Here you are sitting at home, planning your next bicycle tour. You’re making or reviewing your list of things to bring on the trip. Camping gear ready – check. Clothes all sorted – check. If you’re Type A, you’ve got lists for your list, and you are certain to have everything accounted for. On your list, have you considered what you will need to keep you rolling if something mechanical goes wrong on your bike? I’m assuming that your bike is in good working order, and you already have it tuned up and ready to go. But what if something happens on the road? Are you ready? Do you have everything you need to keep going? Here are the 10 things to bring on a bicycle tour to keep things rolling. One of the most common issues you will face while on a bicycle tour, or even bicycling in general, is an eventual flat. You might think you’re immune to flats as I was on my recent Pacific Coast tour, where I had no flats riding 1413 miles from Vancouver to San Francisco. But eventually, your tire or rims will wear down, or maybe your tire is under-inflated and you attract more debris. You will have to change or repair your tube on the road during your bicycle tour. That is why I recommend carrying the following things: tire levers, an extra tube, a bicycle pump, and a patch kit.
1. Tire levers
Tire levers are necessary to help pry your tires open in order to pull the punctured tube out. You only need a pair – that’s 2 – tire levers to do the job. I recommend the Pedro’s tire levers as they are very easy to use and provide really good overall performance. I also want to note that depending on your tire brand, mounting and unmounting will require some more elbow grease (or brute strength).
You’ll also need to carry an extra bicycle tube with the correct size. I’m actually not partial to any particular brand of bicycle tubes or even if it says it’s lightweight or not. I would pick up whatever is available, like the Kenda 26 x 1.5-1.75 presta valve tube. Remember that there are 2 valve types: presta and schrader. The schrader valves are what you see on cars and motorcycles. I like presta because it seems easier to pump, and my pump is configured to take the presta valve. Of course, if I need a tube while on the road and have to stop by a Wal-Mart to pick up a schrader valve tube, I’m still ok because of the v pump (more on my pump later). There’s also this nifty hack that will allow you to use a schrader pump to inflate your presta tube.
A pump is something else you should carry. Whether it is one of those tiny CO2 pumps that can inflate your tire in seconds or a frame pump, like the Topeak Speed Master Blaster that I carry within the frame of my bike, a pump is necessary. Be sure that the nozzle is able to pump both schrader and presta valves. My pump is able to reconfigure to accept either valves after some awkward unscrewing and flipping of small internal parts of the pump. Most pumps are able to do the same, but make sure to check before you buy yours.
4. Patch kit
I recommend carrying a patch kit, like the Park Tool Vulcanizing Patch Kit, which includes patches, a small tube of rubber cement, and a piece of coarse sandpaper to smooth out the area around the puncture. I usually don’t patch a tube until I get into camp or when I don’t have any extra tubes with me.
I am actually really surprised when I run into people on tour who don’t have an adequate multi-tool. We’re talking about having common things, like multiple hex key sizes, a screw driver for both flat & phillips screws, torx wrench, and a chain breaker. I carry the Topeak Alien II 26-function multi-tool. Learn how to use each tool before you have to figure it out on the road. If you don’t have time or don’t want to learn ahead of time, you can take a picture of the documentation that came with the tool. This will tell you what you can or can’t do. I keep my photo up in the cloud with my Evernote account. I have not experienced a problem on the road that my multi-tool could not fix as of this posting.
6. Extra chain links
Photo by Ralph Aichinger (Flickr)
On the 24th day of our Pacific Northwest bicycle tour, we were joined by our friend Portlan, who was riding his longtail Xtracycle bicycle. Portlan likes to pedal. He would pedal going uphill and pedal even harder going downhill. On this day, when he pedaled down one of the various hills, three links from his bicycle chain bent. I had to go back and help with a chain link swap. Luckily, I carried extra chain links, which came out of a previous bike build. After 45 minutes, he was back on the road pedaling and shifting gears again.
Some would argue that this may not be needed as you can easily take the bad links off and limit the range of gears you can shift to or even limiting the bike to a single speed. This may be true, but I prefer to have the full range of my bike’s gears in case I am stuck somewhere far and hilly before I can reach a bike shop.
When I went to an Adventure Cycling’s Association Leadership Training Certification (LTC) course back in April, one of the instructors showed us this cool little thing that would help keep us rolling if a spoke broke. The FiberFix Spoke is a kevlar cord which comes with screws and hooks that would keep your wheel tension correctly in order for it to continue to roll without any wobbling. Our instructor couldn’t stop raving about this thing, so I picked one up and brought it along my subsequent tours. I have not been able to use it, but the little container that it comes in have step-by-step instructions. Because this comes in such a light package, bringing one with you is a great idea. Visit their site for more information on their product and if you search for “FiberFix Spoke” on YouTube, you’ll find videos on how it works.
Chain lubricant is one of those necessary evils on a tour. Depending on how long you’re out on the road, you can decide whether you want to bring this or not. On a multi-week tour, it is a must have. You should either buy it from a local bike shop or bring your own. I use the ProGold Prolink lubricant normally, but I swapped out to a freebie sample that I got from the Bicycle Touring Network conference last year which appear to be high in viscosity and the company claims that users do not have to relube after 1000 miles. So far so good for me after about 800 miles on our Pacific Northwest bicycle tour.
9. Rag or napkins
Some folks would probably look at this and ask, “Why?” I’ve had to make adjustments on my bicycle whether it is on a bicycle tour or on a commute, which entails touching or grabbing an oily and dirty chain. After the repair is done, my hands are typically so dirty that I hate to touch anywhere on my bicycle. To resolve this problem, I take some water from my water bottle and rub out the excess dirt, then dig in my bag for a rag or napkins. I normally use old socks (clean, of course) for this purpose. On tours, I would bring 2 of these so when one is soiled, I have a spare. If socks or rags are not easy to come by, find napkins from a local fast food restaurant or paper towels from a gas station. I sometimes have wet wipes ,which is definitely a luxury item on a bicycle tour, but can help clean a dirty hand real fast.
In this day and age, having a cellphone while you’re on a bicycle tour is a must-have. Especially if your phone is a smart phone, like an Apple iPhone, with many apps to download. For those who have what we call a featured phone just to make phone calls or send & receive text messages, having a phone is great to communicate with riders you meet on the road in case you run into them again. It’s also good to have one to reach out to a hotel or bike shop. Don’t forget that AAA also responds to bicycle break-downs, so having any phone and your AAA card should be very helpful.
Other things to bring on a bicycle tour?
There you have it, the 10 things to bring on a bicycle tour that I won’t leave home without whether it is on a short overnight / S24O tour or a multi-week bicycle tour. Do you agree with what’s on my list? Do you have anything to add? How about anything you would not bring and why? Please comment below and let us know your thoughts.
The scope of this post is to identify what I bring with me and not to go over how to use the products. That kind of review can come later if needed, but there are plenty of YouTube videos out there that can help you learn as well.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”