Says Ernest Hemingway, "it is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
We couldn't agree more. Nowhere looks more like itself than the way it looks on two wheels. And no matter your pursuit, there's a bike for it. Whether you're looking to spin for miles through country lanes on a road bike, run errands on a stout commuter bike built for comfort on city streets, or zip down tree-lined single track on a mountain bike, at the end of all the fun and adventure, you're going to have to get back to where you started. Safely, efficiently, and, hopefully, comfortably.
To pull it off each and every time, there are just a few items you should take with you on every ride. They're designed to be lightweight and fit easily in a seat wedge, hydration pack, pannier, or messenger bag; to be mostly forgotten about when you don't need them, and then there and ready to go when you do.
1). A multitool - hopefully, you'll have made any important adjustments before you leave, but it's important to be able to loosen and tighten hardware while you're out. Slipping seats, unsquare handle bars, loose reflectors or accessories, squeeky chainring bolts can all happen after a few minutes of riding, so it's important to be able to deal with them while you're out and about. Any good bike multitool works like a Swiss Army knife, and should include at least
- 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm hex wrenches
- Flat and Phillips head screwdrivers
More tools like Torx drivers, tire levers, and a chain tool are nice, but only if you know how to use them. Personally, I carry and recommend the Topeak Mini Plus 18-tool, which includes two spoke wrenches, a chain tool with breaker, and a T25 driver. And a bottle opener...because why not? I love it, and it's light weight, and it still folds down the same size as tools with fewer features.
ManMade Recommended: Topeak The Mini Plus 18-Function Bicycle Tool $26.69
2). A mini pump - Nothing makes a ride worse than a flat or under-filled tire. You should always fill up before every ride, but just in case, a lightweight pump can save your butt in case you forget, or worse, get a flat. You can find small pumps that fit onto straps on your frame, or into messenger bags, backpacks, or panniers. As a road cyclist, I like one that fits into a jersey pocket, so I recommend the Topeak Mini Morph. It includes a flip out handle and a little foot rest for leverage. The newer version even includes a gauge that reads up to 140 PSI, so you can inflate to just the right measurement.
Alternatively, you can carry C02 cartridges and an inflator, which can get expensive and a bit wasteful overtime, but they do work well, especially for high pressure road bike tires.
3). A patch kit - If you ride bikes, eventually you will get a flat tire, and you're going to need to fix it to get home. Thankfully, bike tires are (generally) tubular, which means it's a pretty easy fix. A patch kit works just like it sounds: once you find the hole (and whatever might have caused it inside your tire), you apply some vulcanizing fluid as an adhesive, and put a patch over the hole. Roughing up the tube a bit with sandpaper helps everything stick together.
Do us a favor and skip the self-adhesive patches... they simply don't work at well, cost more, take just as long, and don't. work. as. well. The traditional patch kit gets your tube back and ready to fill in about 5 minutes, which is way shorter than it takes to walk home. Unless it isn't, then you should walk home and fix your tire there.
ManMade Recommended: Rema Touring Patch Kit, #22 Large - $5.35
4.) Tire Levers - With many mountain bikes and city/commuter bikes, you can remove and replace a deflated tire just with your hands. But for skinnier tires, it's nearly impossible to unseat the tire bead from the wheel without a little help. Two simple tire levers will help you do the job perfectly.
ManMade recommended: Diamondback Bicycle Tire Lever Set, Black - $3.99
5. Safety Precautions: Cash, ID, Mobile Phone - Don't leave home without them. 1) Be smart, and tell people where you're going 2) Make sure that if something happens, you're prepared. It can be hard, cause carrying stuff on a bike isn't easy or straightforward, so get a seat wedge or other on-bike storage. The benefits of a cell phone and ID are obvious, and you're commitment to carrying one will make your loved ones feel better. Credit cards are nice, but if you're out in rural areas, cash will be king. If you need a discrete way to keep a $20 on the bike, check out this simple DIY project.