7 Small Things to Take on your next XC Ride

It’s a wonderful feeling to ride a mountain bike in a remote location and enjoy stunning scenery.

But what happens when things don’t go as planned?

We all have spares and tools to help us recover from mechanical failure, but here are seven small but unusual “extras” you might like to take on your next ride to help keep you smiling.

Crossing Cressbrook Creek
Crossing Cressbrook Creek

1. Paper ClipimageimageSecure Chain with Bent Paper Clip or SpokeHow to bend the clip or spokeYou’ve probably got a spare chain link in your kit.  I’ve broken a chain a few times and have felt smug knowing I had a chain link with which to fix it.  The only problem is it’s a messy and fiddly job.  After you break the chain you have to hold the two ends of the chain near each other, and with your third hand fit the link into the chain end.

Not many of us have three hands, so I have asked a friend to hold the chain while I fit the link.  That way my friend gets the dirty hands 🙂

But there is a better way.  Open up a paper clip, bend the ends into hooks, and fit the hooks a few links back from the broken ends of the chain.  This holds the chain in place while you fit the link.  You’ll keep your hands clean, and you’re less likely to fit the link incorrectly which can cause it to snap.

Even better is a short length of old an old broken spoke.,  It’s stiffer than a paper clip, but the downside is that you need some pliers to bend it, whereas with a paper clip you can bend it with your fingers.

2. Duct Tape

Repairing a Mountain Biker with Duct Tape

Oh the manifold uses for the humble roll of Duct Tape!

It makes a great addition to any first-aid kit and is much easier to use than Micropore.  (Have you ever tried to pull off a piece of Micropore from a damp roll of tape?)

When my friend Terry recently had a crash on a local trail, we put a dressing on the wound, then secured it in place with a nice masculine-looking band of tape.  It looked so good that everyone wanted one.  It’s waterproof, tough, and sticks really well.  It’s just not much fun to tear off, but Terry was a very brave boy 🙂

By the way, to remove duct tape from skin and retain your hair, first douse it with rubbing alcohol (or even ethanol, or vodka) before trying to remove the tape.  It will melt the adhesive, which makes it easier to remove.

It also comes in handy when trying to fix broken straps and other breakages on the bike.  One of the straps on my saddle bag broke.  I was able to tape the bag to the rails of my seat to stop it flopping around.

On another occasion, my riding buddy kept getting flats on a long ride.  It turns out there was a small hole in the tyre, and his tube was getting punctured when small rocks poked through the hole.  I couldn’t find the hole, so we ended up lining the tyre with tape to get him home.  Not the most elegant solution, but it solved the problem.

It also doubles up as a reasonable compression bandage for snake bites, and for immobilizing limbs in the case of broken bones.

Here’s one really unusual way to use it…

Where I live, we have one of the most poisonous plants in the world – the Gympie Gympie bush. It leaves hundreds of super-fine hairs in your skin which deposit a highly painful toxin. If you rub or wash the affected area, you just spread the pain.

It’s horrible.

The simplest solution is a leg-wax strip. Put it on, pull it off, and out come the needles and most of the hairs on your leg at the same time.

It’s just as effective, however, to apply some Duct Tape, and pull the needles out when you remove the tape.

3. Cable Ties

Small, but versatile, Cable Ties can fix a myriad number of problems including the obvious – securing cables to your bike frame when a tie breaks after a crash.  Loose cables are dangerous, and it’s much safer to make sure they’re out your way.

Sometimes you can accidentally break the elastic o-rings that secure GPS and headlights to your handlebars.  Cable ties are ideal for this.

Once I ripped the fabric pull-tag on the zipper of my Camelbak.  This made it almost impossible to unzip – especially with gloved hands.  Cable Ties were perfect in this situation.

In a pinch, if you have a huge rip in your tyre, you’ll be able to limp home if you close the hole by stitching it up with a few Cable Ties.  Just punch a few small holes either side of the tear and loop the tie through it.  This should reduce the size of the hole enough for you to close it up with a piece of old tyre, or some duct tape, or a $20 note (polymer notes, not paper ones). You should then be able to fit a spare tube.

I’ve even heard of a cable tie being used as an emergency chain link after breaking a chain twice on the same ride.

One bit of advice though:  carry a few different sizes.  Most bike frames have holes for looping Cable Ties through, but they’re not very wide.  Large ties won’t fit.  Also, make sure you have something with which you can cut off the ties.

4. Garbage Bags

image Garbage Bag Boots
Garbage Bag Poncho Garbage Bag Boots

One of the toughest rides I ever did was when my eleven year old son and I got lost while we were exploring at Mount Joyce south of Brisbane.  It was late in the afternoon in winter, it was getting dark, and we were a long way from where we were supposed to be.

We were going to have to ride in the cold, and night, and my son didn’t have the right clothing to keep warm.

Luckily, I was carrying a garbage bag and was able to improvise by converting it into a poncho.  I made a hole in the bottom for his head, and a couple of holes either side for his arms.  It kept his core warm enough to ride home in the dark, and we lived to tell the tale 🙂

On another occasion I had to push the bike through a storm water ditch full of stagnant water.  I didn’t want to get the crappy water in my shoes for health reasons, so I just pulled a garbage bag over either leg, and used them as boots.

I looked totally stupid, but it kept most of the foul water out.

When you roll them up tightly, they take up very little room in your backpack.

5. Baby Wipes

Baby Wipes

You can get Baby Wipes in small compact packets.  They’re clean, moist, and are a great way to clean up minor wounds.

They also come in handy if you feel the call of nature out on the trail, and there isn’t a rest room nearby.

They also take up much less room than a roll of tissue paper.

6. Water Purifier

image image
Micropur Water Purifying Tablets “LifeStraw”

This is much simpler than most people realize.

If you’re on a long ride, there’s a good chance you may run low on water.  When that happens, you may have to find more drinking water from a creek.

In the worst cases, the water might be quite dirty and undrinkable.

This is where the LifeStraw comes in handy.  It’s small plastic straw that contains no chemicals but filters out contaminants, bacteria and other disease-causing organisms.

You just put the straw in the dirty water and suck – clean water comes out the other end.

It can filter over 1,000 litres of contaminated water.

Alternatively, in situations where creek water is relatively clean, I use water purifying tablets such as Micropur.  One small tablet will purify a litre of water in about half an hour.  There is no after taste.

7. Spot

Spot GPS Messenger

I love my Spot GPS messenger.

It’s both a GPS and a satellite-based transmitter that does not need the cellular phone network to send a message.  It works Even if you don’t have mobile phone coverage.

It transmits my position every ten minutes, so my family can check on my position via a website whenever I’m out – no matter how remote the location.

It has several pre-programmed message buttons that you can use in different situations.  I’ve set mine up to transmit various messages depending on the situation:
1. “I’m checking in and am ok.  Here’s my position….”
2. “I’m ok, but I’m running late.  Here’s my position….”
3. “I’m ok, I’m not in danger, but I need your help to get home.  Here’s my position….”
4. (Sent to emergency services) “Mayday. SOS. I require assistance.  Here’s my blood group and key medical info…. Here’s my position….”

The messages can be sent to an email address, a twitter or Facebook newsfeed, or as an SMS.

My family an I have agreed that on long rides I’ll send the “I’m ok” message at the half-way point of the ride.  Since they know when I started out, it gives them a rough idea of when I’ll be home.

Incidentally, if you ever want a quick snap-shot of people around the world having adventures, try searching for Spot messages on Twitter.  This link should help:

If you scroll far enough, you should see me on there 🙂

Spot GPS Messengers are available from http://www.findmespot.com

Prices start from about $US 120

How About You?

Reply to this post to give us all some hints about the small things that you take on a long ride to make sure you get home without any hassles.

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