Quick Question: How Can I Ride Trails Without Wearing a Bag?

Is it possible to be prepared for a big summer MTB ride without carrying a massive pack or even a hip pack? Yes it is, and are some ideas for making it happen.
The OneUp pump can conceal a multi tool, and with the tube strapped to the bottle cage there’s no concern for scratched paint.

With this Quick Question series we will present fast fixes and collect comments from seasoned riders around specific D.I.Y. mountain bike repairs. While much of this trailside triage is covered in our repair articles and videos, this is a space for longtime riders and readers in the Singletracks community to share their knowledge. Please type your related experiences and advice in the comments below. Do you have a quick question? 🤔 Email [email protected].

As potpourri blossoms give way to fresh green leaves we are all looking for ways to shed clothing and to cover our top tubes in a little less salt. Once the ride outfit is pared down to shorts and a T-shirt, ditching the back or hip pack can create a significant amount of skin-cooling airflow. While some rides require that pack for first aid supplies, maps, or a novel meant for hilltop reading, it’s helpful to have the true essentials already on the bike.

On most rides over the past few seasons I haven’t ridden with a pack of any kind and people often ask how they can do the same, so I’ll share a few methods here. These are a mix of DIY stash spots and cool stash gadgets, and I look forward to reading comments on what other folks do to ditch the bag.

Steerer tube stash tools for the win!

First up, decide which bike orifice you want to stash a tool inside. Tire plugs or multi tools can slide into the bar end, or a tool can go in the crank spindle and steerer tube. I keep two or more long zip ties folded and stuffed in my handlebar just in case. They can fix countless things, from replacing broken shoe latches to connecting a cassette to the spokes for a fixie spin home if the pawls in your freehub stop engaging. With a set of puncture plugs stuffed in alongside the zip ties, many common trail issues are covered.

Mount up a spare tube where it won’t rub against things to avoid ending up with a puncture before it can fix a puncture. I like to keep the tube low in the frame, and largely out of the main mud spray zone. Gear straps like these from OneUp work well to hold the tube in place without scratching the frame, and they are tough enough to hold a broken saddle or other components together if needed.

This sturdy strap can be used like a massive zip tie for all sorts of repairs.

After enough years dealing with shoddy CO2 heads, I carry a pump on all of my bikes. It looks silly, until someone blows their last CO2 cartridge and needs to use it. Then it looks brilliant. I like to keep a tire lever taped to the pump, both as a place to pack extra tape and to prevent the lever from wearing a hole in the spare tube if they were packed together. While some riders can remove and mount up tires without a lever, it’s a necessary instrument for tired hands and DH tire casings.

Pump, tire lever, and extra tape all in one. This tiny Fidlock bottle makes space for the protruding shock-reservoir on this bike.

Chains are incredibly strong for their size, but all of us will eventually bend or snap one. Having an extra link taped somewhere will help get the bike back home before dusk, even if only a few of the small cogs are useable. I like the classic brake-lever placement since the link nestles well behind the blade, and it’s easy to find in a hurry. When a chain breaks you can often remove the damaged pieces by hand, but having a multi-tool with a chain breaker is ideal.

Spare quick-link behind the lever.

Where do you put all the snacks? I use my pockets for soft things like granola bars and sandwiches. Apart from true backcountry adventures, I can typically pack enough grub into my shorts and the pockets in a back protector for 4-5 hours of pedaling. Fortunately, if a ride is any longer I’m likely high in the mountains where a warm bag with extra layers is the better option. My keys, pocket knife, and phone also line those pockets, safely padded by snacks.

A spare derailleur hanger under the saddle can save the day.

The only other bits I might cram into a bagless ride is a set of brake pads if it’s super wet out and a small lighter if there is even a tiny chance I may get lost — which there typically is.

How about you? What tricks have you learned to keep the heat and weight off your back on warmer days?