What to take to your first sportive

Sportives have never been so popular. There are more of them than ever before and more of us are entering them than ever before. That means lots of newbies trying out an organised ride for the first time. If you’re one of those, this is for you.

Sportives are great opportunities to push yourself further, ride (perhaps) closed roads with organised marshals and experience a sort of competitive riding without the fury of competition. They are accessible to all and not too expensive. An ideal way to enjoy a day on the bike with others.

If you’re considering a sportive, you should prepare your bike and your kit as well as you prepare your body. There’s no point training for weeks to complete a set distance in a set time if you don’t spend at least a little time making sure your bike can do the same or that you can cope with a mechanical if it happens.

So, with that in mind, this is a suggest list of things to take to your first sportive. If you’re looking for more general advice on what to take on a ride, check out this post.

Sportive essentials

You will of course need your bike, shoes and gear. All should be well maintained, fully checked over and ready for action. The last thing you want to do is get half way round and something fail. While Murphy has his law, simple preventive maintenance can keep you riding for longer.

Here are the basic essentials you need to take to your first sportive:

Spare tube(s) – Take one or two spare tubes depending on length and terrain.

Puncture repair kit with tyre levers – There are some very small kits with self-adhesive patches that are superb. Get one or two of these and a pair of light but strong tyre levers to get the job done. Many multitools have tyre levers but they aren’t always any good.

Pump and/or CO2 – A minipump or CO2 is another sportive essential. Take either a pump with some CO2 as backup or just a CO2 pump with a couple of canisters.

Multitool – A good quality multitool should be an essential part of any cyclist’s kit. Never leave home without it. Get one with a chain tool that you can use easily for that extra bit of security.

Chain connectors – In the unlikely event your chain breaks, these save time and effort. Use in conjunction with your chain tool to get you back on the move in minutes.

Drink – Most sportives will have feed stations but make sure you take enough supplies to see you through missing one or two of them. You would be surprised to see how easy it is to blast past one if you’re at pace or chasing a pack.

Food – Same as above. A good mix of gels, energy bars and normal ride food will see you through.

Nice to have

There are a few things it might be nice to have if you have space. Again, depending on the length, time of year and terrain of the sportive, some of these might be elevated to essential. For example, very hilly terrain may require you to carry spare brake blocks and an autumn ride may necessitate lights.

Spare tyre – Always take a spare tyre in the car but riding with it is optional. It was good enough to carry tyres over the shoulders in Grand Tours in the old days, but tyres are more reliable now.

Spare cleats – Another optional addition depending on how much you’re already carrying.

Spare chain – If you’re out in the wild of Wales or riding overseas, a spare chain could be useful. It’s hard to find a bike shop open at 8am on a Sunday morning after all…

Brake blocks – If the terrain is challenging, these should be an essential. If the terrain isn’t going to have you riding your brakes that often, just have a spare set in the car.

Lights – As mentioned, depending on the time of year and when you’re starting off or returning, lights may be an essential. They are also nice to have if it’s cloudy or overcast for an extra level of safety.

There are all sorts of non-gear related things you should take on your first sportive and on any ride. They include phone, cash for extra food, drink, phone call or cab, emergency contact details, cycle computer, map or the course, emergency gel, gilet or rain jacket, arm and leg warmers and so on. Just think about the weather, the area and the miles and plan accordingly.


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