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.
Professional mountain biker Rebecca Rusch has been on plenty of long rides and experienced enough mechanical failures to know what makes a fully-stocked repair kit. One of her recent journeys, a 1,200-mile journey through the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia along the Ho Chi Minh Trail required the utmost degree of preparedness — “We brought with us a lot of extra bearings, o-rings, stuff that you would never be able to find in Laos and Cambodia. Before I go out on these big adventures, I replace every bearing in my bike, my fork got a total rebuild — everything is in pristine condition,” says Rusch.
Next to everything else that might go wrong with a bicycle on an extended ride, a flat is a relatively minor issue that can be easily repaired trailside, if the right tools are at hand. If they aren’t, a quick fix can turn into a long walk. Well-prepared riders will perform a tune-up regularly and clean their bikes after every ride. For the less-diligent, a well-stocked repair kit will suffice.

I own the Lezyne CNC Chain Rod, which I’m a big fan of (yes, I know I’m partial to Lezyne here–they’re a local-to-me, San Luis Obispo company and they sponsored my collegiate team, so I got tons of gear) and it costs right around $30. But the truth is that even the cheapest of chain whips will likely do the job. In fact, I’ve found a dude who knows his stuff and shows you how to make this tool all by yourself. I would even go so far as to say that you probably have enough materials laying about your garage (if not, try your parents’ garage ? ) to put this together without spending anything. Check out the video below:
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.”
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.”
I bicycle to and from work to save gas. I don't have a fancy bike, it's just a Schwinn mountain bike that's comfortable and can carry me plus gear but I want to be able to do my own work on it. I needed a book that was simple enough for someone new to bicycle repair and maintenance but could take me through all the upkeep my workhorse needs, and this book does just that. It's well-written and easy to follow.

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.
Professional mountain biker Rebecca Rusch has been on plenty of long rides and experienced enough mechanical failures to know what makes a fully-stocked repair kit. One of her recent journeys, a 1,200-mile journey through the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia along the Ho Chi Minh Trail required the utmost degree of preparedness — “We brought with us a lot of extra bearings, o-rings, stuff that you would never be able to find in Laos and Cambodia. Before I go out on these big adventures, I replace every bearing in my bike, my fork got a total rebuild — everything is in pristine condition,” says Rusch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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