Another must-have for your long list of cycling equipment is the emergency kit. These are the little bags you see hanging underneath the saddle (seat) of most bikes. Generally they carry at least a spare tube (flats are very common in cycling), as well as a CO2 cartridge and valve adapter for pumping your tire back up. Some people carry a small hand pump that you can either fit in the emergency repair bag, or mount to the frame, but I say just buy the CO2 kit. The cartridges will cost you about $3 each time you have a flat (plus another $5-6 for the tubes), but it’s worth it in my opinion. Note that these come in different sizes for different size tires. I use the 16 gram size, which pumps up my standard, 700C wheels to about 120 psi. If you need less pressure, or you use wider tires – i.e. mountain bike or cyclocross – you’ll need a different cartridge size, or more cartridges. A 12-gram cartridge will bring a standard road tire up to about 90 psi. For mountain bike or cyclocross tires, you’ll likely need more than one cartridge. Pumping up by hand is always an option, and is much cheaper, but is a pain in the you-know-what, and generally not recommended!
Saddle bag and flat repair kit
Some people, myself included, also carry a small multi-tool that allows you to make minor repairs and adjustments along the way. Generally these range in size and complexity from small allen key wrenches, to sophisticated, Swiss-Army-like devices. I recommend you take a look at the basic allen wrench sizes you need on your bike and shoes and make sure you have the proper tools for on-the-road adjustment. (My buddy went to the extreme of standardizing all of his bolts so they use one size wrench. Now that’s tough to do, but smart!)
Finally, you should also put a few other things in your kit:
- Cash – for buying water, etc. along your rides, generally $5-10 is plenty
- Wet wipe – save those extras you get at the rib joint – they clean your hands nicely after fixing a flat or putting your chain back on the ring!
- Tube patches – I don’t carry these anymore, but some people don’t want to spend $5-6 on a new tube each time. You can often get away with just a patch.
- Band-aids – for minor cuts and scrapes along the way
- Driver’s license – I carry an extra copy of mine
Once you start buying more expensive shorts, or better yet, bibs, you’ll notice that bigger emergency saddle bags tend to rub on the inner thigh portion of your shorts. If you don’t want to replace your expensive garments every six months, I suggest getting a streamlined bag that fits entirely underneath your saddle, and therefore doesn’t rub.
Also, there is another reason for bringing a few bucks along with you – dollar bills can make excellent temporary sidewall patches! Normally you’ll get a flat caused by a thorn that causes a leak in the part of the tire that meets the road. A simple patch or tube replacement and you’re done. But sometimes you’ll get a nail or screw or some piece of metal that makes a small cut in the sidewall of the tire. Then the tube will try to extrude itself out of that cut and will suddenly pop, like a kid blowing bubblegum. These types of flats are difficult to repair, since just replacing the tube won’t help. But, by placing a folded-up dollar bill in-between the sidewall and the tube, you can prevent the tube from extruding itself and hopefully fend off another flat until you can get home. This is a temporary fix only and should be done properly as soon as possible. But it will hopefully get you home or to the nearest bike shop, since you will likely need a whole new tire!