Everyone on the internet wants to tell you what you should include in your tool kit. From chain breakers to spoke tools, they will have you loaded down with enough tools and gear to start your own repair shop. Unless you know how to use all of those tools, however, or even whether they are useful on your particular bike, you’re going to wind up with a ton of dead weight. Literally. There are a few things everyone should consider when amassing their kit:
LENGTH OF YOUR RIDE
Depending on the length of your ride and the locale in which you’re riding it, you may or may not need a buncha stuff in your would-be tool kit. The tools needed on a commute through an urban area will vary drastically from the tools needed on a long-distance rural tour. If I get a flat on my way to Target or on my way to work, I’d much rather grab a bus or train and continue my journey than sit on a curb along a busy roadway sweating and swearing while fixing the flat. This means that I don’t carry an extra tube, pump and whatever other “essential” tools around with me at all times while I run errands. If I’m going out for a leisure ride on a Sunday morning, however, I will most certainly bring and tube and pump so I can keep on keepin’ on.
Touring is a whole different beast altogether. Depending on where you’re riding, you may not see a bike shop or even a gas station with air for a hundred or more miles at a time. This means that you will need to be prepared for anything. Spokes break. Inevitably, it will always be a drive-side spoke that breaks and you will have to remove your cassette to gain access to the spoke holes. This problem/procedure alone requires a slew of parts and tools that you would never ever bother to carry in your day-to-day zipping around.
KNOW YOUR BIKE, KNOW YOUR TOOLS
So you’ve done your research and your shopping and have a kickass and appropriate kit for the riding you do. You read the reviews, you compared features and prices, and you spent the extra money to get the good stuff, but can you use it? A beautiful high-polished Lezyne pump won’t do you an ounce of good (or a pound of pressure for that matter) if you haven’t learned the difference between a “presta” and “schrader” valve. Practice with your new tools in the safety of your own driveway or living room. Don’t be afraid to ask your local bike shop how to use the stuff they’re selling you. If you’re just a little rusty, you can count on YouTube to have a tutorial for just about anything you can think of. Still not sure? Shoot me an email or give me a call. Really.
Getting a flat is a real bummer. Standing on the bike path waving your pump/chainbreaker/arms around, waiting for a Good Samaritan to pull over and help you is an even bigger bummer. One of the best feelings, other than the wind in your (helmeted) hair, is the feeling of successfully navigating a technical problemo and getting back on your bike and back on the road.
For the most part, bikes are all pretty similar. Almost everyone should carry a patch kit and a multi-tool. For those of us with uncommon or unconventional bikes, there may be some specific tools that you’ll need but generally won’t be part of most people’s kits. I have a travel bike with S&S couplers, for example. To loosen or tighten them, a special spanner is required. This is a tool that I would never expect anyone else to carry, but is pretty essential to my bike. Older American bikes may not always use metric or hex fasteners. This means that the rider may want to add couple of odd-ball things to their loadout. With carbon fiber and/or high-end bikes, it may be imperative to make sure something is tightened to a specific torque value. Torque wrenches are available in preset values and are fairly inexpensive. I have a Thomson stem on my travel bike (which is occasionally taken apart) that specifies a torque value of 5 newton meters, so I carry a 5Nm Torque Key for just that purpose.