A Cyclist’s Essential Tool Kit (& Mini-Contest)
If you cycle enough it is just inevitable that you will one day get a flat, have your chain fall off or have some other little break-down. It’s just one of those little things that happen when you least expect it, so it isn’t worth worrying about, just live by the scout motto and “be prepared!” Carry with you the items you’ll need if you have a break-down of some sort and it can be fixed quickly and you’ll be on your way.
Over the years, equipment has become more compact and lighter in weight than ever before. Thanks to CO2 cartridges and inflators that are less than 2 ounces, one doesn’t have to be weighed down or need a large bag for all the tools.
The only thing worse than experiencing a flat tire on a ride, is getting a flat tire and having no way to fix it. Cycle and Style has set out to help you with this problem. The following are basic things you should take with you on a ride, whether in a wedge pack, top tube bag, hydration pack, or stowed in a jersey pocket.
- New Tube: Even if you are with a friend who has a handy tire changing kit, bring your own tube, so you don’t feel like a moocher if you end up needing one. If you have an odd-sized wheel (650cc)—you really need to bring your own tube.
- Patch kit: a patch kit works just as well to mend the hole in your tube. The tube is bigger but faster to fix while on the road. Just remember to keep the bad tube to fix at home later.
- Tire pump or CO2 Cartridge & Inflator: I have a preference for the quickness of the inflator and CO2 combination. But it is only good for one use. Bring an extra CO2 cartridge just in case and don’t forget to change out for new ones when you get home.
- Tire Levers OR the Speedlevers: If you only have room for a few tools, this is a must. They are necessary to change a tire. As a plus, the levers come in various colors, so choose your favorite! The Speedlever is the faster version, all though it is slightly larger and only comes in basic black. (See below for description & review.)
- Mini tool kit with Allen wrenches: This tiny tool kit is great to tighten anything that might come loose. This set of tools and a MacGyver sense of resourcefulness may allow you to fix just about anything. Mountain bikers may want to get a mini-tool with a chain tool, and perhaps a master link. Shimano and SRAM will have different procedures for fixing the chains, so it would be good to learn how to fix your bike’s chain.
Dollar bill: This is a MacGyver-type trick you can use when you have to repair a pinch flat. If the tire gets a hole, place the folded dollar bill inside the tire to cover the hole and protect the newly inflated tube. Although ideal for a “pinched tire,” if the tire has a blowout because it is too worn, it probably won’t work. You could use the money for a bus fare instead. That’s why I keep a $5 or $10 bill, as it might come in handy for other needs.
Identification card with emergency numbers (or wear an ID bracelet) If you’re riding alone, you need this, just in case something happens…
Disposable gloves or wipes for cleaning dirty grease off your hands. No, guys, this is not just a girl being fastidious and protecting a manicure! This really is a good idea if you have light colored bar tape or handle grips.
Hand warmers: These will help keep you warm on an unexpectedly cold ride. Put under your gloves on the back of your hand. (Seasonal use)
Sunscreen: Even if you put on sunscreen before the ride, if it is long enough, you may want to reapply.
Lip Balm with SPF: The sun and wind will take a toll on your lips. Keep some lip balm handy and reapply if needed.
Chamois Cream: A reapplication of chamois cream may be needed on a long ride. If you can get it, a small container of this is ideal for pack-ability.
Small candies or mini-bars for a little extra energy. Even if you’ve brought the food you intend to eat on the ride, having a little more tucked away can save the day.
Small first aid kit: Especially important for mountain bikers (who crash with more frequency than road cyclists.)
A Cyclist’s Code of Chivalry
When she was 14, my daughter got a hand-me-down: my former road bike which had down tube shifters and tires which were extra stiff and hard to remove from the wheels. She carried all the necessary items for a tire change, but found it was difficult to change by herself. She was delighted when some older teenage boys stopped to help her change her tire. It’s perfectly fine to accept help, but it is good cycling etiquette to have your own tubes or at least offer to pay for a tube that a Good Samaritan gives you. (Although when it’s your turn to help and offer your spare tube, it’s always nicer to not take payment and just say “pay it forward.”)
When you see another cyclist trying to fix their bike alongside the road, you can ask, “Do you need any help?” or alternatively, “Do you have everything you need?” (the latter is best when you can provide tools and supplies better than expertise.)
Review of Crank Bros. Speedlever
This little device extends out (telescopes) to several times its compact length and can be used to quickly change a tire without pinching. To remove a tire, just slip the hook nose under the hire, extend the handle to snap it to the wheel’s axel and rotate it. Presto! The tire comes off quite quickly. It can then be used to attach a tire by engaging the hook onto the rim and rotating. It fits all wheel sizes.
I bought the Speedlever (which sells for about $8 at REI–and more at the LBS I bought it at) at a Ladies’ Night at my local bike shop after seeing it demoed. Two short weeks later I got a flat and had the chance to use it. It was the quickest tire change I’ve ever done. My husband and his friend were impressed. I now prefer it over regular tire levers. However, there are two cons: it is a bit longer than tire levers (just over an inch longer.) Also, I have heard that some guys have broken it while trying to use it. (Note the word “guys.”) It does have a “lifetime warranty,” which means they’ll replace it if you break it. However, I recommend you use brains and not brawn with this device and it will work just fine.
We have another Mini-Contest for our Readers!
Which items have you found to be essential in your tool bag or as an “extra” that you have found to come in handy in other ways? Comment below. It’s another little contest! We’ll choose among the commenters, and send them the Crank Bros. Speedlever to add to their tool kit PLUS an absolutely great looking wedge pack made by Sherpani (see below)! Cycle & Style will also add a few little surprises in your package!
Please use a real first name and have a mailing address in the USA or Canada for us to send it to. This mini-contest will go through Friday, June 10th.