It doesn’t take many tools, but having the right gear in your saddle bag is vital to your next ride. Essential saddle bag gear should include the tools to fix anything that might occur while riding a deserted stretch of blacktop, or a quick run to the nearest convenience store.
Saddle Bag Essentials – The Right Stuff
Without tools and supplies you’re walking, or calling for help. It’s not so much having a tool for each and every issue, it’s about having the right tools and supplies to get you back on the road again. Bike equipment manufactures have designed compact tools and gear that don’t take up a lot of extra space, and perform exactly what you want it to, when you want it to.
Nothing is more important than a spare tube. If you’re doing any serious distance, pack two tubes. Discard the box, but keep the rubber band. Take care to keep it as small and unrolled as possible. If you have any kind of baby powder available, sprinkle it on both sides of the tube, and slip it in a zip-lock bag. The zip-lock bag helps to protect the fresh tube against drying out and protects it from friction from the constant rubbing inside your pack. More than a few cyclists have pulled fresh tubes out of their pack, only to discover they won’t hold air because of a small hole caused from friction.
Tire levers are vitally important. It’s possible fix a flat without any levers, but it’s tricky. You only need two levers, but three levers come in handy if you have the space. Don’t pack those flimsy, flat levers that snap off the first time you use them. Invest in some substantial levers that will get that tire off and on when you’re using those stiff all-weather, puncture-resistant, clincher tires.
Modern patch kits are minimal, and worth packing, particularly if you’re doing long distances, and running the risk of using all your fresh tubes. There are several types available, but most cyclists agree that messing around with glue is time consuming, and glue takes up extra space. Get some of those glue-free patches that stick right over the hole without glue. This type of patch is actually flatter, and more minimal than bulky patches that require glue, and better for skinny road bike tubes.
Presta to Schrader Adapter
This one might not be essential, but it’s so small that it’s a no-brainer to include one in your saddle pack. The small adapter allows you to use any air compressor or air pump, anywhere, to fill your presta-equipped valves. You should already have a frame pump, or device to fill your tubes anywhere on the road, and most of them have adaptable heads for both Schrader and Presta. But if your pump, or another cyclists pump fails, you can get them back on the road again with this small adapter and any air pump you can find.
The addition of a multi-tool to your saddle bag is critical. The multi-tool has underwent many changes over the years, some include things that you may or may not need. Choose one with basic hex wrenches and screwdrivers to keep it minimal in size, or go all out with the Swiss Army knife type if you have the room for it. In most instances, the basics are all you need to fix just about anything that goes wrong with your bike, or make minor adjustments to cables, or anything that’s loose on your bike. Don’t leave home without it.
It’s not often that you break a chain, but when you do, you’re dead in the water without a chain breaker. The chain breaker allows you to remove broken pins from your broken chain. Even though you might not anticipate that you will break a chain, the chain breaker is so small that it doesn’t make sense to leave it at home. It is best to get a multi-tool that has a chain breaker on it.
The master link goes hand in hand with the chain tool. After removing the broken pin from the chain, the master link snaps together to join the two ends of the chain together. Get on your bike, add some torque to the chain to finish the job. The master link is smaller and thinner than a matchbook. Sometimes referred to as a missing link, there are different sizes for some chains. Make room for it in your pack.
Practice Makes Perfect
Fixing a broken chain can be tricky if you don’t understand how to use the chain breaker and master link. It’s highly advisable to practice at home on a spare or discarded chain. Get one from a bike shop if you have to, and use the chain breaker to practice removing pins. Master-links are user friendly, and you should be able to figure it out without practicing with a new one.
Fix a Flat
If you’re not familiar with repair procedures, it’s smart to practice them at home before attempting to do it on the side of the road. Remove a wheel, tire and tube from a spare bike. Use your patch kit to patch a hole on a tube, air it up and replace everything. You should be able to do it in your sleep. It saves time and you’ll never be intimidated again.
Make room for medications and identification. Place your meds in a small, flat container, and don’t forget to add some cotton. The constant vibration can pulverize pills and other meds. Always keep some form of identification in your pack, with your credit card or cash. Lots of saddle bags have exterior pockets for this kind of thing. Add some type of ointment — Neosporin is good — in case you go down. The spray type works better on grungy, dirty road rash. Add a few gauze pads.
Fast and Light
Road bikers travel fast and light, with minimalistic saddle bags. What you include in your underseat pack is up to you, and you can include anything you like, but your pack will only hold so much. The essentials of any pack should be there to get you back on the bike, without a lot of fuss and extra weight.