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.
The thumb test is the fine art of pressing on the tube with your thumb to see if it’s inflated. During testing, I took a pressure reading out of curiosity, and to the touch, road tires feel fully inflated around 30 psi. How pathetically sad—30 psi!—when you’re probably trying to reach at least 60 psi on a mountain bike, 70 or more on a hybrid, and it only goes up from there.
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.”
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.
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.
The retractable tube is stored inside the body of the pump when not in use, and it can attach to either a Schrader or a Presta valve, the two types of valves you’ll see. Some pumps can accommodate only one type, making them less universal. Toggling between the two is simple, which can’t be said of other models with itty parts that require nerves of steel to handle on a good day, let alone while wearing gloves, crouching in the wind, oblivious to the sewer grate a few feet away.
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On the other hand, an on-bike repair kit will be a much smarter selection of tools that you are most likely to need. You should figure out the type of screws that are fitted on your bike and the things that are most likely to go wrong on a ride. Address only these things so as not to burden yourself too much with unnecessary stuff. Moreover, there are bike repair kits used on long rides and those used on shorter rides. The longer the ride, the more tools, and spare parts you will have to bring unless you want to have a very long hike back home.
I chose to test these four levers after eliminating everything out there that’s not appropriate for a roadside emergency kit. That includes metal levers. They’re durable, but according to touring cyclist Ramona Marks, “Metal tire levers are trouble. It’s possible to rip your tube even with the plastic ones if you’re not careful, so metal is out of the question, and you don’t want to put pressure against the wheel rim with a metal lever.”
But before I get started, let me share with you a few tips. OK, one tip: Get a work stand. Because putting your bike upside down isn’t good for it—yes, I said it. When I first started fixing my own bikes, I couldn’t afford a fancy $300, folding, magnetic, fixes-the-bike-for-you stand. I tried piecing together a “DIY $30 Stand.” I followed all the directions that the Internet demanded, and once I’d bought all the clamps and pipes, this thing cost really more in the neighborhood of $60—but it only stayed upright with a rope tied to something sturdy in the garage. It was one word: junk. So I bit the veritable chainring and charged a decent stand on my credit card (I hate debt, folks).
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.
It includes nine tools: seven hex bolts, one torx bolt (the star-shaped one), and a Phillips screwdriver (also the star-shaped one). Like Peter says in our guide, if you have a newer mountain bike or road bike it pays to take a quick look at what types of tools you need, as torx bolts are becoming more common. And a quick glance at the bottom of your shoes or derailleur bolts will confirm if a Phillips head is the right choice.
The fabric attachment system is low-tech, but that seems to be helpful, as it can adapt to seat rails of different widths. One fancier option you might see on more expensive seat bags is a quick-release mount that you install under your saddle. But those have a fixed width, and therefore can fit under seats with only those exact specs. Brooks saddles, for example, are too wide for these mounts.
Don’t rely on others. “People need to recognize that now there are different cassette sizes, so there are different chains depending on what gear you have. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh my friend is always prepared they always have the stuff, I’m not going to bring anything.’ All of the stuff now is very bike-specific, and you have to have your own package of stuff.”
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.
All multi-tools are not created equal, but most with a plethora of features will get plenty of the jobs done. I personally like, and use often, the Lezyne RAP-21 LED tool, which will run you around $30. I like it because not only is it a high quality construction, but it has just about everything you’ll need, plus a sweet mini light. This will give you a chain breaker, spoke wrench, disc brake wedge, and all the most often used Allen keys and drivers. We’re talking a decent number of tools for 1/4 of what they would cost buying them separately.
Broadly speaking there are two major wheel sizes – 700c for road bikes and 26 inch off-road wheels. However there are a whole variety of older, less common wheel sizes and of course fold up bikes have much smaller wheels altogether. Repairing a puncture is not an emergency! It’s a basic procedure that every cyclist should be able to to perform, but doing it correctly involves more steps than many people realise. Wheel building is often seen as the most artful skill in bicycle maintenance, and separates the professionals from the amateurs but that doesn’t mean you should consider it out of reach. Truing a slightly misaligned wheel is a cycle maintenance job that almost any cyclist can perform.