Preface: I’ve written, on occasion, about the stuff I carry with me on my training and club road rides, but I’ve never actually taken the time put it all together a single cohesive article. I receive a fair number of questions on this subject, so I decided it would be worthwhile to go into a decent amount of detail, with plenty of pictures.
I’m going to kick this article off by addressing a controversial subject: under-saddle bags.
Everyone knows that it’s sooo not “pro” to befoul the elegant lines of a carefully designed and engineered road bike with one of those ridiculous looking under-the-saddle bags–that’s why we have pockets on our jerseys!
Few would argue that a bike looks better with a saddle bag, but the line dividing vanity and practicality varies in location from one cyclist to the next. I, admittedly, have certain vain tendencies, however my personality also has a very strong practical side. My practicality triumphs when it comes to this particular topic, and that places me firmly in the “pro-saddle bag” camp–with conditions.
Some of the things I carry on bike rides are for emergencies, and those items may only be required once every three or four months of daily riding. So why should I pack, carry and unpack all those seldom used emergency tools every single day when a much more elegant solution exists? Until I have a team car following me around I will continue to store some of my very infrequently used emergency gear under my saddle, and out of my way.
Road bike saddle bags on local club or training rides don’t have to be–nor, in my opinion, should they ever be–one of those cavernous, ill-fitting, monstrosities we’ve all seen or, perhaps, even owned. Road cycling saddle bags should be as small and lightweight as possible. With some creative packing, it’s amazing how much stuff one can fit into an extremely small micro-bag.
I’ve experimented with about a half-dozen different saddle bags over the past few years, and I finally hit the lottery with the Topeak Pro Pack Micro Seat Pack. I’ve been using this bag for a few months now, and it’s awesome: Just 70 grams, molded construction, an unobtrusive and practical quick-release seat clamp (more on that below) and very small (measures only 7.8″ x 4.8″ x 5″).
Here’s the Topeak Pro Pack Micro Seat Pack mounted on my bike (click to enlarge):
The Topeak Pro Pack Micro Seat Pack uses a small, strong clamp that installs out of the way under the saddle. The bag then slides into the clamp’s grooves and locks securely into place. As you can see, nothing touches the seatpost–very neat and clean looking.
The quick-release design is fantastic, because the bag can be installed or removed in less than one second. I usually put my bike in my work stand after each ride (even if it’s just to wipe down the chain), and now I no longer have to spend a lot of time removing Velcro straps that secure traditional saddle bags to the seat post and saddle rails. I just click and pull, and the bag is off.
Here I’m holding the Topeak Micro after sliding it out of its mounting clamp (click to enlarge):
The bag may be small, but I can fit a surprising amount of emergency gear in there. Here’s my bag when fully packed (click to enlarge):
Here’s a photo of my bag unloaded (click to enlarge) along with a complete parts list (with links), followed by some additional notes:
- Topeak Pro Pack Micro Seat Pack
- Topeak Mini 9-Function Bicycle Multitool
- 700×18-23 (27×1) 80mm PRESTA Valve Tube
- Tire Lever
- 60mm Valve Extender (with core tool)
- Spare Derailleur Hanger
- Micro CO2 Inflator
- 16g Threaded CO2 Cartridge
- Glueless Patches
- KMC Missing Link (10 Speed)
The Topeak Mini 9-Function Bicycle Multitool is very light weight (92 grams), and has nearly everything I might need to make a quick repair or adjustment on the road. In order to save space and weight, I elect to carry a tool without a chain breaker, but I do carry a KMC Missing Link.
Along with a spare tube, a 16g Threaded CO2 Cartridge and a Micro CO2 Inflator, I also carry a set of Glueless Patches. Sometimes on long rides I’ll toss an extra CO2 into my jersey pocket, and I also carry a small pump in my jersey pocket (see below).
Only one tire lever is required to get a tire off a wheel. If you need two levers to get a tire off, practice more and save yourself the space of carrying a second.
You must carry a Valve Extender and micro core tool if your bike has deep wheels (I roll on Zipp 404 Firecrest Carbon Clinchers). If you need to borrow or purchase a replacement tube while on a ride, you may find that a tube with a long enough valve stem is not available. Carrying a valve extender will solve that problem.
I’ve always carried a spare derailleur hanger on my mountain bike rides, but never on road rides. Somewhat comically, I’ve never broken a hanger on my mountain bike, but I’ve broken three hangers on my road bike. I finally learned my lesson, and now carry a spare hanger on my road bike rides.
Sometimes on long rides I’ll go ahead and take a spoke wrench. If you break a spoke you can use your spoke wrench to make your wheel temporarily rideable. Along these same lines, another bit of emergency kit worth considering is something like the FiberFix Emergency Spoke Replacement Kit.
Moving on to the jersey pockets…
I reserve my jersey pockets for the items that I will need to access during the ride. What I carry changes based on ride length and ride location, but here’s what I’ll tuck into my jersey on a typical ~100 kilometer club ride. Complete parts list (with links), followed by some additional notes after the photo (click to enlarge):
- Ziploc Sandwich Bag
- Lezyne Pressure Drive Hand Pump
- 16g Threaded CO2 Cartridge
- GU Chomps
- GU Energy Gels
- Clif Bars
- Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cloths
- Germ-x Antibacterial Soft Wipes
- Sportlegs Capsules
- SaltStick Electrolyte Capsules
- Duct Tape (Small strip)
- Microfiber Cleaning Cloth
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone
- Spare Phone Battery (on long rides)
I use the Ziploc Sandwich Bag to store my Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cloths (best lens wipes on the planet, BTW), a Germ-x Antibacterial Soft Wipe, 8-12 Sportlegs Capsules, a spare contact lens, a small bit of Duct Tape, a Microfiber Cleaning Cloth and some cash. The bag also comes in handy if it starts to rain, as I can put my phone in there.
On a very unlucky ride a month or so ago I suffered three flats. I only had two CO2 carts with me, and after the third flat I found myself stranded. The frustrating thing was that I had glueless patches, but no means with which to air my tube. I now carry the small and lightweight Lezyne Pressure Drive Hand Pump on most rides. The little pump fits nicely in my jersey pocket, and gives me peace of mind.
I put the awesome SaltStick Electrolyte Capsules in an old Tic-Tac box, and that works really well if I need to grab one while riding.
Clear vision is obviously very important when riding, and so I carry several Zeiss Pre-Moistened Lens Cloths and a spare contact lens. During Florida’s hot months (January through December), my sunglasses frequently become obscured by sweat, and so the lens wipes are invaluable. I’ve also had contact lenses pop out or fold back into my eye (that always sucks) while riding, and having a spare lens made what could have been a potentially dangerous situation a complete non-issue. If you wear contacts, always carry a spare on rides.
On very long rides I always take a spare cell phone battery. While my Galaxy S4’s battery life is excellent, I’d rather be safe than sorry. I am a big fan of the Galaxy “S” phones, and the user-replaceable battery is a big reason why. I would never purchase a phone that doesn’t allow for quick battery swap. After the ~270 kilometer cross-Florida ride earlier this year, on the bus ride back to Central Florida a lot of phones had already died, or were dying. When my phone’s battery level finally dropped to 15%, I simply popped in a new battery while my friends stared helplessly at their lifeless iBricks.
Finally, this is what I carry on the bike itself:
- Garmin Edge 810 GPS Bike Computer
- K-Edge Garmin Handlebar Mount
- Camelbak Podium Big Chill 25-oz Bottles
- Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light
Of course I always ride with my cycling computer, the Garmin Edge 810 GPS Bike Computer, which I have mounted on the K-Edge Garmin Handlebar Mount. I’m extremely happy with the Garmin 810 and the excellent K-Edge mount:
If I’m riding in any conditions that involve low-light, I snap on my Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light. This little light is incredibly bright, has several attention-getting flash patterns and is miserly with the batteries.
Finally, always carry identification. A driver’s license is better than nothing, but a much better solution is the inexpensive RoadID. Get one.
So, did I miss anything? Just want to yell at me for taking a poke at Apple? Pour another glass of Kool Aid and post your comments and thoughts below!