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.
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.
We focused on tools that would be useful to a commuter—someone trying to use a bike as a functional way to get around town, as opposed to riding recreationally (road biking and mountain biking). That said, it’s a wild and wooly bicycling world out there, and the streets are packed with so many different bikes, all shapes and sizes, new and old. Customizing your flat-fixing kit has advantages over buying a preassembled kit that always contains a tool (or two or three) that’s a piece of junk, or you don’t need. Or it’s missing something you do need. If you build your own kit, at least you know everything works. And you can add only what’s necessary for your specific bike without ending up with stuff you don’t need.
If you’re going to use the chain whip you just made, you’ll also need a way to get that cassette off. A lockring remover is a must-have; unless you use one of the shady removal methods I’ve seen on the internet—which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend unless you don’t care much about the condition of the wheel after you use them. I recommend Park Tool’s iterations here that cost about $6, but you’ll need to buy the specific one for your brand/type of cassette. (By the way, I’m assuming you already have an adjustable wrench laying around somewhere to use with this tool. If you don’t, well, you’ll need one of those too.)
It is a good solid stand made mostly from heavy metal, but it does have a couple of problems. (I will use part names from the instructions to explain.) First, the clamp between the "telescopic bar" and the "upright" is plastic. It arrived broken in the box. Whoever boxed it should understand that if you put it in the box broken, the customer will remove it from the box broken. I did not return it as broken because I was able to Gorilla Glue it back together and it works fine; it clamps tight enough to hold the telescopic bar in place. Second, the "bike support stand" (the horizontal bar at the top that holds the bike), when attached to the seat support does not grip tight enough to hold the bike in the position I set because there is too much weight from the front of the bike. The torque causes the bike to rotate until the front wheel is on the ground. That is not enough for me to return the stand because I seldom work on the front wheel and if I do I can attach the stand to the top horizontal of the bike frame. I think they could fix the problem by not making the "bike support stand" so smooth, give that part a sandpaper like finish or put rubber fingers inside the clamp so the part does not slip under the torque from the weight of the front of the bike. I might rough up the stand part with sandpaper, or put small grooves in it to give the clamp something to grip on to see if that solves the problem. Third, the clamp holding the bike frame even at full tight will not keep the bike from rotating around the frame. It is not enough for me to send the stand back, just a minor annoyance. The problem is there is smooth plastic trying to clamp a smooth metal frame. I think they could fix this by putting thin rubber pads in the clamp. I will probably run out and get some pads to try that out. I think it is a good stand for the price. The stand itself is made from much heavier metal than I expected. It is very stable with the four legs. I easily overcame all the issues so I kept it.
Trek Bicycle Newington is your destination for the latest products from Trek and Bontrager, service and tune-ups for bikes of any brand, and local advice about the best riding in the area. We are proud advocates for the cycling community and we strive to give cyclists a great place to ride and learn. We host weekly road and recreational rides, women’s rides, and educational clinics aimed at getting more women on bikes. We also organize monthly mountain bike rides and sponsor several triathlon series in the area. Our store has been a community landmark since 1975, and we love seeing customers who bought their first bike with us coming back years later to get bikes for their kids. Whether you’ve been riding for years or want to try something new, we welcome you to stop in and meet our team!
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.
Be organized. “I like having everything be really small and super organized. I put all of my tools in CamelBak’s Tool Roll. It’s got little compartments, and I can separate tire changing stuff in one place, stuff like extra pedal cleats or an extra derailleur hanger in another, and it all rolls up into this tidy pouch. If I do have a repair, I can pull that one thing out and lay it out on the ground and it’s easy to work.”