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On one of my recent ride, my bike broke down. My rear derailleur got pushed into the rims and broke. Since I have never gotten stuck like that before, I've never bothered to take anything with me other than food and drink. I am not too proud to say I was stupid to do so. Since then, I've been searching for the things I should have on any sort of ride.

I found some good resources, but I was hoping for a good resource on this website, but cannot find one. So, What are the most important things that every rider should carry?

(P.S. The answers would be better if they are categorized by type of ride e.g. road riding, touring, mountain biking, trail riding, etc)

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Very similar question bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/573/… The difference being this question focuses on important rather than helpful accessories (Some of these answers overlap) –  Ambo100 May 23 '11 at 17:36
    
@Ambo100, also, I am asking about accessories to be brought with you in a ride. –  Starx May 24 '11 at 7:47

13 Answers 13

up vote 10 down vote accepted

For repairs, I always carry with me:

  1. a saddle bag to conveniently carry all my supplies
  2. a multitool for adjusting anything, fixing the chain, and anything else
  3. a spare tube to repair flat tires
  4. two CO2 cartridges and a CO2 nozzle to inflate my tires back up to high pressures; I bring two so if I waste one on a punctured tube, I have a backup on hand
  5. a pair of tire levers to get a flat tire off a wheel
  6. a dollar bill to fold up and place inside a tire if it gets punctured; this will prevent the replacement tube from bursting, too
  7. a patch kit in case I get a hole in the replacement tire; this can happen if you can't find what caused the original flat tire

All of this fits easily into my saddle bag, and lets me make it back home under almost any reasonable circumstance.

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Could you suggest anything cheaper as an alternative to using a dollar bill. It seem's odd that you would waste money like that. –  Ambo100 May 25 '11 at 19:00
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Who says it's wasted? As soon as I get a new tire, I get my dollar bill back. –  Stephen Touset May 25 '11 at 19:32
    
@Ambo100 - A bit of duct tape will work just fine for the tire; however, the duct tape won't work if you need a bit of money. –  user313 Jun 1 '11 at 4:55
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Better than duct tape, use gaff tape. It won't leave a residue and it'll stay in place better than a dollar bill. Expect to spend more than a dollar on a roll of gaff though (but maybe you can snag a short strip from a friend). –  Wedge Jun 8 '11 at 6:37

A mobile phone. These days, irrespective of where you're riding, what you're riding and over what terrain or distance, there's no excuse for being deliberately out of contact. We can't guarantee being in an area of reception, but if you haven't got a phone you'll never know.

Additionally, a huge benefit of smart phones are the apps that can do more than just call for assistance. e.g. I have an app which lists all bike shops in London, with maps, reviews and opening hours. A couple of times I've been stuck in the middle of somewhere unfamiliar and in need (after the second puncture of the day without a second spare tube): fire up the app, where's the nearest open shop and then it can lead you there.

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@wdypdx22 a mobile phone definitely is not a replacement for doing it yourself, but if the problem is serious (like the questioner's borked gears) or a repeat problem and you've exhausted your supplies, then it's a great backup. The question wasn't what is the best accesory, the question was what is important to take on a ride. You can't DIY a broken fork, a broken leg and you can't always solve quickly a broken sense of location! –  Unsliced May 24 '11 at 9:42
    
To the down-voter - do you not think a mobile phone is an important thing to take with you when riding? –  Unsliced May 24 '11 at 9:48
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Ok. Tried to reverse the vote. Just not sure it's the "utmost". I started cycling before mobile phones commonly existed and I'm still alive, so that's why I don't consider a mobile phone "utmost". A multi-tool, patch kit, and xtra tube, etc have saved me far more often. –  user313 May 24 '11 at 21:05
    
I agree that if there's one thing to take then it should be something that allows you to help yourself, but we're rarely limited to one thing. I have my tools and a spare in a small saddle bag, I have my phone and money (and sunscreen) in my pockets. And I will turn back for home and return to remedy the situation if I realise I've forgotten any of those things (and I'm reasonably close)! –  Unsliced May 25 '11 at 8:33
    
I don't know about others, but I often use my phone (smartphone) as a replacement for a map and cue sheet. It sure beats folded-up xeroxed maps in ziplock bags. –  Angelo Aug 18 '11 at 18:16

The number-one situation cyclists will face on a ride (aside from experiencing the awesomeness that is riding) is a flat tire. To fix that, you'll want either a spare tube or a patch kit -- or both. Of course, these are useless without something to pump them up! A frame pump or a C02 inflator will take care of that. Make sure to bring a cartridge for the C02 inflator. (They make devices that are both, but my experience is that they tend to do both jobs terribly.) Also, make certain you know how to change a flat. If pressure is important to you, get one with a pressure gauge.

Tools: Unless you're on a loaded touring bike, you'll want to keep your saddle bag light and bring along a multitool, as opposed to full-sized tools. I won't recommend any one tool, but something that includes the three sizes of allen keys and a chain tool will handle nearly any situation you're going to repair by the side of the road: Broken spokes, a split chain, a loose rack, adjusting a slipped seat-post, a rattling fender.

Duct tape or electrical tape: Wrap a small amount of it around a short pencil and toss it in your bag. You can use this to fix grip tape, repair a rip in a bag, or hold a headlight together. You can also toss a zip tie in there while you're at it.

Spare batteries are helpful if you have lights or a cycling computer.

I always bring along a cell phone.

A first aid kit is always a good idea. You can pare it down to the essentials, especially if you're on a supported ride, but it's a good idea to be able to take care of yourself until the sag wagon arrives. If you have a medic alert tag or a card, bring that as well. (I keep a tag on my body as well as one on the outside of my trunk rack bag.)

Water: I can't stress this one enough. Bring as much of it as you can carry comfortably, and always fill up when you have the opportunity. Dehydration is no fun!


This is a pretty minimalist kit. If you want advice on a kit for touring, there's a thread here on the site about just that.

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@Neil - I think you nailed it here. Your answer is reality. (A mobile phone is nice, but, do you really want to call someone for a flat when you're 15+ miles out of town?) –  user313 May 23 '11 at 21:23
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@Neil - Only thing I'd add... Some "tiny" clip on lights. Modern lighting is so easy these days. –  user313 May 23 '11 at 21:32
    
@wdypdx22 calling far away, you never know! and besides, you can use the mobile for the GPS (if it has one), I have done that when I was lost at about 30Km from my origin, when I was returning on holidays :) –  jackJoe May 24 '11 at 11:32
    
I started cycling before mobile phones commonly existed and I'm still alive, so that's why I don't consider them "utmost". –  user313 May 24 '11 at 21:07
    
Also, on a century+ this last Saturday, I was in several areas where my mobile phone was useless as there was no coverage... –  user313 May 24 '11 at 21:14

I always keep some money in my bag. It's useful to have some on you in case, for example, you forget to take some for parking or need extra food and there's a shop nearby. I've done both of these.

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This one for me is very important, because I could have a lot of "essencials" on my bike, but imagine the bike really doesn't work and you need to catch a train, no mnoney no train. I always take at least one bill and some coins... –  jackJoe May 24 '11 at 11:28

Lessee -- roughly in priority order --

  • Water. Even on a short 30-minute ride I always carry water. Not that I drink that much on a short ride, but should I fall and get "road rash" a squirt of water can quiet the burn and make it possible to complete the ride in relative comfort.
  • Spare tube, tire "irons" (I prefer a "Slick Stick"), and a decent frame pump. (Many frame pumps are worthless -- be sure to actually try using yours to completely inflate a tire before you have to depend on it.) A patch kit is a good idea as well.
  • Money -- in addition to a wallet you may be carrying, stash $20 or so in a "secret" place in your tool bag or whatever.
  • Multi-tool -- screwdriver, a few allen wrenches, a few hex wrenches. Not only used to tighten things, but the screwdriver may be needed to pry a chain out from behind the granny ring, pry the wax out of your ears, etc.
  • Cell phone.
  • Hockey tape. I carry this rather than duct tape or electrical tape because it's so versatile. It can be used to wrap a handlebar, secure a loose fender, hold in place an impromptu bandage, and a dozen other things. (My handlebars are permanently wrapped with hockey tape, which I refresh about every two years. Much better grip than standard handlebar tape.)
  • Zip ties, in a couple of small/medium sizes. Can be used to secure a bag if the clips/straps break, hold on a fender if the screw falls out, etc.
  • Small first aid kit. You don't really need (or want the weight/bulk of) a packaged kit. A plastic bag containing a half-dozen band-aids, about 4 gauze pads, some antiseptic cream, and a small roll of adhesive tape is all you need.
  • Spoke wrench (if the one on your multi-tool isn't very good). Most often used on a wheel with a broken spoke to loosen the opposite side so that the brakes don't rub (quite so badly).
  • A short length of chain, some "repair links", and a chain tool. I no longer use a chain tool often enough to be good at using it, so the repair links (SRAM) are the way to go. But you still need the tool to "crack" a damaged chain and remove damaged links, and to similarly "crack" the length of repair chain. (NB: You need to be sure that the chain, repair links, and tool are the right size for your chain. There are 3-4 different common chain widths these days.)
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+1 for the reference to repair links such as SRAM links - they weigh nothing and take almost no space, but when your chain breaks they can often be the difference between getting home vs. calling for a pick-up (if you are lucky enough to be able to arrange one) and getting cold waiting. –  codeitagile Jul 21 '11 at 22:39
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+1 for zip ties –  Trey Jackson Mar 1 '12 at 19:20

For me, I really regret not having a multi tool with me. If I had it, I could have removed the broken derailleur and cut the chain to fit into a free wheel. At least, it would be enough until I reach a mechanic.

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On the road:

Lights even if you plan to be back in daylight. If you do have a mechanical problem and have to make repairs before you can keep going you may be riding later than you had planned and in fading light.

On all rides:

Puncture repair kit and/or spare inner tube

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Water makes a big effect on how long you can last whilst touring. If you can, get a water bladder that can fit inside your backpack, you can drink whilst you cycle without having to get of the bike and lose your momentum. Sport and energy drinks don't give quite as much hydration as water alone.

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For a commuter:

A good weather proof bag/trunk is essential when commuting from place to place. Weather you have to make a quick stop at the store after work or need a place to carry your gear no matter what mother nature has to offer a solid bag will make commuting so much easier.

This is the one I use: enter image description here

I like this one because like most Topeak products it clips on to my rack so I don't have to worry about it being secure, it has plenty or storage space, and I notice that it is slightly insulated so it will keep things like groceries cool.

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My bike is my main mode of transportation. As such, I installed a carry-all on the back. I keep a multi-tool, two spare tubes, spare batteries for the bike lights, a small hand-pump, and a basic wrench. This still leaves plenty of room in the carry-all for rain-gear, a light load of groceries, or whatever else I need to lug around.

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Utmost? In order of probability....

  1. The ability to fix a flat out in the middle of nowhere. Which means an extra tube, patch kit, CO2 or pump, tire levers, etc.

  2. A cycling tool set or multi-tool allowing you to adjust any of the major components of your bike.

  3. Odds and ends, like, duct tape, a bit of stiff wire, replacement nuts/bolts, chain-link, zip-tie, etc.

  4. Small, efficient clip-on lights.

This is pretty much what my seat bag contains. Other than that, water, the mobile phone, and my wallet and keys. These items go along everywhere anyway. So, don't consider them to be cycling essentials.

Given the choice, I will take the ability to self-sufficiently repair a flat over the mobile phone. Odds are, I'll need to fix a flat far more often than the day when I need major help. So flat fixing ability is the "utmost'.

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Water. Multi-Tool. Knife. Spare tube. Pump (I think CO2 cartridges are wasteful and non-evironmentally-friendly) Cell phone. My key is to keep my bike well-maintaned so I don't have to concern myself with the possibility that my chain will snap or my derraileur will explode 100 miles from nowhere.

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I carry a lot of stuff with me on my road bike. Enough tools to nearly completely strip and rebuild the bike plus spare tubes, usually 1 tire, CO2 inflator, AND a hand pump. Repairs are plan A. My plan B involves the cell phone I also carry. I consider it more important than all the tools. Plan C is the pair of comfortable walking shoes that are also stuffed into my backpack. Since that's my last chance, I consider it the MOST important. Yes, I've been all the way down to plan C once in my riding... Luckily it was only a couple miles I had to walk, but even that short distance would have been horrible in the cycling shoes!

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