Any bike, any ride, any time – bare minimum pack a tube, levers, and a pump or C02 canisters

23 Sep 2016


Unless you’re lucky enough to have a team car somewhere behind you with spare bikes on the roof, a two-way radio and several pairs of willing hands, you’re going to have to deal with your own mechanical, nutritional and motivational problems. And that means being equipped.

But equipment means weight, of course, and we all know that extra weight is a bad thing. We’ll make the assumption you’re packing a mobile phone, but what should you take with you on your road or tri bike, and what should you leave at home?

The pack
First off, you need the saddlebag – or pack – itself. They might not sound fashionable, but they’re incredibly useful. They free up space in your jersey pockets for gels, bars and phones, and they’re largely fit-and-forget. Fill one with the essentials and you need never think about vital supplies again… at least until you need that multitool or tire lever, and are happy to find you have one after all. Reflective strips and loops for attaching lights are good features to look for when buying a saddlebag, and depending on where you live and when you ride, waterproof material and weatherproof zips may also be high on the list.

  • Carrying a comprehensive multitool adds lots of use and peace of mind for an acceptably low weight – note chain tool and Torx key

Fixing flats


The next thing you must have is a spare tube and some tire levers. Even if you carry two tubes it’s worth packing patches too – then you can fix the punctured tubes if the worst happens and you get three flats (or more…). Until that point it’s far easier to simply replace the tube and fix the old one later at home.

Self-adhesive patches are so simple and light there’s no real reason not to have them, while plastic tire levers weigh just a few grams. You might loose a few cool points for not relying on your thumbs, but on a wet, windy road that’s rapidly darkening you’re probably not going to mind. Brightly colored levers are easier to find again on verges.

Of course, it’s all useless without a pump – or some way if inflating your tire afterwards. Frame mounted pumps aren’t too fashionable either, but again they’re fit-and-forget, plus you can afford to go for a little extra size and volume if you’re not sticking it in a pocket. A pocket-sized small volume pump may take a lot of effort to get your tire to 100psi or so – we recommend you read reviews and shop around if you choose this option.
CO2 canisters are increasingly popular, and they’re getting lighter and more efficient all the time. Remember tough that you are packing extra weight and they have finite use – so if you pack two and get three punctures you’re out of luck.
Either way you’ll appreciate that when getting tires back up to pressure.

Another vital part of your pack is a multitool. Any will have hex keys, but make sure it actually has the sizes your bike uses – the selections really vary. There are likely to be a few Torx bolts on your bike too, especially with the rise of hydraulic disc brakes,so again, check what sizes are used on your bike(s). Poking in a hex key can quickly round off small Torx heads, so beware.

A flat-headed screwdriver bit is useful for gear adjustment issues, and even small (sub 150g) tools frequently have chaintools. If you want it to be useful, however, make sure you carry the appropriate link/pin for rejoining the chain.

Some expensive multitools feature exotic materials such as carbon fiber and titanium, but the benefits at this scale are slim to none. Steel bits on an aluminum frame can be amazingly light, and a wide, slim design (rather than small but fat) is easier to use and slips into pockets more comfortably, too.

Lastly, keep a few zip-ties, a spare gel (rotate it occasionally so it’s not out of date!) and some cash (paper, naturally, in its own waterproof bag) in your saddlebag for emergencies. If the gel doesn’t get you home the cash will either get you more food, a small spare part or a taxi – if not all the way back, then at least to a cashpoint!

Check out our features on Workshop Tools and What to Pack for MTB.