Hitting the road or trail without these necessary tools may leave you flat-tired, squeaky-chained and immobile – ride prepared and you’ll never get caught off-guard.
Each one of these essential bike tools should be a part of your portable bike kit. They all easily fit into the pouch under your seat or in your backpack. Keep your bike in shape and you’ll ride longer and better.
Here are the essential bike tools for your kit.
A well-oiled machine is the only kind worth riding, so carrying along chain lube is an absolute must. A well-maintained chain will greatly extend the length of the chain itself and all the parts it comes into contact with, including the derailleur. Because dirt breaks down the metal, grinding away highly tuned components, riders should keep the chain oiled at all times. Grit will also affect a rider’s shifting, something worth avoiding when cranking up a single-track trail or around a hairpin turn. Remember, however, not to overdo it. An over-greased chain becomes a magnet for dirt particles. A thin coating in the right spots is the best strategy.
The best alternative to traveling with an entire bike shop strapped to your back is the multi-purpose tool. Almost every toolmaker manufactures a nifty little device that combines nearly two dozen tools into one. It’s not just Allen keys, either – you’ll find spoke wrenches, socket wrenches, chain tools and even a shock pump, all smaller than an energy bar. These elaborate multi-tools can cost between $50 to $60, and put a bike shop in the palm of your hand. For everyday needs, there are very few problems that a multi-tool won’t solve.
If you have ever tried changing a tire without proper tire levers, it’s probably something you don’t want to repeat. These ultra-cheap tools are one of the handiest things you can lug around. With them, a flat tire is a minor inconvenience, barely longer than a water break or a pit stop at a scenic overlook. Without them, a flat tire is a crippling injury that can leave you stranded.
The ideal mini-pump will have an abundance of pressure in the tube. Some even come with pressure gauges and pump your tires up to 120 psi, a level plenty firm to keep you rolling. For $40, that’s a lot of security for your ride. Most of these are about the size of a water bottle, but there are loads of smaller designs to choose from. Many makers produce mini-pumps with a floor-pump-style pedal to give you leverage. Some companies have built them with molded handles that make it easier to keep the pump head in place and keep your hands from slipping. Whichever design you choose, make sure it gives the pressure you need.
A bike rider can never can have too many spare tubes, although one or two should do for all but the longest rides. Take the tubes out of the box and slip them in your bike bag, Camelback or jersey pocket. You wont notice it’s there until you need it. If a time comes where you need it, chances are you’ll really need it.
Some multi-tools come with spoke wrenches. If, however, yours doesn’t, bring one. It won’t be the tool you use the most, but it will make a big difference when you do. Bumpy rides can throw your wheels out of alignment, and getting them back into shape is impossible without this tiny tool. Truing your wheels, which gets easy the more you do it, will save your wheels unhealthy torquing, which occurs when they’re not tuned properly.
Whether you’re riding on dirt single-track or freshly-paved asphalt, your bike will collect dirt. It will attract a layer of gritty, grimy, dusty gunk that is bad for its components and performance. The easiest day-to-day maintenance you can give your bike, is a quick brush down with an old toothbrush. It doesn’t cost anything and, if you’re really trying to save space, you can cut the toothbrush handle in half so it wont weight anything or eat up room in your bag.