When I first started riding, I carried a huge saddlebag. And I do mean huge! I literally wanted to be prepared for everything. I had tools. Tubes. Snacks. Bandaids. You name it. I stuffed it in my saddlebag. But I wasn’t the only one!
I ran into some fun and friendly folks at a bike shop. They were supporting some really cool panniers that were stuffed to the brim! Spare clothes, snacks, and more. We asked how long their trip was. I was a little caught off guard when they said they were just out for the afternoon! I guess they liked to be prepared for anything, too.
Now that I’m a little bit more experienced, I’m a lot more relaxed about what I bring on my ride. I do think it’s essential to be prepared to fix a flat or a minor mechanical issue, but there’s no sense bringing along spare spokes, an extra chain, or strapping a spare wheel to my back! It’s all about balance and knowledge.
The Bag: Speedsleeve
My daily saddlebag is a small Speedsleeve. I love this Saddlebag because it’s tiny and compact. It fits very snugly and securely up against my seat without banging into the back of my legs. It also has little compartments to keep items from banging into each other. It is very small, which limits the amount of stuff I can shove in there (and that’s a very good thing!). It forces me to choose what is most critical for my ride.
The wide Velcro strap keeps it secure to my bike but is very easy to take off and replace when I’m out riding. I like how it almost blends in with the bike seat. I also like the price – it’s very affordable and lightweight.
DynaPlug Micro Pill
My tires are tubeless, so I carry a DynaPlug Micro Pill in case of a puncture that the sealant can’t repair. This isn’t the cheapest repair kit out there, but it contains everything you need, is extremely compact, and you can refill it as needed.
If your tire should split or get a slice, you won’t be able to repair it if it’s tubeless. What you can do is create a tire boot with a dollar bill or piece of duct tape and put a tube in your tire. I always carry a spare tube, just in case. Just make sure you get the right size for your bike, with the correct valve and valve length for your rims.
Tire Levers and Chain Tool
Sometimes, tires are a real bugger to peel off, especially when you’re out riding. So I like to keep a pair of tire levers handy. But these particular ones are better because they also have a chain tool and a spot to hold a spare master link. They’ve come in handy more than once!
You’ll want to carry some hex wrenches with you so you can tighten a loose headset or adjust a slipped saddle. Multi-tools can be a little bit heavy, but you don’t want to skimp too much here. A very lightweight tool can bend or break when you’re using it, so it won’t be much help. This little tool was a gift, but I would also recommend a set by Park Tool for a balance of weight, durability, and price.
Rather than carry a pump, I carry CO2 with me. I use this Portland Design Works Inflator because it isn’t very expensive and works consistently well. Keep the leather sleeve with you to protect your hand when using it! I also carry these cartridges by Gorilla Force.
Odds and Ends
I keep all the tiny odds and ends in a little baggie so they don’t get lost. Inside the baggie are:
- First aid supplies (Bendaryl, Aleve, alcohol wipe, a couple of Band-Aids.
- Spare battery for power meters, lights, or heart rate monitor
- Valve adaptor. If you have to fill up with air at a gas station, you may need a valve adaptor to make it fit your bike valve
- Spare Valve cores and valve core tool. They’re so tiny and lightweight that it doesn’t make sense not to bring them
- Tube patches
- Compressed towel. I just love these! They’re so tiny and lightweight. You just add water, and it opens up into a biodegradable towel that you can use as TP, tissue, to stop bleeding, or to wipe your face. They’re also great for camping, hiking, or stashing in your car, too.
- A couple of dollars. I like to keep a couple of dollars in my saddle bag in case I need to stop unexpectedly for water, snacks, or air. A dollar bill can also serve as a tire boot in a pinch.
That’s Everything in My Saddlebag
That’s all I carry in my saddle bag. I keep it stocked and ready to go at all times, so it’s faster to hop on my bike to go for a ride. However, I am planning on a long gravel ride where I may be riding solo for a good portion of the ride. In this case, I’ll pack a bigger saddlebag with a few extra first aid items, a larger tube to fit my larger tires, a few extra snacks and sports drink mix, and maybe a raincoat, depending on the weather. I may add a few pieces of duct tape and a couple of zip ties, too.
If I was going on a long unsupported ride, I might also add a top tube bag. I have this one by Zipp, and it is an easy place to stash a few extra gels or snacks. I may or may not have added an open bag of m and ms for easy access.
Along with my saddle bag, I also carry two bottles (one water, one sports drink) every time I ride. I never ride without some kind of a ride snack in my jersey pocket, as well as my cell phone for emergencies. If you are a ride leader, you might be required to carry some First Aid supplies. I like this Crash Pack. It will fit in a jersey pocket or in my larger gravel saddlebag.
Your needs might be different depending on the type of riding you do and where you live. What do you put in your saddlebag? Is there anything I should add to mine? Let me know!
Tips for Packing Your SaddleBag
Your AAA plan MIGHT have a cycling policy. In some states, AAA will pick you up and drive you to your destination if you have a problem on your bike. But make sure you check your policy – it isn’t available where I live.
Keep the items in your bag from banging around. First of all, it will drive you and your friends crazy. Second, it could – over time – rub a hole in your spare tube, making it worthless out on the road.
Pack your small items in little plastic baggies to keep them from rattling or getting lost. If your bag isn’t waterproof, this will also help protect them.
If you have too much room in your bag, either switch to a smaller bag or stuff it with plastic grocery bags. They weigh almost nothing and act as good padding.
Make sure your bag is secure well to your bike so it doesn’t fall off and get lost. Also, check to see that it doesn’t obscure your rear lights.
If you don’t like saddlebags, there are alternate ways to carry tools. You can put them in a water bottle, in a handlebar bag, or even strap a small pump to your down tube. Just figure out which way you like best so you’re always ready for your ride.