Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What's in your bag? An emergency toolkit for those longer rides

Early this month we've got some fresh snow and judging by the weather it was hard to tell if spring was about to arrive. Fortunately, in the last week or so, the situation got much better - it got warmer, flowers started popping out, new leaves showed up on trees and pollen got to be really annoying again.
Sherman's Bridge over Sudbury River in Sudbury, MA.

All this means that I started riding my other bike farther and longer again. And every time I pack on such a ride I don't really take much with me except of a water bottle, a camera and a toolkit, which, fortunately pretty much never gets used, but always seems like an indispensable item. Let's take a closer look at it.

First of all, if you are doing just a grocery ride to a store 2 miles away, any emergency toolkit makes likely little sense. In a worst case scenario when your bike breaks down, you can simply walk back home.

But if you are 30, 40 or 50 miles away from your house, it's a very good idea to have some kind of a plan B ready for those unforeseen situations. This could include:
  1. Not taking anything except a charged cellphone. If your bike breaks down, you will simply call your spouse or a friend for help. This may work if (1) your friend is available, (2) your cellphone gets a good signal reception, which isn't that obvious in more remote areas in the country and (3) you don't mind waiting for a while.
  2. Same as above but calling for a cab instead. Again, this may work and you may even wait less but it could be an expensive proposition, depending on how far from your house you are. Alternatively, you could ask to be dropped of at a nearest bike store that would fix your bike, if you are aware of such places nearby.
  3. The last option is to simply solve the problem yourself, which means that you would need to carry a simple emergency toolkit.
I don't know about you, but I prefer the last option and after some thinking and tinkering I came up with the following setup:
My emergency toolkit for all long rides.

Mini pump - Lezyne Road Drive (91g). I picked this mini pump a few years ago and since then it became my favorite pump for any longer bike rides. It's made nearly entirely out of aluminum and its build quality is simply fantastic. I have no problem inflating 28-35mm tires to 50+ psi, even though it may take a while. What I also like about Road Drive is the built-in rubber hose, which means much more freedom and better handling when inflating tires. You simply don't need to hold the pump tight against the valve.

Spare tube - Q Superlight 28-32mm (107g). I currently use Q tubes and have no issues with them. You may need a different size, depending on what tires you have on your bike. Even though it adds some bulk, I keep mine in the original box to protect it from any damage in the bag.

Two tire levers - Park Tool (2x13g). For some tires I would need just one, for others I don't actually need any levers at all. I still keep two around and Park Tool levers proved to be pretty much indestructible so far.

Tire boot - Park Tool (8g). After some really bad experience with Schwalbe tires a few years ago, I always keep a tire boot for those bad luck situations when a sidewall gets destroyed by sharp rocks or nails.

Patch kit - Park Tool (17g). With a spare tube, I should technically not need a separate patch kit. But you never know when that day comes when you get two punctures in the same tube in a short time...

Chain tool - Pedros RxM (58g), also comes with a spoke key. I removed this chain tool from Pedros RxM multitool. It's lightweight, small and usable when combined with a separate 5mm hex wrench.

Allen keys - stainless steel 5mm and 4mm, modified with a flat screwdriver (22g). Thanks to the unification of all screws on modern bicycles we don't need large tool sets anymore. I realized that probably 90% of all adjustments and repairs can be done with three simple tools: 5 and 4mm hex keys and a flat screwdriver (for adjusting derailleurs and brakes). These let me pretty much disassemble the entire bike into tiny bits with some exceptions such as removing pedals or the bottom bracket. Should any more serious conditions develop, it's better to take more extreme measures anyway, such as taking your bike to a local shop, rather than trying to fix it yourself, road-side.
To limit the number of tools further, I decided to modify a standard 4mm hex key and put a flat screwdriver on its long end, using a belt sander and some small files. The result is a wrench set that weighs just 22g and works surprisingly well for all small repairs and maintenance in emergency situations.

Latex gloves (20g). It's a good idea to pack two latex gloves unless you don't mind finishing your ride with greasy fingers.

Zip ties (2g). Those could be always useful and weigh almost nothing.

As you can see, my toolkit is relatively minimalistic (377g including a zip lock bag) and I don't use any multitools. The set of tools of my choice (chain tool, hex keys, spoke key and a screwdriver) weighs 90g. Not only this is less than any multitool that I know of but also separate tools are easier to use.

You could certainly go lighter if you switch to CO2 cartridges, use a smaller patch kit, only one tire lever and skip all those boxes and bags. However, I feel that overall those savings are not that significant (maybe about 70g). For now, I'm happy with just a manual pump and I don't have to worry about running out of compressed CO2.

That's what I use. What's in your bag?

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