If you are starting in gravel (or road or MTB) cycling, it is important that, before your first pedaling of several tens of kilometers, you acquire minimal tools that perhaps you could use in case of a damage suffered by your bicycle.
If the bike is new, it is unlikely that you have any mechanical problem (brakes, gearboxes, transmission cable, lightning bolt, etc.), but it is much possible that you suffer from a flat tire. If you live in desert places the possibilities increase more due to the thorns that can fly and land on the asphalt or the road during gales.
Likewise, if you will travel a few kilometers on somewhat busy roads, it is common that at the shoulder of these you find some broken bottle glass, tire wires, loose truck bolts, nails and other parts that come out of cars and trucks and that can cause a flat tire.
For example, in two years I have been living in Tokyo I have only get a flat tire once. In three weeks that I spent last summer in my hometown (Saltillo), a desert place in northern Mexico, I got three. Two for truck tire wires (next image) and a puncture for a thorn.
Tools and other items to carry
You can carry with you all the tools you want, the problem is that this generates weight and the higher the weight, the higher the energy expenditure of your body, and the more energy expended, the shorter your journey will be.
Now, since the most probable damage that you can suffer is from tire puncture, then the greatest number of tools and items that you should carry must be related to solve this potential damage.
Another detail to consider is the type of tube and tire that your bicycle has. Remember that there are tubes (or wheels) with a French valve (or presta) and with an American valve (Schrader). The latter is the one used by cars; therefore, you can put air on your bicycle at any gas station. And regarding the tires and wheels, there are with or without a tube.
Without further ado, here are the tools that I carry with me on any exit regardless of distance:
- Tube: even though my gravel uses a tubeless tire, it doesn’t hurt to carry a tube in case the hole is too big, and the sealant can’t do its job.
- Multi-function wrench tool with various sizes and screwdriver.
- Tire and tube patches. The rim patch is somewhat larger and thicker.
- Key to remove air valve. My tires use a presta valve and since they are tubeless, the upper part of the valve is removed to fill with sealing fluid (or anti-puncture).
- Additional presta valve.
- Patch glue. It may not be necessary but just in case.
- Spatula to remove the tire.
- Sandpaper to file the damaged tire or tube area.
- Needle to introduce tubeless rim repair wicks.
- Tubeless tire repair wicks. If the hole in the tire is large, you will surely need to put a wick on the tire, as the patch is not enough.
- Safety cable, to tie the bicycle when I stop at a store to buy drinks and food.
- Small knife wrapped in tape. It’s actually a piece of razor blade.
- Chain lock, in case the one with the chain should burst.
I carry all the above in a tool storage bottle and you can see it in the following image. By the way, it is a Bontrager brand.
The bottle is small, but you can buy a bigger one. If this is the case, you must make sure that it fits in the bottle holder of your bicycle.
I must admit that the tools, the tube, and security cable hardly fit in the tool storage bottle, but for now it is enough for me.
On the other hand, and in addition to all the aforementioned, do not forget to bring an air pump and there are of all kinds.
Some cyclists choose to carry more or less tools. Everything will depend on the personal experience of each one. What I don’t have is:
- Chain braker, although it may happen that the chain breaks, it is very rare. However, I confess that once my chain burst, but it was riding on my MTB and luckily a cousin who was with me fixed it. I am very bad with mechanics.
- Spoke wrench. It feels bulky to me and lightning or loosening a spoke is very-very rare.
But if on your first trips taking these two tools, or at least the first one, makes you feel more secure, then go ahead. The important thing is to gain experience and that brings confidence.
Where to carry the tools
On where to take the tools, this is also a matter of personal preference. The experience will tell you which is the best place.
There are multiple locations, but the main options are:
- Seat bag: It is the most traditional place and there are bags of all sizes, materials, brands, and colors.
- Jersey pockets: if you have a cycling jersey with pockets it may be an option. Personally, it is not my favorite place. Here I prefer to place the cell phone or nutritional bars or the wallet, although lately I do not use these pockets, because with the heat it makes me sweat more and the articles get wet.
- Handlebar bag: It is a fashionable option although it is used more to carry the cell phone, wallet, or food.
- Tool storage bottle: It is a very popular option among gravel riders, but not among road or MTB cyclists, since the most common is in a seat bag. Such bikes do not have a third bottle holder, even some MTBs only have one.
Personally, I prefer the tool storage holder, as I explained previously, and in the following image you can see its location, which is at the inferior side of the bottom tube of the bicycle frame. Putting it here, the other two bottle holders are free to be used.
There are plenty of tools that can be carried when pedaling on the bike. However, you should consider the inconvenience that this generates, weight and space in your storage areas.
If carrying other tools makes you feel safe, then do it. Consider that the type of route and the distance you will travel are factors that you must also consider defining which ones to take. One more factor is whether you will go alone or accompanied. If it is the latter, it is not necessary that the two or three cyclists have a chain breaker.
In the end, it is, I insist, experience. Useful not only in life, but also in cycling.
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