What tools to carry on your bike
This information is broken down into a number of broad categories – road, mountain bike, touring and commuting. Of course these areas may overlap but this is a good starting point. This particular blog post focuses on the commuter cyclist.
The first thing to note is that in most cases it is useful to know how to use the tools and equipment you are carrying. I say most, because even if you are not in a position to fix your own bike it is handy if you are carrying parts that are specific to your own bike, the obvious example being the correct size inner tube with the correct type of valve for your bike.
If you feel as though your mechanic skills are lacking then bear in mind that On Your Bike offer a whole range of maintenance classes designed to give you a greater degree of self-reliance.
Prevention is sometimes better than a cure
Many of our customers are commuters and have little inclination to dedicate any time to fixing or maintaining their bikes and indeed will simply bring their bikes in to us for even the most basic of fixes, such as punctures. There is nothing wrong with this approach but there are some things you can do to reduce the chances of being stranded. Firstly, make sure your bike is well maintained with properly adjusted gears and brakes. Simply topping up your tyre pressures using a track pump which features a gauge such as the Joe Blow Sport can be enough to ward off most punctures. Secondly, upgrading tyres to something with a greater degree of puncture protection such as a Schwalbe Marathon Plus or Panaracer Ribmo is well worth the extra cash. These tyres will add a little weight and maybe increase rolling resistance but this is a small price to pay compared to being stranded in the dark, in the pouring rain and miles from home.
Just the basics
The most common problem you are likely to encounter is a puncture so it pays to be able to deal with this problem. As a minimum I would suggest carrying a spare inner tube (of the correct size and valve type), tyre levers and a pump. In the case of a puncture, remove the tyre using the tyre levers, take out the punctured tube, have a check round the inside of the tyre for any glass or thorns which may still be stuck in the carcass of the tyre, install the new tube and pump up to the required pressure. Dispose of the old tube appropriately or take home to patch in the comfort of your own home.
This approach gives you a solution for one puncture. If you only have a short commute then this is probably fine but if you start to ride further or in high-risk area you may want to go further. Carrying a spare tube is always an option but a puncture repair kit is also useful as you can then fix multiple punctures. This can be time-consuming and messy – we like the Park Tool pre-glued patches for speed and convenience.
Tyre levers only cost a couple of pounds but need to be robust enough to do the job. Pedros tyre levers are very good and stand up to hours of abuse in our workshop.
Topeak and Blackburn pumps are great value for money. The Topeak Mini is a great starting point and attached to the bottle cage mounts on your bike for ease of carrying.
Tweaks and adjustments
The next tool to consider in your armoury is a multi tool. This will typically have a range of different sized allen keys and possibly screwdrivers. Different models are available with different tools, eg the Park Tool AWS9 and AWS10, so it is important to choose a tool to match the fixtures on your bike. My favourite is the Bontrager Basic Folding hex key which is great value for money and very compact.
Multi tools are useful for minor adjustments – maybe tweaking seat-height, rebalancing V-brakes after removing wheel or tensioning chains on fixed/hub geared bikes. If your bike has hex nuts rather than quick release you may need to carry an appropriate spanner such as the Cyclo dumbbell tool, in order for you to remove the wheel and fix a puncture.
Don’t forget to take them with you!
There are a range of options for carrying these tools with you. You can keep them in the bag you regularly commute with but I prefer to keep the tools with the bike so I don’t forget them. Topeak and Altura do some great saddle packs in a range of different sizes to accommodate all your tools and tubes. The quick-release versions work best, particularly if you have to lock your bike in a public place as they can easily be removed to prevent theft.
Real world example
My commute is 20 miles each way, half of which is on quiet, dark country lanes. I ride a single-speed bike with mudguards. I have fitted Panaracer Ribmo tyres to minimise the chances of a puncture. I carry a spare inner tube, a pack of Park Tool self adhesive patches, a pair of Pedros tyre levers and a Topeak Race Rocket pump (which has a flexible hose reducing the risk of snapping the little top bit off of the Presta valve). I also carry a 15mm spanner and multi tool which, in the event of a puncture on the rear wheel, will allow me to remove the bottom two mudguard bolts and undo the chain tension adjustments screws so that I can slip the chain off and remove the wheel.
Make your solution fit your requirements
The important point here is that I have done my best to try and avoid a puncture in the first place. I then carry the bare minimum to allow me to fix a puncture given the particular idiosyncrasies of my bike. I average around 1 puncture every 1500 miles so fortunately don’t end up having to spend too much time at the side of the road fixing my bike.
Posted on 1st Oct 2013