry your lips. Sunlight can hurt your skin as well. You may get sunburned even on a cloudy day, so a sunscreen with the right SPF is a must. Finally, wear riding-grade sunglasses to protect your eyes from aggressive sunlight, random insects, road dust, and drying.
3. Be Ready for Repairs
Even if your bike is healthy before you start, you’re not protected from a flat tire. That’s why experienced trail bike riders always take an extra tube and a compact pump to be able to fix a poked tube and keep going. Make sure to purchase a properly-sized replacement tube. The pump can usually be attached to the bike, so it won’t burden your back. You can also get by with a patch kit, but nothing will work out without tire levers and a cyclist’s multitool.
4. Clothing Matters
You should wear an outfit that matches the time of the year and doesn’t limit your movement. Check out the weather forecast and take the extras, such as a rain poncho, warm gloves, or an additional layer of clothes. However, you shouldn’t take too much as the lower the weight of your bag, the better. The best option for summer and warm autumn/spring is a standard cycling outfit that includes shorts and a top.
5. Plan the Route
If the trail you are heading out on isn’t familiar enough to you, it’s necessary to plot it in advance. Your smartphone is the best companion in planning the route of the ride. Some navigation apps support trailhead directions so that you can simply download them and go. If such options aren’t available in your area, it’s important to research the route manually.
You need to know where all the parking locations, restrooms, stores or water fountains, bike supply stores, emergency rooms, and other services that are important to you are located. Some trail routes may also charge fees or require a special permission, so it’s important to check that out on local trail cycling forums.
6. Water & Nutrition
Riding a bicycle for long distances, on sunny days, boost your body water demand, so it’s crucial to take more water that you think would be enough for you. Even if water fountains are available on your way, they might be inactive unexpectedly. No matter where you go, take some extra water. If you take sports drinks, leave them only for those high-intensity runs that consume too many electrolytes.
As for nutrition, you’d like to ride with a light stomach and feel energized enough to keep moving. That’s why sports nutritionists recommend taking compact nutritious snacks, including nuts, protein or granola bars, and fruits (apples or bananas). The rule of thumb is the same: take a bit more than you think you need, but don’t eat until you really feel the need to.
7. Charge the Smartphone
No matter how far you go, you should have your gadget fully charged right before you go. If you are planning to take pictures, use navigation, or listen to music, take a fully charged power band along. Modern models are lightweight and let you charge up an average smartphone from 2 to 10 times. If you are going to locations where cell phones may potentially have no signal, inform your family or friends where you are going to get help sooner in case of emergency. If you want to take a camera, charge it up too and format the memory card to have enough space for photos and videos.
8. Take a Lock
Do you plan to make stops on the trail? Even if you don’t, a lock is a must have in case your plans change. Bicycle thefts are quite rare, but you never know. It’s also wise to take all the important stuff along in a bag when you leave the bike out of sight.
9. Pump up The Tires
Take a look at the side of your bike’s tires to find the PSI marking. It will tell you how much air is needed. Test the tire with a finger to remember how hard it is with the right amount of air, and you will be able to pump them without a measuring tool.
10. Set a Goal
It’s highly recommended to measure the distance from start to finish as you need to know whether you are able to cycle so long during the free time you have. There’s no sense trying to reach a high goal in your first trail ride. The process should give you only positive emotions and feelings, so overworking is a big mistake. Start with a minimal mileage, rest every time you feel the need to, and go back home if you feel like running out of energy. Your muscles will thank you.
Peace of Ride
Having all these little things done, you will enjoy the trip with peace in your mind. That is so important, especially if you’ve been waiting for this ride for a long time. Use this guide once, and you will always remember to take all the essentials. Trail bike riding is a great sport, and, like any other sport, it requires you to be well-organized and logical. Enjoy the ride!