While you definitely don’t need to spend a fortune to hit the trails (although it would be easy to do if you had the cash), the right equipment can help make your first rides with OMBA as positive an experience as possible. Bear with me as I start with the most obvious piece of kit — the bike. Your Ride
In this section I’ll give a quick primer on bike choice for riding in SMH. (If you can use your bike at SMH, it is good for most other areas). This is not a how-to on buying a bike, rather it’s more of a ‘consider this’ type of discussion. If you already have a mountain bike, bring it. People have fun riding in SMH on bikes ranging from fully rigged bikes with V-brakes or department store bikes to massively blinged out carbon fibre bikes with more advanced technology deployed on it than the International Space Station. Bottom line is if you have it, ride it. That said, if you have a choice most riders would recommend a bike with gears and front and rear suspension. These features go a long way towards smoothing out the trail and taming some of the rougher portions of OMBA rides. If you don’t yet have a bike, try out as many as you can to see what you like. When you find something you like, buy it from an OMBA sponsor bike store (you don’t have to, but why not support businesses that support the OMBA mission?). Stuff to Keep Your Ride Rolling:
Bikes are machines, really efficient ones at that, but they still have bad days. A few well-chosen items can keep you rolling if you experience some of the more common mechanical mishaps. Here we go . . .
Spare Tubes and Tube Changing Accessories: One of the most annoying but readily fixed bike malfunction is the flat tire. Chances are that over a season you or someone in your group will have a flat. You could sit around and try to patch a tube on the trail but it’s way faster to just switch tubes. In order to do that though, you need to have one. Make sure you have the right size tube with the right type of valve and if you want extra insurance bring two extras instead of one. Having a patch kit as well in case you are having a really bad day won’t hurt. To effectively repair or replace a tube some tire levers may come in handy, make sure you get a nice thick set like Pedro’s that won’t snap when you need them most. Also, make sure and have something to pump your tubes with. A nice compact pump is great, a CO2 inflator is awesome too as they work fast and get you rolling again in no time.
Quick Link/Master Link: Bike chains take a lot of abuse and bad things can happen. After flats, chain failure is one of the most common mechanical failures observed on the trail. Fortunately chain manufacturers have a solution for broken chain links in the form of removable (and sometimes reusable) links. The most well-known types are arguably the SRAM PowerLink or PowerLock series and the KMC Missing Link. These devices can replace a broken link by joining two ‘female’ inner chain plate pairs. In order to get the right interface for the quick link you may need to remove a link or two from your chain with a chain tool. When purchasing quick links make sure you get one that was made for the width of your chain (usually based on the number of speeds/gears the chain was designed to accommodate).
Multi-Tool: These handy devices come in a staggering array of shapes, sizes and configurations. Generally, these devices tend to have enough fold-out tools to allow you to effect some fixes on the trail such as tightening bolts and screws as they become loose due to trail chatter, or the odd spill or unplanned rendezvous with a tree trunk. More comprehensive multi-tools will have tools such as a chain tool or spoke wrenches which are handy to have and can get bulky if you buy them separately.
Water!: Bring water, as much as you can carry, especially if it’s hot. Can’t stress this enough. You ride, you sweat. Without adequate water bad things will happen. At best, you’ll have a really bad headache, hypothermia is the other extreme, and it can be fatal. If your bike can only hold one water bottle consider a water bladder and a backpack. The backpack is also handy for carrying all the other stuff that was recommended.