7 Essential Repair Tools for Bicycle Day Rides
Unless you always ride within easy walking distance of home or a bike shop, take a few tools with you to help deal with the major issues your bike presents while riding. You can keep most of these tools together in a small under-seat bag, or store them all in a bike bag or basket.
Frame or Portable Pump
The cyclist's most common problem is a flat or deflated tire. Carrying a pump with you ensures that you can pump up replacement or repaired inner tubes as well as reinflate a slightly flat tire that doesn't need repair. Frame pumps hook right onto your frame, while you need to carry a portable pump in a bike bag or strapped to your rear rack.
A complete patch kit is vital for repairing flat tires. Your patch kit should include preglued or glue-on patches, a tube of glue if needed, a small square of sandpaper or other rough surface and three tire levers. Bicyclists disagree strongly about whether the preglued or the glue-on patches adhere the best; try both and find what works for you.
The best multi-tool, but also the most expensive, is designed specifically for bicycles and includes wrenches for the most common sizes of hexagonal screws and nuts, hex wrenches for hexagonal socket screws, a flathead screwdriver and a Philips screwdriver. You can get by with a simpler multi-tool that excludes the first type of wrenches, especially if you also take a small supplementary wrench. You may also find a knife useful on your multi-tool, or also bring a small pocket knife.
10 mm or Small Adjustable Wrench
You won't see this tool on many cyclists' must-have lists, but for the inevitable loose screw without a hex socket, it's invaluable. Hand-tightening your cable clamp bolts just won't cut it when you need to change brake or shifter cable tension mid-ride. If your multi-tool includes wrenches, you can omit this tool.
A patch kit won't take care of all of your problems; patches frequently fail to adhere properly even when applied as the kit directs. For these issues, a spare bicycle inner tube does the trick quickly. Be sure to get an inner tube that is labeled with the width and diameter as your rim and tire.
The tire boot is a thick, sturdy piece of material you can place between your inner tube and tire to protect the inner tube from a hole in the tire. Use a dollar bill or a piece of old inner tube or tire sidewall as your boot. It should be at least two by three inches. If your multi-tool has a knife, you can carry a large boot and cut it down to size if needed.
(Very) Basic First Aid Kit
At the very least, take a few bandages and some ointment with you for scrapes. Some scrapes won't require it, but others might benefit from a bandage to keep you from bleeding on your clothes or on your bike.
Jim Langley's recommendations for tools to carry (He also includes chain master links and a spoke wrench; in this bicyclist's opinion, these are useful, but not essential for most day cyclists unless you don't tune up your bike regularly or you tend to go far from urban areas.)
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile