8 Mountain Bikers Share How They Pack Their Bikes and Gear

Packing for a long mountain bike race isn’t as easy as it might seem.

You really have to think about what you bring. Just what kind of energy do you need to bring – and do you also need to worry about bringing water or some extra clothing?

To improve how we bring our gear around, we have talked with 8 experienced mountain bikers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all 8 have years of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

The 8 Mountain Bikers

Bart Brentjens
Bart Brentjens
Photo credit: Irmo Keizer

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Of course, the mountainbike, some tools but always my own pillow for a good sleep.

I like riding my bike very much and even I am not a professional rider anymore, to ride my bike makes me happy. Good tools are important for bike maintenance and they are mostly very specific related to the bike these days.

A good day starts with a good night of sleep, with your own pillow, the bed feels better.

Lots of clothing which you mostly don’t use all.

How do you bring things with you?

We have Thule as our bag sponsor of the team. Thule has a great bike bag (roundtrip traveler) to travel with, light and a good bike protection, also for the wheels. For the normal luggage, a 87l Thule bag (crossover trolley duffel), which easily get filled up till 23kg (max flight luggage weight of many airlines).

Thule bags have many separate in their bags to organize everything nicely.

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

  • Always take your brake discs of the wheels;
  • Protect the frame with foam carefully;
  • Always use a hardshell, with wheels, bikebag;
  • Taak a SKS multi tool and small pump with you;
  • Use the bike bag for some extras like helmet and shoes, which mostly take a lot of space in your normal luggage.

Visit Bart Brentjens’ website

Todd Wells

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I usually travel pretty light when I’m out on the MTB. I do always carry a quick link for my chain. It’s simple to tape it onto the housing by the handle bar and forget about it. Then if/when you need it, it’s there. This isn’t something I take with me but I always tell someone where I’m going. I often ride by myself and the last thing I want is to get into trouble and not have anyone know where I am. Sure we all have our phones with us now but a lot of places I ride there isn’t cell service. Finally, I always bring one more piece of food then I’ll need for the ride. I almost never need it but when things go wrong or I bonk it is invaluable.

The most useless thing I have carried over the years are tubes with holes in them or used CO2s. I often put a tube in my seat bag and forget about it, only to find out that it’s got a hole in it when I finally need it. It’s worth checking every now and then so you know it’s good when you need it.

How do you bring things with you?

I travel light and often use either the Topeak Propack or the Topeak Sidekick STW. The Propack is a tight fit for my tube/CO2/multitool but the Sidekick STW I can usually fit a few CO2s and if they are lightweight, 2 tubes. I really like those bags because they clip under the seat and are easy to take off and interchange.

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

The longest race I’ve done in the Leadville 100 so it’s only about 6 hours. I would say not put in the proper training to prepare for these long events or not having their equipment dialed in to make it through the race.

It takes a lot of training to get ready for a 12+ event. Most people have real jobs, families and limited time. They are always trying to figure out a way to cram it in and it doesn’t always work out. Then, they also have to maintain their equipment and get everything ready for race day. There are a million things that can fall through the cracks but having a plan gives you the best chance of having a great day.

Visit Todd Wells’ website

Sonya Looney

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Tire pressure is key so I always have the Topeak D2 Digital Gauge and the Topeak Mega Morph Pump! It’s like a mini floor pump so pumping up the tires isn’t a hassle! I also am really particular about what eyewear I bring. I have a photochromatic antifog lens so it’s clear when I need to be and dark when I need it to be, and works in all temps – it’s the Ryders Eyewear Roam glasses. They are awesome!

How do you bring things with you?

I have a large Osprey roller bag. I like it because it’s one of the lightest bags out there. I use the Evoc Bike Travel Pro bag for my bike because it’s really easy to pack and unpack your bike with it and it has wheels! I use large ziplock bags for each cycling kit and soft zipper cubes for things like tshirts to keep me organized. I have packing down to a science so I usually have it just right. I do bring clothes for any weather condition so sometimes (if I’m lucky), the cold or wet weather gear doesn’t get used!

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

People tend to go out too hard. Ask yourself, “Can I ride this pace for x hours.” Endurance mountain biking is also very mental, so training yourself to reframe situations to make them fun is important. For example, if it’s raining, you can choose to be excited about the adventure. It’s also important to realize that if you’re in pain, it is not permanent and that will help you get through it!

Visit Sonya Looney’s website

Simon Zahner

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

I just try to make sure I don’t forget anything at home. So many times some other rider asks, “Could I borrow xy/would you have another yz/…” and the longer the event, the more stuff you need, the more you could forget.

I always have a derailleur hanger somewhere in my luggage, because every other team/rider could help you out with everything but the frame-specific parts.

I travel with a pair of cycling shoes and a bib short/skinsuit in my hand luggage so I’m not totally stranded if suitcase or bike bag get lost and had to learn the hard way that every device and its charger go in the same piece of luggage when that cool new notebook ran out of life and my (and Europe’s at that moment) only fitting charger was two airports back…

Packing that much stuff is a pretty personal topic so I don’t want to judge other people too much about stuff they bring to races, BUT I found it pretty impressive when fellow Cyclocross Pro Jeremy Powers used to travel to races with a DJ board. 😉

How do you bring things with you?

I’m a freak with that. When I was a junior, I had this massive Fox Racing motocross trolley, and I literally put every piece of cycling kit I had at home into it and took that to every race (and it still wasn’t full). The experienced guys didn’t travel to training camps with that much stuff so they made fun of me all the time (they called my trolley, “the house”).

Through all the years, I collected every type of suitcase, backpack and trolley you could think of so whatever the purpose, I might find a bag with just enough room to keep it organised. I prefer to fold it open so I can see all the stuff and take out what I need instead of digging through items in the dark and creating an even bigger mess.

There are always some plastic bags for wet/dirty kit and shoes, and a towel (there’s some river/pond/lake/fountain nearby and it is always cool to wash and refresh yourself after the ride, even if it’s not a classified shower).

My X-Mas present to myself was a Silca Maratona bag as it ticks all my boxes for a 1-day-event and just looks really nice ( ).

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

  • Think about the maximums. How warm and cold could it be and is it possible to cover that with a base layer-jersey-rain jacket combo? Off course there’s plenty of really nice condition-specific cycling kit available but you don’t want to take a backpack on a long event and stop to change clothing. For an early morning start, you could still do the classic trick of stuffing yesterday’s newspaper into your jersey to block the wind and get rid of it later on — keep in mind where you throw it away, no littering!)

    If you’re racing, you have to be able to do as many things as possible on the bike, while riding. Taking off a jacket or unwrapping energy bars shouldn’t stop you for a minute or 2, because you have to (and automatically will) ride so much harder to take back the time that it might mess up your pacing strategy.

  • Don’t let your bike mess up your day! Be over-prepared and equip your bike’s saddle bag for the event the “Murphy’s Law-Way”. Tubeless plug, mini tool, chain link, spare tube, pump, derailleur hanger, allergy medication because you’ll only ever tear a chain apart when you don’t have anything to fix it with you.
  • Emergency Money. As long as you don’t shortcut the race route, you can always go into a grocery store or gas station shop nearby and get you some sugar (sports nutrition industry still has no valid option to a can of coke late in a race). I did an 11-hour road ride last summer on less than $10 and spent five minutes for the two “food stops”. That leads to:
  • Have a plan. I find it harder to plan a 5-hour ride and do 30 minutes more than to do a 10-hour ride. It’s amazing how our brain affects our performance so we better get that brain on our side.

Visit Simon Zahner’s website

Rémy Absalon

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

In addition to the common stuff, I always bring :

A Tubeless Tyre Patch Kit : wherever I go, I will be sure to could fix all kind of flat tyre

My gopro camera and gimbal to create some stories

Some stock of my favorites biscuits to get use slowly of the local food.

How do you bring things with you?

I take my bike in a bike transport bag (Scott Bike transport bag premium 2.0). It is really easy to put everything you need and to be sure the bike is safe during the travel.

And for riding, I take a bag with enough place to bring what I need, not too big to ride like with nothing and with a protection included to be safe for enduro riding (Ergon BE1 Enduro or BE2 or B3 depending of the capacity I need).

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

As I said, the tip is to take the good bag to could have everything you need, particularly water, food, tools and jacket… For long ride, the important is to always stay in your comfort zone and take time to stay safe and comfortable (I mean take time to eat and drink, to spot and put a jacket when necessary…)

Visit Rémy ABSALON’s website

Gale Bernhardt

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Top 3 uncommon items found in my mountain bike bag:

  • Dust mask – This helps keep you from inhaling tons of dust during mass-start races where there is a long dirt road section at the beginning of the race. Certainly a must for people with asthma, but can help others as well.
  • Scissors – I’m always surprised how many people don’t have a pair of scissors in their bags and borrow mine. These come in handy for all kinds of reasons.
  • Newspaper bags and kitchen trash bags – The weight of a common newspaper bag (or light sandwich bag) is a perfect toe cover. I cut (with those scissors!) a triangular section out of the corner of the bag and slip it over my sock, under my shoe for a cold morning or heavy-dew start. I do not cover my entire foot – only my toes. If I get too warm, I just remove this small bit of plastic and carry it out. I’ll leave these in my mountain bike bag for re-use. The corner of a dog-poop bag found at trailheads also works. (Good thing I have scissors!) The kitchen trash bag is for wet or muddy clothing after a ride.

Don’t know that I’ve seen useless items – other than volume. Why three pairs of leg warmers? For one ride, do you really need three shorts options?

How do you bring things with you?

I have one bag dedicated to mountain biking – it’s a Mountain Smith bag. For the majority of what I do, this bag is perfect. It allows me to organize by compartments shoes, helmet, gloves, ear-warmer, helmet cover, a range of gloves, shock pump and notes for air pressures, etc.

If I travel to do a multi-day riding adventure, I’ll carry an additional bag mainly for clothing. I have a big bag for big adventures (The North Face Base Camp Duffel) and a medium bag for medium adventures (Pearlizumi Tour Bag Duffel).

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

Top 3 things I see people do wrong:

  • Go out too fast/hard. This is typically born out of inexperience or ego.
  • Inconsiderate of altitude. People that race at altitude must prepare at altitude or be willing to make intensity adjustments for altitude. (Arriving 3 days prior to the race is the least expensive option.)
  • Unprepared for hike-a-bike. Most of the time, races that last some 12-24 hours will involve some hike-a-bike for all but the top riders. Pushing a bike up extended sections can give people calf cramps or back spasms if they have not prepared in training.

Top 3 recommendations for preparing for a 12- to 24-hour battle in arctic conditions or sweltering heat:

  • Overdress in training. This easy strategy done some six weeks out from race day can help with heat acclimatization. Heat slows everyone down, but this helps decrease how much you slow down.
  • When it’s hot – abandon time and power goals. When it’s super hot out I have people watch heart rate more than power. I’ll give them heart rate goals and as long as they are within goal range, we know it is the fastest they can go given the conditions. This removes a good deal of stress. Power goals in hot conditions (compared to cool home training conditions) will certainly lead to a spectacular blow-up later in the race.
  • Arctic conditions. Gortex helmet cover combined with ear-warmers and chemical pack heaters. These three items can go a long way to make you comfortable in cold conditions. The helmet cover helps with rain/snow and cold/wind and can be easily removed on climbs. The chemical pack heaters typically used in skiing don’t weigh much and can save frozen hands or toes.

Visit Gale Bernhardt’s website

Lorraine Truong
Photo credit: Jérémy Reuiller

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

Zip ties, a packet of Haribo’s and eye drops.

Zip ties are amazing. They are small, light and can fix virtually anything short of breaking your frame in two. I’ve fixed smashed rims, hanging derailleurs or broken shifters with them. They can be very effective on torn shoes too! Sure it won’t prevent you to have to spend some money to really fix it all when back home.. but hey, it brought you back home!

Eyes drop might seem a strange item to take, but as I wore contact lenses, it could save my ride. I had tiny bottles with only a few drops inside. No waste of space, but enough to sooth my dry eyes when the conditions demanded it.

And finally Haribo’s. Well.. they can work pure magic! Not only create a sweet moment of sharing with friends in front of a beautiful scenery or save your spirit when you are an hour from home, hungry and under pouring rain, but they can also buy you the friendship of anyone, included middle age walkers who think they own the mountain and want to kick you from your beloved singletrack.

I haven’t seen many useless thing brought around.. Teddy bears are quite common, but as I raced a few months with a potato in my pocket, I can’t really judge.

Photo credit: Jérémy Reuiller

How do you bring things with you?

As much as possible, I tried to carry things in my pockets and on my bike. I would have my water bottle, multi-tool, a spare inner tube and a chain link on my bike, and a jacket, food, phone and a pump in my pockets. I often rode with a road-cycling style top under my jersey in order to have more pockets. My protective sponsor Bliss also added pockets on their ARG Vertical LD day top back protector. I liked the freedom of riding backpackless.

However, it often was not possible. For longer rides – or races when you are away from the paddock for a long time – you need more water and food, a first aid kit, spare layers, a gear cable, some break pads. I also always had a Swiss army knife and some matches in my bag. I guess it was my Swiss origin talking.

Thanks to my partnership with V8, I had several backpacks to choose from. Due to my tiny stature and my liking of no-backpack riding, I generally used their smallest model, either the YDR 4.3 or the RAC 6.1 (with the SBS as back protector). The new generation of these models are the YDR 4.4 and the RAC 6.2.

In the main pocket, I had a water bladder, my spare clothes (in a waterproof bag), first aid kit, my pump, an inner tube and some food. The outside pocket contained the rest of my spares, tools, more food and phone. If the weather wasn’t looking good, I generally attached my rain jacket on the top of my bag, so I could easily grab it if I need it.

Did I feel I had enough space in my bag? No.. but that’s mostly because if I had I would have taken a smaller bag!

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

First of all, I don’t really describe myself as a long-distance mountain biker. I liked to spend long hours outside, especially with friends, but the aim never was the distance, it was to reach the best downhill trails!

But if I had to give tips, here is what I would say: Fist, invest in a good hand pump. I had a Lezyne Mircro Floor Drive and despite being bigger than a simple small pump I never regretted carrying it. Second, get some thin Gore Tex over gloves. Nothing worst than getting on the top of the mountain (riding or by lift) and have your hands too cold to enjoy the way down. With shell mittens above your riding gloves, you can be sure to be able to brake… at least for some time. And they are small and light, so no packing worries. And third, make sure your equipment is checked before you go. You can pack a million things that you might need in case of breakages, but by checking your bolts (including those under your shoes), your suspensions, tires, and cables, and by cleaning/greasing your bike so cracks or other issues could be detected, those things become superfluous.

How did I push myself through a long ride? By eating. (laugh). I had a mega fast metabolism, so long rides were not actually made for me. I had to eat kind of non stop.

Otherwise.. well what motivated me was my love for riding downhill. I would never have been able to bike just for making it through some distance. I needed FUN! As long as I knew there would be some good riding (and was fed), my mind was ready to take me through a lot. Coming from a very wet place, I even loved long days in the rain, because it was making the riding so much more fun. I struggled a bit more in the heat. But dry weather means dry trails and dry trails means skidding. So it always was worth it too!

Visit Lorraine Truong’s website

Léandre Bouchard

What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff everybody brings?

  • My penny skateboard! It’s so usefull for small commute and airport connection. Instead of walking, I just roll. It’ fun, fast and save energy. For example, moving in the commonwealth athlete involve a lot of walking but with my skateboard, it’s a piece of fun. and effortless.
  • Something to cover my eyes (I don’t know the name) : usefull to have a good sleep in the plane or when to much light enter in the bedroom.
  • Two carabiners, you never know when you want to clip something to another thing. I regularly use it to attach my Biknd bike travel case to a airport trolley or hold a small bag to my backpack.

The useless thing is probably the co2 adapter without the Co2 cadrige. How do you gonna repair a flat with that. Please don’t rely on your friends for that. I use a small pump in training and a co2 (with the adapter) in race.

How do you bring things with you?

I use the Biknd jetpack and Biknd Helium V4 bike travel case. The first is the most simple and quick but second have the advantage to hold two wheelset. They are quite large and I often put extra tires, bottles and shoe in there. I use a rigid suitcase because I feel I can log for stuff in more easily.

What are your top tips for other long-distance mountain bikers?

Make sure your cage bottle gonna hold them. Also, a hydrate pack is quite usefull even if it look unstylish : you will never loose it while riding and is convienient.

I saw some long-distance mountain bikers with lack of technical skills. I think some should work on that to ride saver and faster.

Visit Léandre Bouchard’s website

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