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.
A pair of disposable latex gloves:  Not absolutely necessary, but good for keeping grease and grime off your hands during a repair.  Also, nice to have in an emergency when it starts raining and the temperature drops 20 degrees and you don’t have a pair of regular gloves.   Just keeping your hands dry and the wind from directly blowing on them makes a huge difference in comfort.
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.
Many bikes, including older models and track bikes, have bolts attaching the wheels to the frame instead of quick-release levers. If your wheels are bolted on, in most cases you’ll need a 15 mm wrench to remove it. We didn’t test wrenches, because there aren’t that many tiny 15 mm wrenches, but the GearWrench 15mm 12-Point Stubby Combination Wrench is perfect for stuffing into a flat kit and Amazon reviewers seem to think the same. Our experts also recommended the Surly Jethro Tule, but it’s expensive and harder to find.
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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