Having a bicycle repair kit with you on the road can make the difference between a short stop and a long sit on the side of the road waiting for a friend to pick you up. It’s a small bag or roll you can carry in your messenger bag, pannier bag or attached to the frame that will carry a small set of tools needed for most minor repairs on the go. You’ll find your personal preference for how you like to carry it with you, but let’s start with the basic tools you need that comprise a good repair kit.
CO2 & Pump or Mini Tire Pump
1) Multi-Tool – If you need to adjust any nut, bolt or screw on the bike. A basic one shouldn’t be more than $10 or $15 and will have the most common sized hex wrenches, socket wrenches and screwdrivers. You can go up in tool count from there, but beware it gets heavier too. Two of the best brands are Park Tool and crankbrothers.
2) Tire Levers – Carrying a set (typically 2, sometimes they are sold as 3) will help you remove the tire from the rim to change a flat. If you have the room, carry 2 so that one can hook around the spoke while you use the other to slide under the beading of the tire all the way around. They are made out of nylon or steel. You can guess that one is slightly more expensive, but another thing to consider is size. The steel levers are usually longer and this may affect how you have to cart them around while on the bike. You can find these at any bike co-op or your local bike shop.
3) Patch Kit – Ideally, you want to find one that has several patches, a small square of sandpaper and glue. Glues can widely vary in quality but make sure it at least says self-vulcanizing. You can also find self-adhesive tube patches, but I still prefer the classic system of glue and patch. The self-adhesive tube patches are lighter to carry because there are simply less pieces, but I doubt that it would last as long as a glue-patch system so I would ride to a bike shop within a day or so to check out the tube.
4) Air – Can’t use a tube with no air in it! There are two ways to solve that problem. One is carrying a mini-pump that you can attach to your frame or throw in a bag. The other is to use CO2 cartridges and an inflator trigger pump. “Roadies” tend toward the CO2, as do triathletes and anyone else whose motto in life is ‘lighter is faster’. A pump can attach to your frame and be just as easy for everyday cycling. I have both – the CO2 in my small saddle bag for faster club riding and training, the pump on my commuter bikes. Be sure to practice with the CO2 before you encounter a problem on the road! Make sure the mini-pump has the ability to fit both schrader and presta valves.
5) Money – If you are close to a bike shop, you can buy a spare tube. If you’re near a pay phone, you can cash in to get a quarter or two. You can call a cab. You can rent a car. Kidding, just wanted to see if you were still reading. Point is, Mom always told you to have an emergency fund. This almost counts.
6) Tubes! The key element to making a tire a complete wheel. A tube should really never cost more than $5 anywhere. When I have a busted tube and I use the one from my kit, I buy two at a shop as soon as possible. One for home and the other to replace the kit spare. Maybe that math doesn’t work out so well, because I have 7 tubes at home. OK, don’t follow me word for word. But I will say that the fastest and easiest thing to do when you get a flat is to just throw a new tube in, patch the old one at home, then use the old one as a spare in your kit. So I always have a new tube somewhere, even in the car. Man, I am really not making sense. No one’s going to follow my advice now!
Finally, consider the different options that are out there to carry your repair kit. A small bag that wraps around your seat stem and tucks neatly under your saddle like this, or a tool roll (like Mopha or Burrito Roll) that can do that but also be tossed in a pannier or messenger bag. Lots of styles abound so have fun choosing something that makes you happy! And safe riding!