Five Must-Have Bike Repair and Maintenance Tools

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Getting everything set before a long road ride.
(PC: Patrick Gensel.)
Imagine, you're out on two wheels flying through the woods and having an all-around amazing time. 

While navigating through a rocky section, you notice your bike doesn't feel right, and your notice you've punched a hole in your back tire. Your chain also comes loose, and as you dismount to assess the damage, you notice the bolts on your handlebars feel looser than they should.

What a mess, right? And if you're far from help without the proper tools, you're in for a long walk back from whence you came, and potentially worse. Though I haven't had all of these problems on my bike at the same time (*knocks on wood*), I have popped many a tire in the middle of a ride more than once, and it sure puts a damper on the day.

Though it can be best to let an experienced bike mechanic take care of complex maintenance jobs, it's important to be able to make certain repairs on your bike while you're out. Make sure you have these items, at a minimum, in your bag of tricks on your next ride, and know how to use them! (Editor's Note: this piece is geared more toward mountain biking, but we'd love to hear from road cyclists too. Tell us what you always have on hand either at home or when you're out in the comments!)

Bike-specific degreaser and chain lube 

Your bike is a collection of mostly moving parts that need to work together, and one of those parts is particularly important to making sure the bike is rideable - the chain. A properly cleaned and lubed chain will last longer, and will help your bike's drivetrain last longer. If your chain is squeaking, appears dry, or if it's been a while, it's time to clean and lube it.

To clean your chain, apply degreaser and use a rag to get the grime off. Once the chain dries, apply a small amount of chain lube and make sure you're getting the lube on each chain link. Dry lube also exists, and it's best in dry environments because dirt doesn't stick to it as much. Though it's not necessary to carry degreaser and lube with you if you're just riding for a few hours, they're essential pieces of any mountain biker's maintenance kit. Learn more about cleaning your chain from Tri-Newbies.

Spare tube and/or patch kit

I blew a tire on my road bike during an assisted race, and having a SAG wagon was wonderful. But I've also blown tires mountain biking, and there was no SAG wagon there to help bail me out. When (not if, it's going to happen!) you blow a tire on a ride, if you don't have a spare tube or patch kit, you're in trouble.

Carrying a spare tube is super important, as is knowing how to fix a flat tire on your bike when you're out. I love feeling completely self sufficient, and also love knowing I can get myself through a ride if I pop a tire. Carrying a patch kit is also a good idea, especially if you're riding on tubeless tires, but sometimes, a blowout is big enough that patching won't work. You'll also want to think about carrying...

Being able to fix minor issues on the trail means you get to ride longer, which is always a good thing!

Tire levers

Getting a bike tire off of the rim on a mountain bike without tire levers is really, really hard, and getting a tire off of the rim on a road bike without tire levers is next to impossible. There are a multitude of tire lever options available, including plastic, steel core, and heavy duty steel levers. When I was learning how to take care of my own flat tires, I was taught to look for plastic levers because steel levers are more likely to cause damage to the tire or the rim, but it's personal preference, and depends on the tires you're using. Learn more about how to fix a flat from REI.

Bike pump

Now that you've got your spare tube, patch kit, and tire levers, what happens once you get the new tube or patched tube back on the rim? If you don't have a bike pump, absolutely nothing. I have two bikes pumps, a floor pump with a pressure gauge at home, and a tiny portable pump that attaches to my bike when I'm out riding. They're both compatible with valves, so I can use them both for my road bike and mountain bike tires. CO2 cartridges are great to have for completely re-inflating a flat tire well, but if you're just looking to add some extra air to your tires when you're out, take a mini pump with you.

Multitool with chain break tool

Of the five recommended tools, this one's the one I'm still admittedly not super comfortable with, and need to practice using more. A well-made multi tool can help you tackle minor repair and maintenance issues when you're out riding, and it's a great thing to have for your home maintenance kit, even as a novice bike mechanic.

The perfect multi tool for you should have exactly what you need for your bike. Some things to look for are appropriately sized Allen keys, screwdrivers, a chain tool to dismantle your chain if you break a link, and potentially Torx drivers depending on your bike and the brakes you have. Some multi tools come with tire levers, knife blades, spoke keys, spanners, and bottle openers, which are nice to have as well.

As I'm about as novice as it gets when it comes to bike maintenance and fixing issues out on the trail, if you're a pro, what would you add to this list? Have you ever found yourself in a pickle on a ride and been able to get yourself out of it, or not? We'd love to hear from you!

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