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After have a flat at night about 2 miles from home, I would like to have a better strategy for getting back home other than walking my MTB bike home.

I have these.

I am not sure how to use the CO2 inflator either.

What would you recommend I carry with me?

(I have some saddle bags.)

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4 Answers 4

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Think through the process of changing a tube on this bike.

  1. Get puncture, stop.
  2. Remove wheel - Spanner for axle nuts?
  3. Remove tyre - Tyre levers x2
  4. Find puncture in tube
  5. Search tyre for cause of flat and clean it out
  6. Swap in new tube, refit tyre
  7. Reinstall wheel in bike
  8. Inflate tyre, refit chain and brakes
  9. Test brakes
  10. Clean up tools, pick up all your stuff
  11. Ride off

So from that exercise, you need two or three plastic tyre levers, and maybe a 15mm ring-spanner if your bike has axle nuts.

I'd also recommend some way to carry all this stuff on your bike. A saddle bag or similar is reasonable, that way you don't have to wear a backpack and it is always ready on the bike.

I'd take the tube out of the box and store it in a plastic bag - cardboard will disintegrate over time, and a bag will provide abrasion resistance.


To learn how to use a CO2 inflater, read through Not sure about using a Co2 Cartridge

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    "you need two or three plastic tyre levers" plus a spare tube and a pump. (As for saddle bag, I wouldn't recommend it, as it gets stolen easily and is tedious to install/remove. A popular method these days is to put all that in a tool bottle, which is easy to take with you when you leave your bike
    – njzk2
    Dec 10, 2022 at 22:45
  • @njzk2 fair point - I tend not to park my bike anywhere unprotected. Even at work we have an indoor bikeshed. At the shops, I'd take such items in with me. I also find that one plastic tyre lever is often not enough on a road bike but may be fine on a MTB. Two is the minimum, and since they can break a spare is a good idea. I'm also trying to demonstrate how I work through such a problem/question to arrive at a relevant answer.
    – Criggie
    Dec 11, 2022 at 2:00
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    My saddle bag is quite easy to remove, though I have never removed it. I live in a very safe area. My bike is very well locked. Uses a Brinks pad lock with a cut resistance rating of VERY high. @njzk2
    – fixit7
    Dec 11, 2022 at 3:46
  • @fixit7 surely a padlock is not big enough to lock a bike?
    – njzk2
    Dec 11, 2022 at 11:43
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If you already have a pump you can carry with you, it's infinitely better than a CO2 cartridge since you can use it an infinite number of times, unlike CO2 cartridge that can be used only once.

As for what to carry, here's my set of tools: https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/71580/33932

...but you can go a long way with just tools to remove a wheel (Allen wrench if you have thru-axles), tire levers, patch kit, spare tube and pump. Add Park Tool TB-2 tire boots for sidewall damage, and maybe spoke wrench and chain tool plus chain pins or quick links depending on which you use to cover less likely but still common damage.

Note that most mini pumps are very slow. A fast pump would require unacceptably high force. One solution is a double action pump that pumps on both strokes (in and out) like Quickex Quicker Pro but those are no longer available. I think if I had to buy a pump today, I would buy a mini-pump with a hose that you pump agaist the ground to get more force.

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  • If I go with my existing pump and not spend any more on a high volume pump, I have to decide this. Do I want to spend a long, long time pumping up a 26 inch mountain bike tire. Since I already have the CO2 cartridge, I might as well use it?
    – fixit7
    Dec 10, 2022 at 20:38
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    I carry a single CO2 cartridge and a pump. I save the cartridge for when I'm having a bad time changing a tube in the rain/dark/cold and I just want to save the pumping time. 99% of the time I use the pump.
    – Criggie
    Dec 11, 2022 at 7:08
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The standard kit I carry consists of:

  • Two spare tubes. My reasoning for carrying two is twofold. First, if something happens to be wrong with the first spare, I have a backup before I need to resort to patching. Second, by having two, it becomes significantly less urgent to get a new spare after a flat. Notably, I do not keep these in the cardboard boxes they came in, as those often take up more space than needed. Instead, I have each one wrapped in a couple of layers of cellophane to keep them folded up and protect them from abrasion in the saddle bag.
  • A handful of pre-glued patches. These are for when I get a flat and happen to have no spare tubes. Provided you use them right, they’re sufficiently reliable to get you home, and may even last longer than that (though I would not bet on that with any type of rough riding).
  • A very small rasp. This is for preparing the tube surface if I need to use one of the patches. Even pre-glued patches need the tube surface cleaned and roughened up to work well.
  • A pair of good tire levers. I actually carry a pair of Park Tool’s steel core tire levers, but any good ones will work. The important thing here is that they’re not the cheap plastic ones like you will often find in inexpensive patch kits that will end up bending, warping, or otherwise becoming unusable after only one or two uses. It’s entirely possible to change a tube using the cheap ones, but it’s a lot more of a hassle to do so than when just using good ones to begin with. THe big thing here is that they don’t bend when you use them.
  • A compact set of tools covering everything that’s needed to remove and reattach a wheel. In my case this consists of a cycling multitool and a small titanium wrench (the multitool doesn’t have a particularly great wrench, and none of my bikes use QR skewers).
  • A compact frame pump (the one I use attaches alongside a bottle cage). I use a frame pump instead of a CO2 inflator for two reasons. The first is that I simply do not need a CO2 inflator (I’m not running tubeless, and I am not racing, so inflation speed does not matter much). The second is that even if I were going to use a CO2 inflator, I would need to carry a pump anyway as backup, therefore it makes more sense to just carry the pump and not worry about the inflator.
  • A small pressure gauge. Unless I’m very close to home and going directly home after fixing the flat, I generally make a point to get the tire pressure right as opposed to just guessing, and my frame pump does not include a pressure gauge. That said, I’ve dealt with flats enough that I quite often end up just using the pressure gauge as a final check (I’ve been using the same frame pump, wheels, and tires for a long time, so I know how many full strokes it takes to get the pressure I want).
  • A small light that clips to my glasses, so that I have both hands to work with and can still see if dealing with a flat after dark. If you’ve got a light attached to your helmet, that will work as well.
  • Some compact folding feet that clip on to my handlebars so that when I flip the bike to change a tire, the stuff on the handlebars is not resting on the ground. Not essential, but it is very nice to not need to re-adjust lights, cycling computer, camera mounts, and everything else on your handlebars after dealing with a flat.
  • A small pair of locking forceps (in this case actually an old pair of Kelly forceps), for removing glass shards, thorns, and other small objects embedded in the tire. My other tools don’t really include anything particularly good for this purpose, and it’s actually pretty easy to accidentally injure your finger tips if you’re trying to remove a shard of glass or something similar from the tire. Also, given that I’m mostly doing urban/commuter cycling, broken glass accounts for about 80% of my flats.
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    You reasoning is quite clear and anticipates 95% of possible scenarios. :-) I want to mount my strap on headlamp to my helmet. That for me is better than handlebar mounted headlights that only go where the handlebars are pointing.
    – fixit7
    Dec 11, 2022 at 3:50
  • @fixit7 depending on your location, that may not be a legally-compliant way to mount a light while riding on the road. Also if you're in StVZO land, its even more restrictive.
    – Criggie
    Dec 11, 2022 at 7:05
  • @austin what are the advantages of locking forceps (haemostats?) over something like a leatherman multitool ?
    – Criggie
    Dec 11, 2022 at 7:06
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    @Criggie Largely that they’re much lighter (the pair I’m using are maybe 15g) and take up less space. I’ve found it rather difficult to find a multitool built around a pair of pliers (which I would happily use for this purpose) that also includes the correct sizes of hex keys, spoke wrenches, and other tools that I would normally carry while cycling, so instead I just carry a cycling multitool that has all that, plus a pair of locking forceps. In reality, they were originally part of the first-aid kit I also carry when cycling, I just happened to find them useful for removing glass from tires. Dec 11, 2022 at 16:13
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It might depend on your bike and set up. Its a good idea to plan everything you need to take the wheels off, get the tire off, repair any damage and/or replace a tube, be able to inflate again. so with quick release/tubeless tires: I carry tire levers, patch kit, air cartridge, spare tube and a multi tool that covers most basic needs. since youre biking at night, a light source, and even plastic gloves I hear are popular to have in case. Im a bit of a weight weenie so I try to limit what I carry as much as possible, but walking home is not fun.
I assume youre not running tubeless tires? but I carry the air cartridge for tubeless setup assuming I can repair whats needed and then be able to re inflate a tubeless tire as I feel the cartridge gives the extra pressure to fill a tubeless tire over a mini pump. the cartidge and "chuck" adapter is super easy to use, just screw the cartidge in to break open the cartridge seal, then press the pump side into the valve. the release of gas does get really cold so wear gloves and be careful of bare fingers.
mini pumps are more dependable and less wasteful than cartridges, and even if slow, better than walking home! personally I dont feel a fancy mini pump is worth the cost as long a your current mini pump works, hopefully its just to use in emergencies or small top offs.

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    I have inner tube tires. I am hesitant to use a tubeless tire because of the noise they make when losing 80+ psi air in a blowout. I had an inner tube tire fail because the brakes wore a hole into the rim. Tire was at 50 p.s.i., and it scared the bee gee bers out of me. :-)
    – fixit7
    Dec 11, 2022 at 3:52

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