Cycling kit: how low can you go?

I have a weight problem. Yes, I'm carrying perhaps a stone of excess weight – mostly around my midsection – but my main problem concerns how much kit I carry on day rides. What to leave at home?


This is what I routinely carry on my Kinesis bike, minus the grub (typically three bananas, cashews, fig rolls, flapjacks, garibaldis etc).

I think I was the only person out of about thirty riders last weekend who had a bar bag, and only one of perhaps two or three with a rack bag. Most of the others had those little matchbox-sized things strapped underneath their saddles, if they had anything at all. How do they dare?

Last Sunday I completed a Standard Ride, the local CTC's 70 in 6. I had a rush of blood at the start and caught up to a bunch that included the 'fast lads' at the first set of traffic lights. I got dropped on the slight rise near Kiplingcotes. After a flapjack and an emergency guzzle of water I caught up with them a mile or so later (I think they eased off on the descent), but asked that they didn't wait for me as I didn't want to slow them down. On the next significant incline I was duly dropped again and I rode the next 15 miles on my own, with Tom's Hi-Viz tabard a tantalising target as it disappeared around corners and over hills as far as Pockington, where I lost sight of the group. (After which I had an interesting detour around Full Sutton Industrial Estate having misread the route sheet.)

Arriving at Stamford Bridge at about 11.40 (I didn't look at my watch or have time to flip the route sheet over for the homeward journey) I saw the leaders again and was invited by one of them to ride along if I went there and then. So we set off on the return leg in to a headwind and on to the wrong road. A quick turnaround (and a crafty fig roll – together with a flip of the route sheet) and we were back on course.

I didn't think I could keep up the tempo on the next section to the coffee stop. The only time I took the lead was when we were ran at by an excitable Collie that chased us for about a mile – before someone came past me and picked up the pace again. Mercifully, we missed another turn ("slow down" said some other cyclist consulting his OS map at the junction we needed), so I could stuff in a Garibaldi biscuit and latch on to the back of the pack as we turned on to a very narrow lane and carried on – at around 18mph, I was informed.

At Beechwood Cafe I leant the bike against a wall and ordered beans on toast and a cup of tea. I felt sick, and couldn't finish my meal. I was grateful for the length of time we were at the stop, then removed one layer (I knew we had a long hill to climb soon) and off we went as the next group fetched up at the cafe.

At South Cave hill – in fact before it started properly – I went backwards. The rest of the blokes pulled away and Mandy and I cycled along at our own pace. The bike felt heavier than ever and I tried not to use my bottom gears as my tired legs turned the pedals on the drag of a hill. I thought I would end the ride just with Mandy, but her husband and the rest of the group were waiting near the communications mast. I took two bites of my first banana (I hadn't touched the other two) before Mandy whizzed past and I stuffed the rest of the banana back in my bar bag. We were off again.

Even I could keep up now on the long descent from Riplingham/Raywell through Epworth into Cottingham. But the blokes were taking it in turns to lead out the group and I almost used my top gear as we got to the finish with 4 hours and 57 minutes on the clock.

There was orange, fun-sized Mars bars and custard creams at the end, but I drank some of my diluted Lucozade and made a dent in my tuck shop before arriving home an hour earlier than estimated.

Kit and caboodle


What? They were the cheapest black Adidas trainers that Soccer Sport sold at the time.

Aside from a few glances at my bar bag and rack bag I was asked how I managed with "those things" – I think the chap said – nodding at my trainers. I replied that I did have a cheap pair of SPD MTB shoes, and the underside of my pedals could take them, but that I hadn't got around to using them yet. And no, I wouldn't be getting carbon-fibre-soled shoes any time soon. I also explained about Baby Bailey and the forthcoming expense of all that. I think I was excused.

What a great bunch of people, and they genuinely didn't seem to mind my tagging along, although I did feel guilty about not taking a turn on the front (I was invited to another ride next Sunday, but I think the pace is a bit too quick for me at the moment – 17mph average moving speed Mandy said). Perhaps on the next Standard Ride, 103 in 8.5, I could lead out a group at some stage. But what do I leave behind...?

Added later (any errors on this route are my own):

13 comments on “Cycling kit: how low can you go?”

  1. Hilary wrote:

    I stand by my last comment that you are seriously fit Chris!
    I always take loads of gear 'just in case'. I did used to ride with a little wedge pack thingie but having got caught in a snow storm (on the Isle of Wight in April!) and nearly contracted hypothermia I learnt the error of my ways! You won't be the one who is soaked and frozen or having to walk back because of a mechanical he can't fix.
    If you did cut down on the gear and wear the SPDs you'd probably leave the fast group behind! 🙂

    I did once go camping with just a saddlebag and a bar bag though!

  2. Patrick wrote:

    I agree with you there Hilary. He's way fitter than he thinks he is.

    That's a lot of gear Chris. Looks like Kim's Game. I'm not sure what all of it is, but you have a big adjustable spanner and other things... I can't see what you'd use them for. Scissors for example. Do you still carry the socket set? A little multi-tool will fix most things. My saddle wedge (loaded) weighs 12 ounces. Honestly, if you pared it all down you'd lick 'em.

    Of course when you ride with me, you are much safer with all that kit.

    Good ride report BTW.

  3. Chris wrote:

    On my previous ride I hadn't taken my chain tool, or my spare quicklink, and this happened:


    SRAM Powerlink on Shimano HG53 chain. It broke when the bit that's not meant to come loose came loose. (Mobile phone photograph.)

    So I packed the tool, and another spare link, along with all the other kit.

    I could just about cope with the pace on the flat, tucked away in the group, but I haven't got the strength to go at that pace on my own.

    Incidentally, two other blokes finished just 40 minutes later who were 71 and 73 years old! And Mandy had a pretty good excuse for going at my speed: she'd ran a hilly cross-country marathon (sorry – "just" 24 miles) the previous day 😯

  4. Alan wrote:

    Perhaps cyclists should have a handicapping system, something like golfers. A few bricks on the rack might do the trick.

  5. Mike wrote:

    Hi Chris

    I think you're the first cyclist I've 'met' who carts around as much stuff as I do!

    I'm afraid that if I'm going to be more than an hour's walk (with the bike) from home, I don't want to have to walk it, I'd rather be able to fix it and ride home. So far, I'm happy to say, I've carried it all for nowt (apart from puncture repairs) but my fertile imagination won't let me feel comfortable without all my kit – tools, waterproofs, food, drink, map, phone, tube x 2, suncream, anti-insect cream, first aid kit... oh God, I must be mad......

  6. Chris wrote:

    Mike wrote: … oh God, I must be mad……

    You're very welcome to join the select club that includes me and Hilary at the moment it seems. I have three spare inner tubes, spare gloves, tops and buff-type headgear etc. And can you see that little bottle of Finish Line chain oil poking out of the rack bag? Well, what if the rain washes off the existing stuff?

    But seriously, I intend to be ruthless, and even ditch the rack in favour of an under-seat pack or something. I blame my Grandad. He never threw anything out of his garage, saying that if he got rid of something he would be sure to need it as soon as it was gone. I think I got my hoarding tendencies from him, too.

  7. Kern wrote:

    Mary has always ridden with the opposite philosophy: "How much can I take?" She sees no point in leaving behind anything she might want on the ride, especially food. She doesn't handle hunger well.

  8. Jim wrote:

    I'll bet that Altura luggage is not light. I take a light saddle/wedge bag with me for a day club ride. Cape rolled up in rear pocket and snacks in other pocket. One of those little bags on the front of your crossbar that will take phone, camera, spare tube, puncture kit, spare links and tyre levers. More grub in wedge and arm/leg warmers and sometimes a mulitool. If alone equipment for a brew, but thats only a few grams. How much do you need in Europe? As long as you have got a phone and £20 for a cab there is not much else to worry about.
    I think a lightweight road bike is a joy. Why spoil it all by weighing it down?

  9. Patrick wrote:

    I reckon that's spot on, Jim. I've never been on a club run but imagine it works best when everyone has more or less the same gear.

  10. Garry wrote:

    I go out with two tubes, puncture repair kit, a multitool, a rainjacket if I'm not wearing one, some food (usually chocolate!), a pump, a lock, tyre levers, a camera, a phone, and a lot of spare space. Space is handy if it becomes unexpectedly warm and you want to take off some gear. If you don't have space, you can't really do that.
    17mph is too fast for fun, though I've done it in my time.
    What was the rush??
    I had a most enjoyable very hilly spin today at about 9mph.

  11. Jim wrote:

    I agree 17mph average IMO is far too much for a club run. I've done it, and more a few times with our A rides but it is no fun as it turns into a head down chase and in my case fit for nothing in the evening. I like to stop and smell the roses now and again and look over a hedge when I ride. I stick to the B rides now, and to be honest at times find them a bit slower than my normal solo pace but thats fine, as I enjoy the social side of the ride more than the chase.

  12. Chris wrote:

    As I said, 17mph average is too fast for me, really. And I too enjoy the scenery normally. This was after all a Standard Ride (70 in 6), rather than a regular club run, and earlier in the week I was a bit worried that with two stops I might not get under the six hours maximum. (On my last-but-one ride Patrick and I averaged 12.3mph over 40 miles and I was blowing a bit that day.) I suppose I used the ride to test myself and to help to build my fitness. This Sunday (I hope) it will be back to the B group – I mentioned in an earlier post that there is no 'A' ride as such – and 14/15mph, I would imagine.

    I'm wondering whether 17mph was entirely accurate anyway. One chap texted me to say that he finished with the 71 and 73-year-old 40 minutes later with an average speed of 14.7mph 😕 (I still haven't fixed the magnet thingy on my new wheels for my little computer to compare speeds.)

    Whatever – it was a fast ride. Flowers and pretty views await next weekend 🙂

    Perhaps I'll even find room in my barbag for the camera...?

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