Self sufficiency. I don’t mean the grow your own veg and raise your own livestock kind of self sufficiency (although that’s pretty cool too). I mean carrying the spares and tools needed to perform most common roadside repairs. I know a few cyclists who don’t carry any spares when they ride, relying on a mobile phone and a lift home. I simply could not do that, not even on a short ride.
At a very minimum, you should be carrying enough to repair a puncture. A spare tube, tyre lever(s), a pump, or CO2 inflator and a cartridge – and of course know how to use them! One flat tyre shouldn’t be a ride-killer. In most cases it’s a very straightforward 10-minute job. Add in a couple of basic tools and you can fix or MacGyver your way out of almost any mechanical mishap.
Pro Tip 1: As you roll to a stop after flatting, tap down into your smallest cog both front and rear. This will make removing the rear wheel easier and faster.
Being equipped with enough spares and tools doesn’t mean lugging around a saddlebag the size of a first grader’s backpack either (that’s a whole other type of sin). Bike are simple machines. My kit fits neatly into a small saddlebag, or like the image above, a neat tool tube in the second cage.
Pro Tip 2: Wrap your spare tubes in cling film. This not only keeps them neat, but stops any tools or sharp edges rubbing a hole or weak spot into the tube when it’s packed away.
Aside from the puncture repair essentials, here are some additional tools I carry on every ride.
Allen keys. I carry actual, high quality Allen keys (just in the sizes that I need) rather than a multi-tool. I find that most multi-tools are a compromise on both size and quality. Their stubby little flip-out Allen keys can be a pain to use. Plus there’s usually a bunch of other unnecessary tools on there adding extra unnecessary bulk and weight.
Chain breaker. A snapped chain is a rare occurrence on a well-maintained bike. You may never need a chain breaker on a ride, but if you do, you’ll be glad to have one! I’ve had to use a chain breaker twice in all my years of cycling. Once for myself and once for a club mate. Don’t be like the Nero Continental boys and have to ruin two inner tubes to tow Aidan out of the forest! 😂
Snapped chain? Busted rear derailleur? Having a chain breaker means you can get riding again, albeit with a much reduced range of gears. It sure beats a taxi home!
Glueless patches. Now, these are a bit controversial. I’ve found not all brands of glueless patches are created equal and some simply don’t last the distance. They’re not as robust as the “old school” glue-on vulcanised patches, but they will do the job. Park Tool and Lezyne have worked well for me. If you only carry one spare inner tube, popping a pack of glueless patches in your kit is highly recommended.
Presta to Schrader converter. This nifty device screws onto your Presta valve and converts it into a Schrader valve! That means you can use any petrol station pump to inflate your tyres. It’s not something I’ve ever had to do, but for something so small I make sure I pop one in my saddle bag just in case.
BONUS: Cable ties, valve tool, lens cleaner. These are just a few small things that you may not need, but are light and easy to stash into your kit. The valve tool is handy if you use tubes with removeable valve cores that can sometimes come loose. Certain screw-on hand pumps can loosen the valve cores enough that they start leaking air. Being able to nip them up can be a ride-saver. Also useful if you need to remove a core to install a valve extender because you (or more likely a friend) has packed an inner tube with the wrong size valve.
The lens cleaner doubles as a hand wipe to clean up greasy fingers in case of a messy repair. A rag and disposable gloves are handy also if you have room. Gloves are good for preventing greasy fingers in the first place, but they’re not something I keep in my kit.
Pro Tip 3: Have a complete repair kit for each bike. It’s a larger start-up expense, but worth it for the convenience of not having to swap saddle bags between bikes (or forgetting to do so).
And that’s it! Is there anything I’ve missed that you keep in your saddlebag?