Friction gear systems are a lot simpler to adjust, because the movement of the derailer cable can be modulated as you ride, every time you change the gear- they require less cycle maintenance. Modern index shifting systems are a little more complicated because each ‘click’ must release the exact right amount of cable to allow the derailer to move the correct distance to move the chain from one gear to another. Setting up and adjusting a derailer is not difficult and requires only basic tools, but there is a methodical procedure to follow.


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.
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.
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.
A good patch will stick to your tube enough to keep air from leaking out. A great patch will act like a second skin and actually strengthen the tube where it’s applied, flexing and stretching with the tire. After 36 hours of testing, our official endorsement goes to the Rema TT 02 Touring Repair Kit. Its patches do everything other patches do, just better. The edge of the patch is also ruffled, which provides more edge surface area to bond—that’s a good thing.

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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
A wrench that fits the hub nuts:   If your bike has quick release front and rear wheels, you don’t need this, but if you have an internal hub on the back, such as the NuVinci, a wrench that fits is a great idea.  99% of the time, this is a 15mm wrench, but you should check your bike.   A 6 inch adjustable wrench can also work, but it will be heavier, and when using an adjustable wrench, you do need to take more care to not round over the nuts.   A fixed wrench is the best choice.    Some multi-tools have a 15 mm wrench built in, but again, if you have limited hand strength, something with more leverage is a great idea.
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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