Advice on gear and equipment for Brevets, by Bill Watts

The Things We Carry

One of the most basic questions you have to ask yourself before you begin a brevet of any length is this: “What do I need to take with me on my bike?”  This turns out to be a pretty complicated question, and I am sure that a hundred experienced randonneurs would answer this question in a 100 different ways.  Here is my answer.

Before I start listing items, let me say that, for me at least, this is partly a matter of habit.  I commute and do almost all of my daily travel by bicycle, and, for this reason, I have a bar bag that contains the basic gear that I pretty much always have on my bike.  This bag contains rain and reflective gear, inner tubes, wrenches, and back-up lights.  I keep a compact pump attached to my frame.  I also have a trunk bag that goes on my rear rack, and I keep in this bag the things that I need specifically for randonneuring: a fold-up tire, extra spokes, a chain tool, zip ties, etc.  Because I keep my two bags stocked, I can get myself ready for a brevet without too much effort or thought.   But this depends on habits I have worked out over many years.

So, let me divide my list of essential gear into two parts: the 200K, and anything longer.  For me, the reason to divide the list in this way is that, in general, you do not have to be ready for night riding on a 200K, unless you are riding in early spring or late fall.  For any ride 300K or longer, though, you have to be prepared to ride at night.

Gear for 200K

1.      Two inner tubes

2.      Patch kit

3.      Pump

4.      Tire irons

5.      A multi-tool with hex wrenches and flat blades that let you work every screw on your bike (except, possibly, the crank)

6.      A back-up food supply (in my case, two Clif bars)

7.      Two water bottles

8.      A rain coat

9.      Something to keep heavy rain out of your eyes: either a hat, or a hood, or a helmet cover

10.  The means to carry and keep dry the cue sheet, either in a waterproof bar bag or a separate map holder.

Gear for 300K and Longer Brevets

All of the above, plus:

1.      Front and rear lights (required by RUSA and ACP)

2.      Back-up front and rear lights

3.      Reflective vest (required by RUSA and ACP)

4.      Reflective ankle bands (required by RUSA and ACP)

5.      A fold-up tire (or a boot)

6.      Spoke wrench

7.      Extra spokes

8.      Chain tool

9.      A chain link (I prefer the Wippermann Connex, but the SRAM Powerlink will also work)

10.  Chain oil

11.  Zip ties

12.  Electrical tape (some randonneurs also carry a length of rolled-up duct tape)

13. Extra batteries for any electronic devise you depend on (phone, GPS, etc.)


In addition to these items, you need to carry anything else peculiar to your needs.  Most randonneurs will carry sun-screen, and many will carry Tums, for the stomach problems that are common on long, hot rides, as well as chamois cream, Ibuprofen, and anything else that makes long days in the saddle more comfortable.  I have an S&S coupler, and I have learned the hard way that I need always to carry the necessary wrench for my coupler in my bar bag.  As you pack for the ride, do an inventory of the things you need that are peculiar to your bicycle or your habits.

And, finally, you will need to think through any needs related to the weather.  Unless it is crazy hot, I pretty much always have leg and arm warmers, water-proof socks and long-finger gloves.  If I am riding in cooler climates and at elevation (in the Cascades or in Scotland), I will also carry a base layer.  Some randonneurs will also carry rain pants, or chaps for cycling (Rainlegs is one product some swear by).