When you’re out for a ride, you need to be prepared to fix a flat tire, repair a broken chain or tighten a loose bolt. A well-chosen tool collection will help you:
• keep your bike running well
• make adjustments to improve its performance
• repair the bike when it breaks
• make riding more comfortable
Which specific tools you need depends on the difficulty of the road or trail you will be on, how close the route is to civilization and your own mechanical skills.
If you’re a novice cyclist, you can start out with just the basics, then add tools gradually as you gain more experience and start planning more adventurous rides.
Essential Bike Repair Kit Tools
Spare Tube and Patch Kit
The most common problem cyclists face is a flat tire. Always carry a spare tube and/or a patch kit with you. If your flat tire is caused by a small puncture, you’ll likely be able to use a patch kit to fix it. For large punctures and blowouts, replacing the tube is your best option.
For tips on patching a flat or replacing a tube, see our article, Bike Tire Basics: How to Fix a Flat.
Tire levers help you pry your tire off the rim of your wheel when you’re fixing a flat. They’re especially helpful when you’re removing a road tire, as opposed to a mountain bike tire, because road tires typically fit very tightly on the rim.
If you get a flat tire while you’re out on the road, you’ll need a way to inflate the tire after patching or replacing your tube. Always carry a small hand pump or CO2 inflator that will fit in your backpack or mount to your bike frame.
A multi-tool can handle a surprisingly wide variety of repairs and its versatility makes it a good value. Its small size means it fits easily in an on-bike saddle pack or a backpack. A good multi-tool has the following:
- A variety of Allen wrenches
- An adjustable wrench, or open or hex wrenches (8, 10, 15mm are the most common, but size requirements vary depending on the bike)
- A chain tool
- A Phillips screwdriver
- A flathead screwdriver
Bike Repair Kit Tools for Longer Rides
On long single-day rides and multiday trips, especially in areas where repair shops and other facilities are not available, it’s wise to carry a larger supply of bicycle tools. Luckily, most modern bicycles are designed so that you can use a relatively small number of simple tools to make common repairs and adjustments.
No single list of tools works for every ride. To supplement your multi-tool, you may choose to carry all or some of the tools listed below:
- Allen wrenches (sizes that match the components of the bike being ridden)
- Open-end wrenches (or an adjustable wrench)
- Chain tool
- Phillips and standard screwdrivers
- Pliers (preferably needle-nose)
- Spoke wrench
- Duct tape
- Zip ties
On multiday rides and rides that include lots of dirt roads or trails, you may want to clean and relubricate certain bike components from time to time to maintain good performance. Bring along a small container of chain lubricant and a few clean rags to keep your bike running smoothly.
Spare Parts for Long-Distance Touring
Most road, mountain and town cyclists don't need spare parts. However, the touring cyclist should consider the following (but only carry these items if you know how to replace them):
Spare tire: Tires don't need to be replaced often. But on tours in remote areas, carrying a spare may be easier than finding a suitable replacement. Be sure to buy folding tires, which are far easier to store and carry on tours than non-folding ones.
Spare brake cable/shifter cable: These do not break frequently. But when they do, they must be replaced immediately. Cut the cables to length before you leave home to avoid problems out on the road.
Spare nuts and bolts: Normal cycling can shake even the tightest nuts and bolts loose over time. If you’re new to touring, check with your local bike repair shop before your trip to find out which nuts and bolts to carry.
Replacement chain links: If your chain breaks while you’re riding, you’ll want to have a replacement chain link. They’re small and light, so throw one in.
Spare spokes: These may be helpful, as long as you know how to replace them correctly. Spares should be sized at a bike shop, then taped to your frame or a rack until needed.
Money and Other Essentials to Bring on Bike Rides
On bike rides, especially road rides, it’s wise to carry some money, your ID, your insurance card and a cell phone just in case you get in an accident.
Money will also come in handy on a mid-ride stop at a store to grab a snack or get a cold drink when your energy is waning.
Some repairs require tools and knowhow that you might not have. If your bike breaks down and you can’t fix it, you’ll be happy to have your cell phone so you can call a friend or family member for a ride home.
A smartphone can also be handy for looking at a map or tracking your ride with a cycling app. There are lots of cases available for mounting your smartphone on your handlebar for easy viewing while riding.
How to Carry Repair Kit Essentials
After determining what essentials to take on a ride, you’ll need a way to carry them. Options include saddle packs, handlebar packs, rack trunks, frame bags, panniers and backpacks.
For shorter recreational rides, a small saddle pack that fits a spare tube, patch kit and a multi-tool is probably sufficient. On longer rides and commutes, handlebar packs, rack trunks, frame bags, panniers and backpacks that hold your repair kit essentials and leave room for food, clothes and more will come in handy.
Learn more about how to carry your essential gear in our Bike Racks and Bags: How to Choose article.