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.
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.

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.
These are some great ideas, especially the simple ones like bringing a garbage bag. That’s something so easy and cheap that it’s easy to forget entirely, but as you say, it can make a huge difference in the right circumstances. It’s also good that you discuss some minor bike repairs. That’s another thing that can salvage or destroy your ride. You want to be as prepared as possible for the best possible experience.
Yes, bicycle shops generally provide repair services. A typical list of offered services includes regular service/adjustment (including safety check; and  brake, drivetrain, and tire inspection); premium, and annual service, which is a more extensive tune-up. More specific repairs include drivetrain tune-up, brake system tune-up, flat tire fixes, brake repairs, cleaning and touching up the bike frame.
Writer Peter Flax, the former editor-in-chief of Bicycling magazine, rode over 1,000 miles and tested 15 tools for our full-length guide to multi-tools, and he concluded the Topeak Mini 9 is the best for casual cyclists. It’s tiny, it’s light, it’s easier to get some leverage with than other tools that have different designs. It’s not meant for serious wrenching on your bike, but it’s good for on-the-fly adjustments.
One key difference, that you can see in the photo, is that the BV uses buckles instead of Velcro on the straps that attach the bag to the underside of the saddle, something much more important than it may seem. A pair of bike shorts (or any shorts) will shred quickly if they’re rubbing against that tiny bit of Velcro protruding from the side of the bag, and it’s sure to destroy expensive sweaters and gym clothes if you stuff the bag into your backpack or messenger bag.
2) On my second day, the pannier bag fell off and got lost after I stopped for lunch, which required locking up the bike somewhere, so I took the bag into restaurant and re-attached it using the two velcro straps on the rear rack. I've used many panniers before, thought I did it correctly. But apparently I did not. So I paid $55 (cost) to replace everything in bag and bag. In hindsight, I wished I'd put a bungee around bag straps to really secure it to bike. PROBABLY MY FAULT.
A plastic garbage bag, or $2 disposable poncho:  Just in case of an unexpected downpour or getting caught out after dark.   More than once, I’ve gone for a ride on a beautiful day with a perfect forecast, not taken a jacket and had the weather go south on me.  Being able to cover up can mean the difference between just mild discomfort or a freezing cold, shivering ride home!

Man, if you're starting out and you know you'll need several components for a bag... just get this. It will save you so much time picking everything out that even if you balk at the price (amazing value, by the way) I bet that if you did the math using your hourly wage and the time spent picking everything out and making sure it fits... you'd save a lot of money and a lot of irritation if you just got this. Just get this.
Yes, bicycle shops generally provide repair services. A typical list of offered services includes regular service/adjustment (including safety check; and  brake, drivetrain, and tire inspection); premium, and annual service, which is a more extensive tune-up. More specific repairs include drivetrain tune-up, brake system tune-up, flat tire fixes, brake repairs, cleaning and touching up the bike frame.
We like, and recommend, the Crankbrothers Speedier Lever. If you have to pick only one, go with the Pedro’s, but if you want a backup or have some hard tires to unseat, Crankbrothers is a great choice. It’s only one lever (as opposed to a set of two, like the Pedro’s) and it’s longer, so we didn’t pick it over the Pedro’s for portability reasons. But it’s an excellent tool. It has a wide handle you can grip with your whole hand. Like the Pedro’s, the tip is the right size and shape to prevent slipping and stay in place, and the shape of the handle happens to protect your knuckles if you do slip. Even in situations where I didn’t need it, I liked having it because it made me feel like a pro.
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.
Main types of bicycles are road, mountain, commuter/comfort and fitness bikes. There are more specific types and other names for bike types within that, such as urban bikes (same as commuter bikes), cruiser bikes, dual-sport bikes, hybrid bikes, fixed-gear bikes, cyclo-cross bikes, adventure road bikes (aka  all-road bikes, gravel bikes), road bikes, touring bikes and specialty bikes, like BMX.
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.
To pick the right size bicycle, you want to measure your height, and specifically your inseam (inside leg), in proportion to the size of the bike frame. The inseam measurement determines the seat height, or the “stack.” Next, you must calculate the “reach,” which is the horizontal distance between the bottom of the frame and the head of the bike -- or, in layman’s terms, the distance between seat and handlebars.
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