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.
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.

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.

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.
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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