A good patch will stick to your tube enough to keep air from leaking out. A great patch will act like a second skin and actually strengthen the tube where it’s applied, flexing and stretching with the tire. After 36 hours of testing, our official endorsement goes to the Rema TT 02 Touring Repair Kit. Its patches do everything other patches do, just better. The edge of the patch is also ruffled, which provides more edge surface area to bond—that’s a good thing.
Want to be your own grease monkey? This plain-English guidegives you expert tips for keeping your bicycle in great conditionand handling most repairs by yourself. You'll also see how toextend the life of your bike, increase your riding comfort, andimprove safety through routine maintenance. No matter the make orsize of bicycle, this hands-on resource has all the tips youneed!
Some years ago, I used to live on my bike. Riding around daily through any weather condition was bound to quickly wear down on the bike over time. I like some of the stuff that you have in your toolkit. I would say zip ties are actually really convenient, because when something came loose you could go ahead and use those to fasten them down to keep on moving ahead until you had enough time to fix it or get it checked at a bike repair shop.
For the budding mechanic: A good pocket sized repair guide. One good option is the “Pocket Guide to Emergency Bicycle Repair” by Ron Cordes and Eric Grove. It’s only 3.5×4.5 inches and a half inch thick. I don’t carry this myself, but for someone who’s new to this whole bike repair business, it’s really helpful to have. A future blog post will cover this book in detail.
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.
Good bike repair stand. I can't say "great," because it arrived with some small plastic pieces broken. These are small pieces that go between the legs and the supports for the legs to act as a sort of buffer to prevent metal to metal scraping. They are just too fragile, it seems. 3 out of 4 legs had these broken upon arrival. However, these are really only "nice" to haves, not need to haves, and they don't really detract from using the stand in any way. Once you have the stand set up, you don't worry about these at all. The main clamp holds the bike well, if you take care to balance the bike properly. The bike may tilt in the stand if you don't balance it - there is a weight limit to the clamp. I like the included tool tray, but I wish it was more adjustable in height (it is essentially fixed in one position). And the tray could be larger. Otherwise, I am quite happy with this stand. I have worked on several bikes using it, and assembled one out of the box. It makes the job of doing things like adjusting brakes and indexing derailleurs so much easier. The price of this stand is excellent considering the quality.
A wrench that fits the hub nuts: If your bike has quick release front and rear wheels, you don’t need this, but if you have an internal hub on the back, such as the NuVinci, a wrench that fits is a great idea. 99% of the time, this is a 15mm wrench, but you should check your bike. A 6 inch adjustable wrench can also work, but it will be heavier, and when using an adjustable wrench, you do need to take more care to not round over the nuts. A fixed wrench is the best choice. Some multi-tools have a 15 mm wrench built in, but again, if you have limited hand strength, something with more leverage is a great idea.
Change and a $20 bill: In case your cell phone’s battery dies, it’s nice to still be able to use a payphone if you need to. Also, the $20 is a great thing to have in case you lose your wallet or have some other mishap. I’d rather be able to sit in a coffee shop or fast food restaurant when it starts raining while I’m waiting for my friend or cab ride, and a hot cup of tea or coffee or the beverage of your choice and a snack makes it all the more pleasant. Just try to remember, this is for emergencies, and if you use it, replace it ASAP!
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).
Otherwise, this tool should serve the average commuter well. Specifically, we think you’ll find the size 4, 5, and 6 hex keys, extremely common sizes in bicycles, very helpful. They’ll adjust seat-post heights or let you remove the saddle entirely, or tighten a loose stem that’s always rattling apart. The Phillips head will tighten loose bolts on shoe cleats or the rear derailleur. The most common use for the torx would be adjusting disc brakes if you have ’em.
This is a very basic book and unnecessarily repetitive in sections. It does introduce the reader to the basic nomenclature of bicycles and this is helpful when conversing with others. Unfortunately the repetitive sections were not replaced with chapters on 3 Speed in hub gear drives, or coaster breaks, or a chapter on Adult Tricycles and Tandems and E-Bikes.
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.
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.