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.
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.
In addition to the Rema patches, put a new tire tube in your kit. The best method for dealing with a flat roadside is to swap out the tube and save the task of patching for later. If you’re not sure what size your tires are, it’s printed on the sidewall of the tire. This inner-tube buying guide has some photos of where to look. What brand is almost irrelevant as many tubes get manufactured in the same place, so whatever your local shop has behind the counter for under $10 will work fine. The only reason to spend more would be to save weight.
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.
The Pedro’s lever slipped only once throughout testing, though that may have been my fault because I was spaced out after changing 16 different tires. So they’re not foolproof, but they are far and away more reliable than the next closest competitor, from Park Tool, because the small, rounded tip on that one is hard to keep seated under the tire. Not impossible, but I wouldn’t choose it over Pedro’s.