We spoke to a broad spectrum of cyclists—from a pro racer to a bike messenger turned mechanic to a touring cyclist who has logged thousands of miles throughout Europe—to find out what items they find indispensable. We sorted through 40 tire levers, almost 30 different kinds of patches, 120 different hand pumps, and 57 seat bags before we narrowed our choices for testing. And then we changed and patched tires more than 50 times, using four different bikes, five different wheels, six different tires, and almost 10 different sizes of tubes. After 96 hours of combined testing, we agree these essentials are some of the best you can buy.
Main types of bicycles are road, mountain, commuter/comfort and fitness bikes. There are more specific types and other names for bike types within that, such as urban bikes (same as commuter bikes), cruiser bikes, dual-sport bikes, hybrid bikes, fixed-gear bikes, cyclo-cross bikes, adventure road bikes (aka all-road bikes, gravel bikes), road bikes, touring bikes and specialty bikes, like BMX.
But before I get started, let me share with you a few tips. OK, one tip: Get a work stand. Because putting your bike upside down isn’t good for it—yes, I said it. When I first started fixing my own bikes, I couldn’t afford a fancy $300, folding, magnetic, fixes-the-bike-for-you stand. I tried piecing together a “DIY $30 Stand.” I followed all the directions that the Internet demanded, and once I’d bought all the clamps and pipes, this thing cost really more in the neighborhood of $60—but it only stayed upright with a rope tied to something sturdy in the garage. It was one word: junk. So I bit the veritable chainring and charged a decent stand on my credit card (I hate debt, folks).
We offer several bicycle repair packages, or individual services in the case that you don’t need a full “tune-up”. Whether it’s a small brake adjustment or a complete bike overhaul, we’re happy to help. Our highly experienced staff is here to answer any questions you may have and will help get you and your bike back on the road as quickly as possible.
Return: Bicycle and lock must be returned by the end of the loan period. User will be charged a $10.00/day late fee. After 10 business days user will be charged the full cost of the bicycle ($350) and rented equipment ($50 for lock and/or key). Failure to return bicycle, helmet and lock will subject user to legal liability of $400.00, as well as having student account placed on hold.
We rented a tandem bike from here for an hour, and they were super chill! We dropped by on a Sunday and decided to go eat first; Andy, one of the owners, was awesome about holding the bike for us while we went to eat before renting. We enjoyed our ride for just over an hr, but Andy was also super relaxed about our return time and only charged us for an hour. We had a fantastic time and would definitely recommend renting bikes from here!
Dennis Bailey has been actively involved in bike repair and maintenance for almost two decades. He has worked on bikes on bike tours in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. Keith Gates has been repairing bikes for more than 30 years and provides personalized service as the owner of A-1 Cycling, with locations in Manassas and Herndon, Virginia.
Every expert I spoke to recommended Pedro’s Tire Levers by name. They have a wide body—a different shape than other models we tested—and that prevents breakage, but more important, the broad, flat surface area of the tip helps it stay locked under your tire. When a lever slips from under the bead of the tire, you can end up repeatedly scraping your knuckles on the spokes of the wheel, which is so annoying. Pedro’s levers are small enough to fit into a saddlebag, are sold widely in bike shops, and even come with a lifetime guarantee. If one breaks, Pedro’s will replace it.
Writer Peter Flax, the former editor-in-chief of Bicycling magazine, rode over 1,000 miles and tested 15 tools for our full-length guide to multi-tools, and he concluded the Topeak Mini 9 is the best for casual cyclists. It’s tiny, it’s light, it’s easier to get some leverage with than other tools that have different designs. It’s not meant for serious wrenching on your bike, but it’s good for on-the-fly adjustments.
Unlike floor pumps, most hand pumps do not have pressure gauges. To get readings during my original round of testing for this guide, I built a special rig involving simple hardware-store parts. But the experts I spoke to seem divided on the usefulness of gauges. Half thought they were unnecessary, added bulk, and drove up cost. Why do you need a gauge if you know 100 pumps inflates your tire? But the other half liked them, because the “thumb test” is notoriously inaccurate.
These folks took me in right away, diagnosed and fixed my stripped handle bar clamps and had me on my way to work in about 15 minutes. Friendly, straightforward, understands the rider's objectives (in my case, how do I get home from work). Not to mention, the fee was reasonable. I have been in many bike repair places in my 6 decades. This is the best.
Let me go ahead and get the bad stuff out of the way. First of all, this stand is NOT the same level of quality as something you would find in a bicycle shop being used for the shop's repairs. it's quite a bit more flimsy, and the grip likes to rotate if you don't get the bike's center of gravity just right. The tool tray is also made out of a rather cheap plastic that can break easily at the rim. That being said, this stand is perfect for home users and makes mundane tasks like fixing a flat or cleaning the chain much easier. It easily holds my Raleigh Merit 3, and I don't worry about the thing falling even if the grip tilts a bit. The stand significantly shortened the time I needed to change an inner tube on my bicycle, and made me less worried about damaging something on the bike by jury-rigging a stand out of whatever I had lying around.
Any bike that gets ridden seriously as transportation or on long rides needs at least a basic tool/emergency kit, and the knowledge to use it, unless the rider is always in a position to call a friend with a car or a cab when their bike needs a quick fix on the road. If you never travel more than a few miles, this can be overkill, and calling a friend or a cab may be just the ticket, but if you want to be more self reliant, this is something you should seriously consider. This list may sound like an awful lot of stuff to carry, but really, it only weighs a few lbs and fits in a small, under-seat bag that comes off quickly so I don’t have to leave it with the bike if theft is a concern. If you always carry a regular rack top bag, you can also just put all this in a small nylon bag and throw it in there, but I prefer an under-seat bag.
Basically, you’re stuck with toggling between systems for the advantage of a few pumps, and it doesn’t seem worth it. In the original iteration of this guide, I tested 12 pumps and inflated three different tires completely full to their psi rating, and measured how many pumps it took. Yasuda did similarly for his revamped full-length exploration. That’s 36 tires, and I can guarantee there is no difference between 50 pumps and 100—it’s all terrible.
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