You want to start setting up longer rides, longer routes. And you’d like to make it a little easier on those riders that aren’t quite up to the longer distances yet. Well, it’s time to take off the riding shorts and put on the Rest Stop shirt.
Running a rest stop isn’t hard per se, with the right planning. And it’s something I think every rider should do for two important reasons:
- It’s good to see a ride from that side of the ride experience (to understand what it takes to put on a good tour ride).
- It feels incredible to know that your efforts off the bike can help other riders achieve their goals on the bike.
The goal of a rest stop is simple: help the riders achieve their goals by giving them the support they need, be it food, drink, mechanical, or emotional. The first three (food, drink, mechanical) might cost money, but it’s the last one that I feel can make the biggest difference in a ride. If you’re up-beat, positive, and supportive of someone’s goals, they’re far more likely to achieve them.
So, time to break what you need for a good rest stop. The amounts will vary depending on the number of riders expected, the length of the ride (number of rest stops you’ll be setting up), and the weather (sunny, hot, cold, etc.). If you’re worried about cost, spread it around the team: build a list of things you want for the rest stop and have riders donate items. Cyclists are a giving lot (I mean heck, it ain’t like this sport is cheap to begin with), so they’ll be glad to help, and they’re also helping themselves. Many of the items needed have long shelf-lives (or don’t expire, like CO2 cartridges), so even if you spend more up-front on them, you can have them on multiple rides.
Also make sure to consider when you’re rest stop will be needed. Sometimes the needs of riders changes depending on whether it’s early in a ride, in the middle, or at the end of a ride.
NOTE: if this list below seems like a lot of stuff… well, it is. You don’t need it all, and you don’t actually need tons of each thing when you’re just setting up a rest stop for your own riding group. So though there’s a lot of various items, there isn’t much of each item (except water and ice, don’t skimp on water and ice!). Just think about what you’d like to see if you hit up a rest stop, and what you’d miss if you got to a rest stop and they didn’t have it.
Drinks: can’t do a thing unless you stay hydrated, regardless of the weather.
- Water: required. CANNOT have a rest stop without water. Never skimp on water! Make sure it’s not stale/pasticky tasting either; they can already get that from their old water bottle. :p
- Gatorade: recommended. If you are going to stock Gatorade (or similar sports drink), I’d recommend two flavors (just in case people don’t like one). Buying large bottles is cheaper than buying the individual bottles, and you won’t get as much waste.
- Ice: anything above 75° and you’ll need ice. Like water, don’t skimp here, especially as the temp heats up.
- Separate your ice into two coolers: one for consuming, and one for keeping things cool. Keep the “consuming” ice clean.
- Soda: optional. If you are going to bring sodas, make sure to bring a variety, including caffeine free and diet options.
Food: variety is the spice of life. Make the ride extra-spicy by providing a good selection of healthy (and some not-so-healthy-but-very-tasty) food options.
- Fruit: I don’t know of any good rest stop that didn’t provide fruit. The most common include bananas, oranges, and watermelon.
- All fruit: make sure they’re fresh. Not much is suckier than old, mushy bananas or over-ripe oranges.
- Bananas: cut these in half. A whole banana is usually too much to eat (especially mixed with other food options). This also makes them easier to peel. Only cut a few at a time to keep the rest fresh.
- Oranges: peel some and split into groups of slices, this way a rider can grab a few unseparated slices and keep moving. Leave some unpeeled (some riders might want to take some to go), and it keeps them fresh.
- Watermelon: this is great for hotter rides, but can be messy. Make sure to have paper towels or napkins nearby.
- Raisins: people overlook raisins, but they pack a serious amount of potassium in an easy-to-eat package, and the little boxes are easy to tuck into a jersey pocket.
- Pickles: I personally can’t stand them, but you have to have them as many riders swear by pickles and pickle juice.
- Have small paper or plastic cups available to pour in pickle juice, especially on hotter days.
- Ride Fuel: bring ride-specific fuel, so riders can power up at the rest stop or on the go. Find out what your team likes the most, and get a few varieties. This includes things like:
- Shot Bloks
- Sport Beans
- Endurolytes (not tasty, but definitely cramp-busting)
- Snacks: these aren’t necessary, but they add variety to the ride fuel, as well as just making people happy. Things like:
- Fig Newtons (go generic, they taste almost the same and cost half as much)
- Vanilla- or chocolate-cream cookies (like Oreos; again, go generic)
- Fruit snacks (I think the generics actually taste better than the name-brands; less dye and not over-sweet)
- Granola bars
- Small candy bars (Pay Days, Baby Ruths, Snickers, and Peanutbutter Cups are among the favorites)
- Peanut butter crackers
- Trail Mix
- Sandwiches: either pre-made or setup a little “make-your-own” stations, depending on the number of riders (more riders, go pre-made). Options include:
- Peanut butter
- Peanut butter and banana
- Peanut butter and honey (noticing a trend yet?)
- Peanut butter and honey and banana
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Some people prefer tortillas instead of bread
- Keep peanut butter away from the rest of the food, as you might have some people who are allergic to peanuts!
- Popsicles: when the weather starts to heat up, our team goes with the Del Monte Fruit Chillers (real fruit juice, no artificial sweetners; found in the canned fruit area of Walmart). Totally optional, but there nothing like ending a ride with one of these awesome treats!
Gear: You have drinks, you have food. But if the bikes don’t work, the ride is over. Keep the rigs running, and the cranks turning:
- Inner tubes: most riders pack their own, but bring some extras along just in case it’s a flat-heavy day. Collect punctured tubes from riders and repair them for use on future rest stops.
- CO2 Cartridges: again, most riders will have their own, but will feel more secure on their ride if they know they won’t be stranded without a cartridge.
- Tips: Inner tubes and CO2 aren’t exactly cheap if you go through a lot of them. So if you’re springing for the goods, doesn’t hurt to put out a donation jar. Or you can go full-capitalism and them and charge a serious mark-up… where else are they going to find CO2? 😉 Supply and demand, baby!
- Floor pump (or two)
- Extra tires: I keep some of my older tires around for emergencies. If someone shreds a tire or has a large gash, it’s nice to have an extra around.
- Tires should still be in useable condition: no threads sticking out, no dangerous breaks, no dry-rot, etc.
- If you don’t have older, used tires, you can always buy one, low-priced, new tire and the rider in need can buy this item.
- Chain Lube
- Multi-tool or set of hex/allen keys
- Tire levers
Miscellaneous Stuff: Well, the stuff for your riders is all set. But the rest stop itself has more needs. Here’s some stuff that you’ll definitely find helpful:
- Trash bags: large, sturdy bags. Clean up after your riders!
- Paper towels and/or napkins
- Small plastic/paper cups
- First-aid kit: a good first-aid kit includes bandages, antisceptic wipes, wraps, ibuprofen, etc. You can pick one up pretty cheaply from Walmart or online (or any place with camping supplies), or build one yourself. I’d also include an ice pack if you don’t have ice, or sandwich baggies if you do.
- Utensils: knives for cutting bananas, forks/tongs for pulling out pickes
- Wet wipes: not just for babies. Very useful for cyclists who need to wipe up before/after snacking, and for wiping down tables when wrapping up the rest stop.
- Table(s): for rest stops that’ll be setup for a while, a card table or two is a good way to spread out the food/drink.
- Chair(s): you’re going to be waiting around a while, so definitely bring at least one for you. You can bring others, but the more chairs you set up, the more you’ll have to pack.
- Odd thing about chairs: the more comfortable you make a rest stop, the longer it’ll be until the riders leave that rest stop. So if you want to keep the riders rolling, don’t put out the chairs. 🙂 Or save them until after the ride.
- Another person: just like a paceline is more fun than a solo ride, the same goes for rest stops. Faster setup/tear-down, and better service for your riders.
- Radio: bring the tunes! The more party-like the rest-stop, the more party-like the riders will feel.
- Camera: take pictures!
- Good attitude: doesn’t matter how long you have to wait for riders to come in, or how much you have to setup/tear-down, or whatever. You’re there to make sure they succeed. Stay positive, and cheer them on!