Preparing for a Trail Bike Ride

Ask many recreational cyclists what they carry with them on bike rides and you will find that beyond a phone, money, and maybe a granola bar, they often don’t have much else. But, once you have your first flat tire or other mechanical problem en route, you realize how a little planning can help make even a short ride a lot less stressful. Next time you’re heading out on the trail, spend a few minutes preparing to ensure a safe and comfortable excursion.

Ensure a safe ride through preparation and inspection. | Photo by: RTC

Trail Ride Checklist


Pump up your tires

Read the PSI markings on the side of the tire to ensure that you are putting the right amount of air in.


Inspect your helmet

Make sure that it is not cracked or impaired in any way, be sure that it fits properly, and tighten the straps as appropriate.


Check your bike

Make sure that your brakes and chain are working properly. It is much easier to make adjustments at home than on the trail. Also, check that your reflectors are clean and that you have a light if you anticipate riding after dark or through a trail tunnel


Pack water

Bring more than enough water, especially on a hot day or if riding in a remote area. Sometimes even that guaranteed water refill spot is not available for one reason or another.


Bring snacks

Nuts, granola bars, or compact foods that provide a protein punch are the perfect items to take along to keep energy up. As with water, always pack a little more than you think you will need.


Prep your phone

Make sure that your phone is fully charged before heading out.


Plot your route

If you are heading out on a new trail, do not forget to download directions to trailheads and research parking locations. Note where restrooms, water fountains, bike shops, and other services are located within close proximity to the trail. Also determine if your trail requires a fee or permit.


Review your clothing options

Depending on the time of year and conditions on the day that you are riding, consider whether a rain poncho, an extra layer, or gloves are necessary.


Pack a lock

Even if you do not anticipate stopping, a lock is nice to have in the event that plans change.


Bring bike supplies

Be sure to have an extra tube (make sure it is the right one for your bike) or patch kit, as well as tire levers, a cyclist’s multi-tool, and a pump.


Wear sun protection

Do not forget sunscreen and sunglasses, even on an overcast day.


Review other gear

Other items to include in your pack: a band-aid or two, anti-friction chamois cream, lip balm, tissues, cash and a credit card, identification, and your health insurance card (which hopefully you won’t need). If it is a new route, you may also want to consider bringing a map, directions, and a camera.

Elroy-Sparta State Trail, WI | Pre-planning can make for a successful outing. | Photo by: Amy Henschen

Even for a relatively short ride, taking the time to ensure that you have everything that you need and that your bike is in top shape, can make or break an outing. Keep this checklist accessible and review it next time you’re heading out. Over time, you’ll find ways to tailor it to your own specific needs to ensure a seamless rail-trail excursion.

Related Articles

Great and Grungy: Best Rail-Trails for Mountain Biking

While most rail-trails have a characteristic straight and level projection, some do have surprising twists, turns, and elevation gains...

10 Rail-Trail Hikes for Leaf Peeping

Here, you’ll find some extraordinary rail-trails tucked away in quiet forests that offer colorful spectacles come fall...

Helpful Tips for Dog Walking on Trails

Rail-trails are not just for people. Here are some tips to help you and your dog get the most out of your trail experience...

Your donation will help us to continue connecting more people to trails around the country.
Become an RTC member and wear your FREE T-Shirt with pride. Help defend and expand trails nationwide.
Get a FREE Rail Trails Guidebook when you become a Member with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy."

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews

Log in with Google

Log in with Apple


Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 40,000 miles of trail maps and more!

Register with Google

Register with Apple


Your account has been deleted.