How to be a self-sufficient cyclist

It’s easy enough to head out the door and pedal off into the distance on your bike, letting the kilometers roll by. But when the unexpected happens, are you prepared?

Here’s a list of things I believe you should carry at all times when you go out riding.

The contents of the saddle bag on my cross bike.

A saddle bag to store most, if not all, of the things I state below. I suggest those with around 0.8-1.0 liter of capacity. If you have multiple bikes, get one for each, and pack each one accordingly.

Two inner tubes. These will account for most of the volume inside your saddle bag. It’s always easier to just replace tubes instead of patching them by the roadside. Patch the tubes in the comfort of your own home, instead. Place them in a ziplock bag to avoid them getting pierced by other objects inside the saddle bag.

A small patch kit. Just in case your luck is especially bad, and you suffer punctures in both your spare tubes. Make sure the tube of rubber cement it contains is still good, and that it contains an abrasive such as a tiny square of sandpaper.

Tire levers. A set of three plastic ones should be enough. Some multi-tools also come with tire levers, but dedicated ones work best.

Giyo GP-41S mini pump with gauge, mounted to its bracket and secured with a Velcro strap.

An inflation system.

  • Mini pumps are dependable, but require correct technique and effort to inflate tires with. Practice required. To free up space in your pockets or saddle bag, mount this to the frame. Most mini pumps have a bracket for this that slips under a water bottle cage.
  • CO2 canisters and inflaters offer quick, hassle-free inflation. However, they are expendable. Note that if you use a canister to re-inflate a punctured tire, you will have to re-inflate it with normal air later on, as CO2 leaks through butyl inner tubes faster than air does.

A multi-tool. At the very least, it should contain the following:

  • Hex keys: 3, 4, 5, 6 mm
  • Torx keys: T25
  • Screwdrivers: Philips and flat-head
  • A chain tool

Chain repair supplies: Joining pins or master links (e.g. KMC MissingLink, SRAM PowerLink).

Zip ties. These are invaluable and very often serve as field repair.

Front and rear lights.

My folding bike has a smaller saddle bag. It has the bare minimum of spares: two inner tubes and a multi-tool with chain breaker and integrated tire levers. A patch kit will fit in a pinch.
Everything fits, like so. Ziplock bags mitigate the risk of the multi-tool piercing the tubes.

A waterproof or rain jacket. Always bring one even if the forecast calls for clear skies, as it is better to be prepared for changeable conditions. This always goes into my jersey’s center pocket.

Identification and some money.

Wheels Manufacturing, a US-based company, makes replacement derailleur hangers out of machined aluminum. This is the #167 model, which fits my TCX SLR 2 and a few other contemporary Giant road bikes.

A replacement rear derailleur hanger. These sacrificial parts are always getting bent or snapped so that you don’t have to replace your frame when it falls over on its drive side. As early as possible, find a replacement rear derailleur hanger for your bike, and keep a spare.

Lastly, it’s best to learn how to use all of these. Practice puncture repair and broken chain repair at home, way before you are stuck on the roadside with either. Alternatively, you could save instructional videos of both on your smartphone for reference.

I don’t care if large saddle bags look “goofy” on my bikes. They let me recover from the unexpected.

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