Rando Kit

The ready randonneur

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Rocky Mountain 1200

Minimalist packing for long-distance cycling


The bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created:  Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.”~Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist

Preface

Packing for randonneuring is a balance between “being prepared” and weighing oneself down with superfluous gear. Marathon cyclists don’t need the tourer’s kitchen sink, but they must make sure they have enough clothing to survive cold nights and unexpected weather changes and basic tools to make adjustments and repairs to their machines.

Approaches vary from the most spartan, with allen key, spare tube and plastic rain jacket vacuum-packed in a miniature seat bag, to the travelling ex-eagle scout hauling tools worthy of a bike shop, spare parts galore, and an outdoor clothing store, all crammed into a Nelson Longflap saddlebag or panniers. Most marathon cyclists fall somewhere between these two extremes.

Besides weight considerations, volume must be kept to a minimum in order to fit everything into the small bags favoured by randonneurs.

Tools

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Tool Kit
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The randonneur’s tool kit need not anticipate every mechanical calamity, but should enable common roadside repairs for such minor misfortunes as flat tyres, broken cables and chains, as well as drive train and brake adjustment. Accordingly, wrenches to fit all fasteners, chain tool, tyre irons, spare inner tube(s) and reliable pump are the primary tools.

Of course, you must know how to use tools you carry, so practice the basics—patching and replacing tubes and tyres, chain repair, cable replacement, derailleur tuning—before you have to deal with break-downs in the dark.

Navigation

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Prehistoric navigation tools
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In our space-age of orbiting satellites and global positioning systems, it is a good idea, whether you use GPS or not, to carry the rudimentary tools of navigation: a route sheet (issued by most event organizers), a basic bike computer, small compass and a map of the areas you will travel through.

Keep documents in a waterproof map case and carry extra zip-lock bags. In all but perfect summer weather, double bag the most important of all documents—the control card. Lose or soak this and your ride will have been in vain. If you don’t use a handlebar bag, you will need to construct a sturdy map case caddy.

Safety

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Safety Kit
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Most rando clubs, not to mention common sense, require the use of reflective clothing at night, in addition to your bicycle’s in situ lighting system. Vests or sashes, arm- and leg-bands are advised. Your safety kit might also include a foil safety blanket, lightweight cable lock, helmet light and sunglasses. Multi-lens glasses are convenient and models are available that accommodate prescription inserts. You might add a cellphone to this list, but be aware that rando rules will discourage using it to call in replacements between controls and prohibit its use on the bike!

Personal items

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Hygiene
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Keep these close by: sunblock (min. SPF 30), lip balm/sunblock, baby wipes, toilet paper, chamois cream, drugs. In drop bag or tucked away: basic first aid kit, including topical anaesthetic ointment, “Opsite” second skin dressing, toothbrush, sunburn gel, mouthwash, moisturizer, eye drops, bug repellant. A mini-kit can be made up that includes small quantities of important items like Band-aids, ointments and Opsite.

Saddle/chamois/bottom interface hygiene is critical on long rides.

Cover up before you are cold, peel off before you are hot. ~Vélocio

Clothing

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Strip
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What you wear and what extra clothing you carry will depend on weather. Overnight brevets will demand extra insulation to get you through the night.

Minimum gear for longer events (over 200 km) should include leg or knee warmers, arm warmers, insulated vest, rain jacket, cap and/or skull cap, gloves—full and fingerless, spare socks and shorts. For very wet or cold weather—often experienced on early season rides—add overshoes or rain booties. For 600 km and above brevets some items can be forwarded in a drop bag. Use colour-coded stuff sacks to compress and organize garments.

“Eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. ~Vélocio

Nutrition

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Cornucopia of fuel

In order to avoid the dreaded “bonk,” long-distance cyclists need easily-digestible fuel between control stops. Routes and services along the way will dictate how much one needs to carry.

Gastrointestinal issues are the bane of endurance athletes and randonneurs are not immune, so it’s important to experiment during training to sort out what works for you.

One woman’s feast is another’s famine and personal taste, like no other personal idiosyncrasy of randonneuring lore, will dictate the contents of the reserve fuel tank.

A veritable cornucopia of powdered and liquid endurance products are available commercially, but don’t forget those universal energy foods: the banana and the perogy! Small sandwiches (staple of the Tour de France musette, or feed bag) also pack well and can be made with your favourite filling. Keep these accessible in a handlebar bag, top tube pouch and/or jersey pocket.

Never introduce untried foods on long events.

Appendix

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Drop bags

The preceding clothing list assumes that the randonneur is already wearing gear appropriate to the event conditions.

These will usually include: polyester or merino wool base layer shirt (removed during warm daytime), jersey, shorts, padded gloves, helmet, socks and shoes.

Extra items from all categories can be packed in a drop bag for long events and forwarded to an appropriate control. Ask if the organizing body offers a drop bag service.

Kit check list (PDF)