Just like packing for your next vacation when you don’t want to check a bag, cyclists have to learn to pack light. But it can be hard to know what’s a must-have and what’s just going along for the ride. Since cyclists never want to carry even an extra gram on the bike, check out this list of 10 saddlebag essentials (plus a few honorable mentions) that can help you repair almost any common roadside problem.
Probably the most obvious on this list, if you don’t want to be stranded roadside you’ll need to carry at least one spare inner tube in case you get a flat. Though tubeless tires make getting a flat tire much less likely and don’t require an inner tube, a puncture that won’t seal can still happen. Since it’s unlikely you’ll carry a new tire, an inner tube can be used in your flat tubeless tire to get you home.
Plenty of cyclists advocate for not using tire levers when changing a flat. While tire levers can sometimes pinch tubes when you’re putting the tire back on, tire levers are often a big help — especially for really tight new tires.
A loose stem bolt, an adjustment to a derailleur or a sliding saddle all require a quick roadside repair. Without a multi-tool, these simple jobs will be impossible and can end your ride. When picking out a multi-tool, be sure it includes the basics you need, including the correct size Allen keys, Torx wrenches or other specialty tools unique to your bike’s components.
Broken chains happen, and when they do, it doesn’t have to be a big pain or ruin your ride. A quick link is one way to repair a broken chain quickly, and in some cases without any tools. Simply use the link to snap together your broken pieces and voila, you’re back on the road or trail.
A double puncture happens to everyone sooner or later. If you’ve only got one tube, you could be in trouble if you’re riding alone. Since you might not have room in your saddlebag for two inner tubes, and don’t want to load up your pockets, a patch kit comes in handy. It’s small and can help you repair small holes in your tube pretty easily.
A lot of serious cyclists use aero wheelsets with a deep section rim. To air these rims up, you’ll need a long valve stem. While the inner tube currently in your rim might have a long valve stem, the one you have to borrow from a friend or keep inside your saddle bag might not. When it comes time to air it up, it might be impossible without a valve extender. These don’t take up much room and definitely make your flat repairs less hassle.
A pump is an option, but a CO2 canister is quicker, lighter and much easier to air up road tires to the required 90 psi and above. The only risk you have here is not attaching the nozzle correctly — and this mistake could mean leaking air that goes everywhere except inside your inner tube. For this reason, it’s usually a good idea to carry two.
If you’ve gashed your tire, a tire boot can cover the hole so your inner tube isn’t exposed while you ride home. These are also pretty small and easy to carry. If you’d rather not, an empty energy gel wrapper or a dollar bill in your jersey pocket can be used as a tire boot in a pinch.
Coffee, snacks and an emergency ride are all ways extra cash could help you on a ride. Of course a credit card on your smartphone could be used for this, too, but there’s always a chance something happens and only cash works. Cash is old school, but it can still save you. And as stated above, it makes for a good tire boot.
Yes, there’s only so much room in your bag. If you’ve got room, a small sandwich bag with personal items like a contact lens case full of sunscreen, Tylenol for that random banging headache or gauze if you happen to take a spill can come in handy. If you don’t have room, that’s what jersey pockets are for.
There are a few other items that are nice to have but ultimately come down to how many things you can carry. Here are our honorable mentions:
- Presta-Schrader Valve Adapter: A Presta-Schrader valve adapter can come in handy if you have to air up at a gas station.
- Nail Clippers: Clippers or tweezers can extract the random thorn or sliver of metal stuck in your tire that you can’t pull out.
- Mini Pump: If you don’t want to deal with the unreliability of CO2, or just want a back up, mini pumps are tried and true.
- Zip Ties: For the MacGyver in all of us, zip ties come to the rescue when you’ve got a loose bottle cage, a broken part or a number of other tricky roadside repairs.
- Cleaning Wipes: Greasy hands can make a mess of your jersey, bar tape and gloves. If you like to be clean, baby wipes are a great idea.