Below Simon sets out his recommendations on what to take on a long cycling trip!
1. Eating & drinking.
Everyone has different approaches, but long rides are tough on the body and there’s nothing worse than bonking (yes, technical term) half-way up the mountain. Personally I can’t stand the energy drinks, so I typically have two bottles on the bike: one water, one electrolyte (going up those hills is as much perspiration as it is inspiration) and then carry a couple of granola bars in the jersey and some shot blocks for a real bonking emergency.
I know it will be mid-September and in the South of France that’s flip flops and shorts, but we’re going through some pretty high mountains and the weather can be variable and chilly at the top. The exertions of a 2hr climb will keep you warm on the way up, but sitting largely still for a 30min decent can be excruciatingly cold (I nearly got hypothermia on a long decent last year) and its tricky to slow down for the corners if you can’t feel your fingers.
I typically have an ultra light weight rain top in a jersey pocket (not much more than a plastic bag, but one of the best pieces of kit I’ve bought) and also some arm-warmers in a jersey pocket.
In addition to stuff I’m carrying, which for obvious reasons is good to keep to a minimum, it can be helpful to have a bag of kit in a support vehicle that can be accessed at the top of a climb / en route somewhere:
* long sleeved jersey
* fresh (dry) short sleeved jersey
* long fingered gloves (assuming everyone will be wearing short fingered ones already)
* hat / head band for under the helmet
Again this splits down between stuff to have with you on the bike (small mechanicals) and stuff to have on the trip, probably in a bag in a support vehicle
On your person (rather obvious, but surprising how often punctures happen):
* spare inner tube
* tyre irons
* small pump / CO2 canister
* small multi-tool
In a support vehicle:
* spare tyre (I thought this was ridiculous until I put a hole in the side wall of a tyre by riding over a somewhat pointy stone)
* more spare inner tubes
* pedal wrench
* sun cream (well hopefully!)
* more granola bars / snack of choice
* track pump (although clearly we don’t need 30 of these!!)
* I have also known some people to pack a rear derailer hanger. I know someone on the trip has already had a run in with this small seemingly insignificant piece of plastic. Unfortunately these things are designed to break and they are particularly designed to individual bikes — they alternative might be a mechanical retirement and early beers — sure no one would be hoping for that outcome
* I’ve known someone else to buckle a rear wheel in a slow speed collision with a storm drain (just don’t mention that to the wife)
The last piece of kit I recommend is a pair of cleat covers (rubber covers to clip over cleats when not cycling). They are really inexpensive, making walking in cycling shoes a little easier and save a massive amount of wear on cleats. Not that anyone will be walking up the mountains…