To go out on a ride, you basically need two things - yourself and your bike. Here are some considerations, before you roll out and get going:
Helmet - ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET! The most important thing to bring on a ride is your helmet. While you may consider yourself a safe cyclist, you cannot trust everyone else on the road.
Clothing - dress for the weather Dress appropriately for the weather and anticipate changes. Wear comfortable shorts. Cycling shorts really DO make a difference, especially on longer rides (Tip: wear them without underwear; the chamois is designed to be next to your skin). High tech fabrics are a good investment if you ride a lot, as they will provide light-weight warmth in the cold weather, and have cooler; wicking properties in the hot summer months. Cotton is not recommended, as it will not keep you warm if it gets wet or damp and will cool you too quickly.
Gloves protect your hands from fatigue (long hours on the handlebars) and protect your hands from injury in case of a mishap.
Sunglasses - to protect your eyes from not only the sun, but from flying objects (like flys etc). Sunglasses also help prevent fatigue from sun and road glare.
Tires - check your tires after every ride for cuts, glass, thorns and the condition of the sidewall of the tire. If you find that your tire is starting to look worn out (either it has large cuts or the sidewall is starting to look frayed), replace it! If you find small cuts, check if glass is buried in it. If you do not remove the glass (you can use a sharp kitchen knife or needle to carefully poke it out) and keep riding on the tire, eventually the glass will find its way to the tube and cause a flat.
Chain drive - check your shifting. If you have problems shifting, keep dropping your chain (when the chain falls off the front chainrings), or your drive train makes noise, ask us to look at it! It could be a simple matter of adjusting the derailleur (another possibility is that your derailleur is bent, this is also not hard to fix). Also make sure your drive train is clean and that the chain is not squeaking (it may need some oil); see the section below on "What I should know about my bike" for details on cleaning your drive train.
Brakes - check your brakes every once in a while. Make sure that the brake pads are not worn down too much. Also, check if your brakes are position correctly - when you tighten the brakes, they are supposed to sit flush against the rim of the wheel. You do not want the brakes to rub the tire. Check also if your brakes are rubbing - if you let the wheel rotate slowly (holding up your bike) and it suddenly stops, your brakes are hitting the wheel. Ask us on how to adjust this! If you really have to clamp down hard on the brake levers to get sufficient slowing, your brakes could need tightening and/or adjusting. Ask us to make these adjustments.
Wheels and tyre pressure - make sure the wheels are securely fastened to the bike. Check that your tyres are inflated sufficiently. If you don't have enough air in your tyres it is easier to puncture the tube if you hit something (like a pot hole) and soft tyres take more effort when riding.
Pump - check that your pump is attached to your bike.
Seat bag - check that your seat bag is attached to your bike and contains the essentials. Get a seat bag and put the essentials in it: spare tubes, tire levers, a puncture repair kit, mobile and money.
Spare clothes -prepare yourself and bring extra clothes for the ride (especially if you are riding in the afternoon - it may cool off sooner than you think). It is always a good idea to bring along at least a wind jacket and leg warmers, maybe even a hat. These items do not take much room in your back pockets but may save you sore knees etc at the end of a long ride. Layering is the key! Bring easy accessories such as arm warmers, leg warmers, jacket (or vest) and long-fingered gloves. Always be prepared for a change of weather!
Water - bring plenty of water. Dehydration is a real problem, especially in all weather conditions. Be sure to use clean water bottles and fill them up before you ride. It is not always easy to get additional water if you run out, so be sure to bring plenty. Expect to drink every quarter of an hour on a warm day.
Food - if you are going to be out riding for more than an hour, bring along food and remember to eat it! There are lots of options so take what you like: cookies, bananas, Cliff Bars, energy drinks, energy gels.
Spare kit or seat bag with the essentials - get a seat bag and put the essentials in it: spare tubes, tire levers, a patch kit, mobile, and money. If you haven't had to use your spare tube in several months (lucky you!), check that it still holds air. Pull it out of your seat bag, pump it up, and check for leaks. This is especially important if you are using a patched tube as your spare - oh and don't forget a pump as well!
A map - if you are unsure of where you are going, bring a map or some sort of satellite navigation. If you get lost you could be out for a much longer ride than you planned for!