Self-sufficient cycling

Self-sufficient cycling

Riding alone requires independence and self-sufficiency. We share tips on how to fix your bike, navigate and get yourself home safely if you have a problem.

Cycling with friends or a club is sociable and fun, plus if you have a problem there is someone else to share their mechanical knowledge or pull a spare inner tube from a pocket. If you’re riding on your own because of COVID restrictions it makes sense to increase the spares you carry and brush up on your mechanical skills.

Essential mechanics

The two most common repair issues while out on a ride are a puncture or a snapped chain – and either of those will prevent you from getting home if you can’t make a repair on your own by the roadside. The joy of bikes though is that they are relatively easy to fix yourself with minimal tools and a little know-how. With so many how-to videos available on YouTube you can teach yourself to do almost anything with a little bit of time and patience. Practice at home so you aren’t learning in the rain by the side of a road. As well as knowing what to do, you need to have the tools and the spares to make the repairs. Get a bag that you can permanently leave on your bike so you never leave home without the essentials.

What to carry

We’ve touched on what to carry before, but when riding on your own it’s important to have a belt and braces approach to everything. Don’t take just one spare tube, take two and a patch kit for example. You can also add to this basic kit list a bit of old tyre or a tyre boot to put inside your tyre in case of a split or a hole. Also consider a quick-link, to help you fix your chain easily, and cable ties – which fix virtually anything!

Navigation

If you’re the sort of person who can get lost at the end of their road, then having a reliable computer with GPS mapping is a must. However, computers fail and phones run out of charge so you need a non-electronic back up if you can’t rely on your own sense of direction. We’re still fans of paper maps, not only do they not require a power source but they show you so much more than just the thin strip of route you’re following. If you are restricted to riding in your local area, now might be a good time to explore and see what hidden gems there are in the space that surrounds you. The Ordnance Survey has some fantastic advice and route-finding tools to help you explore from your door.

Food and drink

If you’re riding for more than 30 minutes or so you will definitely need fluids and possibly food as well. With cafes and shops closed, or opening on restricted hours, it pays to carry your own. You might even want to consider taking your own hot coffee in a thermal flask designed to fit your bike’s bottle cage. In cold weather, eating food is a good way to warm-up. If you start getting cold the process of digestion releases heat, so always carry a bit more than you think you’ll need.

Finally, if you find the idea of riding alone off-putting then there’s always the option to cycle indoors! But there are advantages to riding on your own – you pick the pace, it’s peaceful and you get time to process your own thoughts. Anyone prefer riding alone rather than with company?