Top 10 Items Needed for a Successful Mountain Bike Adventure

Mountain biking is challenging because it's just you, and sometimes a buddy, against nature, against yourself, and sometimes against your buddy. Out in the middle of nowhere, relying on yourself and hopefully that buddy of yours, bolsters self-reliance. Are you prepared for a flat tire? Or a broken derailleur? A mechanical out on the trail, miles away from civilization can really harsh your mellow. One must weigh the weight of your hydration pack/tool bag versus being prepared for such contingencies. This realization was inspired by my ride this past Saturday, in Bass Lake, California.

This way to the 007 trail head.
Joh Rathbun

Riding 007, a double track behind Bass Lake, with Holly, I get a flat on the climb up. Holly's dropped me, so I pull over to fix the flat. Taking the wheel out of the bike, I quickly peel off the rear tire using tire levers. Pulling out a spare tube, I run my finger-gently in the inside of the tire, rim rubbing my knuckles, to check for goat heads, glass, etc. After awkwardly pumping up the tire, I seat the wheel back in the chainstay, re-attach the rear brake, right-side up the bike, then jump on. Passing the trail head for 007, we ride a few more miles up the fire road, and we get to the 007 trail head.

Swooping through the tall Ponderosa Pines, riding over freshly-packed berms, and pine needles, we descend quickly. A broken, angry limb jumps in between the spokes of my rear wheel. Rear-wheel locking, I brake as soon as I hear and feel the issue. Too late, looking behind me I see my derailleur hanging in tatters, with the pulley pulling a Houdini.

Luckily enough, though, that "the most efficient human-powered means of transportation," according to Wikipedia, has only a few moving parts, which makes for almost-easy trail-side maintenance.

Between Holly and myself, we've got the tools to get ourselves back to the car, only a few miles away now. I pull out my 5 millimeter allen wrench and detach the derailleur. Once that's off, we can see the bent derailleur hanger. While I keep a spare, without the previously-attached pulley, and based on the angle of the derailleur, I don't bother replacing the hanger. Take the wheel off, pull out Holly's chain breaker, find the master link, play around with the master link for a few minutes, bruise a couple knuckles before just popping the master link open with the chain breaker. Pulling off the chain, I take the cable housing off of the derailleur cable, then wrap said cable around the handlebars, just so packing parts in my hydration pack, I take a deep breath.

Appreciating the great weather, and the pungent aroma of bear clover, a native scraggly bush, I calm down. While I don't welcome my chain-free descent, I appreciate that my happiness now depends on not braking. Braking is the enemy, I silently chant as we hit the trail head for 007. Even though it's been a decade since I've ridden this trail, my body responds to it like a lover.

I know every turn, berm, and water bar intimately. Unfortunately, this body isn't so young anymore, nor on a full-suspension bike today. Manza-eatya (Manzanita) jumping out at me, I still manage to reel away from Holly. I've got a 5' swath of trail unrolling in front of me. Quickly approaching another water bar, about waist-high, but tightly packed, I center my weight over the bike, then I'm air-born. Landing on the other side, hitting the transition roughly, I woop in joy. I speed up, and everything drops aways from me, the flat tire, no derailleur, no chain, no bills to pay, my mind sharply focused on the task at hand— and my body moving as if this is what it was always meant to do.

While Holly catches up to me once we hit the rock garden, I have barely slowed down, and we continue down the roller coaster called 007. With no other riders, hikers or dirt bikers, we're all over the trail, whooping and laughing, the estrogen train rolling down the mountain. While being prepared for contingencies like a flat, or broken derailleur had saved me from an approximate 5 mile walk-out, without the willingness to get a lil' bruised and dirty, the day was better than a wash, it was a win.

The list of necessities for a winnin' adventure while riding:

1. Spare tube and/or patch kit

2. Plastic tire levers-at least 2

3. Hand-held pump that is both schrader and presta valve compatible

4. Chain breaker

5. Set of metric allen keys or a multi-tool

6. Spare derailleur hangar

7. Appropriate riding apparel, like helmet, gloves, shorts with a chamois, jersey and shoes

8. Spoke wrench

9. Water

10. Food

For appearances, catch Joh emceeing at the Black Market 831 Jump Contest at the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival (SCMTBF), as well as co-emceeing the downhill race at this year's Sea Otter Classic in Monterey California.

Check my Twitter feed to learn more about my bike adventures, tutorials, and cool events on the West Coast.!/johrathbun


Note: This article was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Sign up here to start publishing your own sports content.

Updated Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012