The retractable tube is stored inside the body of the pump when not in use, and it can attach to either a Schrader or a Presta valve, the two types of valves you’ll see. Some pumps can accommodate only one type, making them less universal. Toggling between the two is simple, which can’t be said of other models with itty parts that require nerves of steel to handle on a good day, let alone while wearing gloves, crouching in the wind, oblivious to the sewer grate a few feet away.

First, I researched. I looked at Amazon’s top-rated products and their user reviews. Then I consulted Bicycling magazine, Gear Junkie, Bike Radar, Outside, and the occasional bit by Lennard Zinn via Velonews. I also found some worthwhile discussions at Bike Forums. Then I spoke with four experts, Ramona Marks, Scott Karoly, Cari Z, and Alison Tetrick, riders from all across the spectrum, who tour, repair, and race.


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Pedals are important because the serve as the contact point between the rider and the bike’s transmission. Clip-less pedals systems come in a variety of designs favoured by individual manufacturers, but the mechanics of all styles are roughly the same. Tiny adjustments in the position of the show cleat – that snaps into position on the pedal – can make a big difference to the comfort and health of the rider.

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.

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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.
Keychain style flashlight or headlamp, LED type, not incandescent:   The keychain style is tiny and lightweight, the headlamp style is a bit bulkier but easier to use.    You can get these for a couple of bucks or less at the local big box hardware store.  The LED ones are lighter, more durable and last considerably longer.   Very useful if you need to make a repair after dark!  I keep a keychain style one as a backup as I normally have a headlamp in my backpack.

Packed with basic tools, this compact tin rescues puncture-interrupted bike trips. Pedaling away to a picnic spot with a pal, you hear a disconcerting "pop!". Your two-wheeler is now down one wheel, and unless you've got mad unicycle skills, you need tools. Good thing you brought this handsome, compact tin. Just break out the metal tire levers and patch kit, and you're rolling along again in no time. The six-sided, dog bone-style hex wrench adjusts the most common bike screws and bolts and screws. Made in China.
We like, and recommend, the Crankbrothers Speedier Lever. If you have to pick only one, go with the Pedro’s, but if you want a backup or have some hard tires to unseat, Crankbrothers is a great choice. It’s only one lever (as opposed to a set of two, like the Pedro’s) and it’s longer, so we didn’t pick it over the Pedro’s for portability reasons. But it’s an excellent tool. It has a wide handle you can grip with your whole hand. Like the Pedro’s, the tip is the right size and shape to prevent slipping and stay in place, and the shape of the handle happens to protect your knuckles if you do slip. Even in situations where I didn’t need it, I liked having it because it made me feel like a pro.
The best type of bike for exercise depends what level of rider you are and whether you would rather ride on trails or on the road. There is a type of road bike that is called a “Fitness Bike,” and features a lightweight frame and narrow tires, but do not have a drop handlebar. This may be the best type of bike for someone who intends to ride regularly and strenuously on the roads. If you plan to do a lot of trail riding, the best bike for exercise would probably be a mountain bike. For a person who uses bikes for transportation and exercise, but doesn’t go off-road, the hybrid bike build is a good type of bike.

Patch kit:   Patch kits are easy to use, light and compact, and if you get more than one flat on a ride (it happens more than you’d expect), it can save you when you’ve already used your spare tube.   Plus, on a rear wheel, patching a tube can be faster than replacing it, as you can often do this without removing the wheel at all.  Another upcoming post is going to show you how to patch a tube.
Spare tube:  Sometimes, a tube is just too damaged to be patched, or has had a failure such as the valve stem breaking off which isn’t something that can be patched.   To save weight and space, I usually keep a lightweight version of the right size tube for my bike.   Since one of the first things I do with most bikes that I own is switch them over to heavy-duty thorn resistant tubes, I just take one of the originals and put that in the toolkit.

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.
Brakes come in a variety of designs depending on the age and style of your bike. Rim brakes offer more modulation but have less stopping power, so are more suited to riding on the roads. Disc brakes can provide huge amounts of stopping power so are best suited to off road riding, although ‘V’ rim brakes are also well suited to mountain biking. All brakes use a friction system to stop the movement of the wheel, so regular checks of the contact pads should form part of your regular cycle maintenance.
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