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.

The fabric attachment system is low-tech, but that seems to be helpful, as it can adapt to seat rails of different widths. One fancier option you might see on more expensive seat bags is a quick-release mount that you install under your saddle. But those have a fixed width, and therefore can fit under seats with only those exact specs. Brooks saddles, for example, are too wide for these mounts.
As you mentioned, it is surprising how often you can get multiple flat tires on while riding, particularly on longer sprints. The tip about bringing a patch kit in your bike repair kit can be incredibly helpful if you’ve already had one flat tire. I agree that all you listed seems like an awful lot to carry, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it?
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.

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.
More than any other tool in the kit, a reliable lever makes changing a tire easier, especially if you have road bike tires, which are difficult to remove. However, throughout testing, levers seemed to be the one item more prone to failure and poor design than anything else. For example, I found a random orange lever floating around my basement and I threw it in the test pool for fun—it seemed solid enough … until I began prying at the rim of a tire. It bent directly in half, slowly and smoothly, like taffy, and then was boomerang shaped forevermore.
A multitool is a highly versatile piece of repair equipment that can address most of your maintenance needs. Ideally, you should use it before a ride to tighten and adjust everything properly, but sometimes it’s necessary on a ride as well. If you encounter a loose screw, realize your saddle height is not right, or that your brakes need tightening, you will be happy to have it.
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.
Now you might be wondering: “I’m carrying a tube; why carry patches at all?” As insurance for the unforeseeable. Wirecutter senior editor Christine Ryan admits she didn’t use to pack them, but said, “I’ve regretted that decision when I’ve had a flat on a ride, used my spare tube, and then, half an hour later, had a second flat. Also, lots of people aren’t very good at figuring out—or don’t take the time to figure out—what caused their flat and remove the cause: thorn, eensy bit of glass, whatever. Then they promptly have a second flat, and everyone else laughs at them.”
Since then, I’ve found a few decent alternatives to my dilemma: The Venzo Pro Mechanic Stand that runs at about $88, and the Cave Competitor Service Post for $59. While there are other alternatives out there—sometimes cheaper ones—these are the two that I think are actually worth the price. I can’t really vouch for any others out there. But there just ain’t getting around this one. You’ll need something to hold your bike while you work on it.

There are patches that don’t require vulcanizer—the infamous peel-and-stick. One brand, the Park Tool GP-2, has some genuinely enthusiastic endorsements, so we tested it. I applied Park Tool patches to four different tires, at three different psi levels (60, 90, and 120). Three of the four didn’t hold—two released within minutes. The fourth deflated overnight. I redid the test, but repeated a second time, they all leaked within a day.
Over the years, I’ve come across plenty of articles that claim to tell you how to build up your cycling toolkit for cheap. Somehow the word “cheap” stops recurring in the long list of “essential” bike repair bits and pieces. The truth is, there is no real way to build a whole shop of tools all at once without plopping down a few hundred bucks. But in an attempt to show everyone that not all of us truly need a full complement of bike tools, I present the truest, most budget-conscious, and barest of bones options to you.
Owning a bicycle is a good idea, but taking care of it yearns for an experts’ piece of mind. You should not worry too much about taking your bicycle to a mechanic when you can handle the repairing on your own. It will rather save you the cost of every moment you get into a problem. Grab a pick of one of the toolkits from the above review. I assure you that, absolutely no day will you seek a mechanic for service.
Next, two-stage designs. There are two types of hand pump. HV (high-volume) pumps, ones that pump a lot of air but don’t have a lot of pressure, which are used for mountain bikes. The Lezyne Alloy Drive is a high-volume pump. Then there are HP (high-pressure) pumps, which pump a small amount of air but can inflate to very high pressures and are used on road bikes. Our top pick is a high-pressure pump.
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.”
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.)
The Bicycle Repair Shop does rentals by the hour or by the day. They have reasonable rates. They have solid, lightweight hybrid bikes so you can tackle train tracks and brick streets and hills. They also have road bikes for the more experienced. You can reserve online in advance. You get a helmet and a lock with your rental. The staff in the shop are friendly and will suggest routes and point out hills if you're new to the area. And believe me these hills are no joke!
Do not take your Bike to Kyle's Bike Shop they handled my bike so poorly they can not work on Vintage Schwinn' and the attitude they had if it wasn't a high dollar bike don't expect good service. I had to find my own parts, had to take the bike back twice to get the wheel trued and they ruined my bike it is so scrapped up the Schwinn is gone on the side of the bike. If you care about your bike do not take it here.
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.
We offer a convenient Mobile Bike Shop experience at your home or office. We believe that bicycles can help change the world. Whether you are a road warrior, a commuter, an elite triathlete, a daredevil mountain biker, or enjoy your leisurely weekend rides on your e-bike, our goal is to offer a convenient premium service that gives you more time to do what you love…RIDE!
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 person who considers themselves a cycling enthusiast should know how to do at least some basic bike repairs. This is not just to satisfy an unwritten standard of being a bikehead, but because it has a lot of practical implications as well. It can make the difference between dealing with a minor issue quickly on your own or waiting a couple of days for a busy mechanic to squeeze you in. Moreover, in the long run, doing the dirty work yourself will save you a lot of money.
I brought my bike into Kyle's shop to fix the noise in my rear wheel. The mechanic suggested that I need to overhauled the rear hub for $30. The next day the noise came back even worst. I brought it back to the shop and they said it was the freewheel driver not the hub that needed to be work on and it would cost me extra $30 to overhauled it again plus the part to fix it. At this point I walked out of the shop and took my bike to David's world. The mechanic at David's world took a quick look at the rear hub and indicated that the axle was put back too tight when Kyle's mechanics were working on it and further identify the issue. I ended up paying David's world the $30 plus part to fix my bike, but the major different is that David's World has 30 Days services warranty claim. If you have any issue with your bike within the 30 days the service was performed you can bring it back and they will fix it no question ask.
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