• Posted May 6, 2001

If you're not packing the right equipment, a minor nuisance will assume epic, hair-pulling proportions.

A flat tire in your garage is merely annoying. But on the road or trail, miles from nowhere, an otherwise minor nuisance will assume epic, hair-pulling proportions if you're not packing the right equipment. Don't leave home without:

  1. Idenification: It won't stop a breakdown, but it may save your life if you're injured and unable to communicate. Include name, address, medical allergies, and emergency phone number.

  2. Spare tube. It should match your tire size and valve type.

  3. Frame pump. Full-size ones allow the quickest inflation, but they won't fit some bike designs. Minipumps mean a lot more strokes, but some riders like them because they're easy to mount on a frame or even carry in a seatbag or jersey pocket. Make sure your pump is secure enough not to bounce out on rough roads or trails.

  4. Patch kit. This lets you handle a second (or third) flat. But be warned: Patch glue can dry after the tube is opened. Avoid a frustrating surprise by carring a fresh, unopened tube of glue in your kit. Retire opened tubes to your home workshop, or consider switching to the new glueless patches.

  5. Tire levers. These let you pry the tire off the rim, then back on. Howver, don't use them unless absolutely necessary, because you could pinch another hole in the tub. A set of 2 or 3 levers that snap together takes up minimal space and won't rattle.

  6. Tools. Roadies seldom need more than 5 and 6-mm allen wrenches and a screwdriver sized for derailleur adjustment screws. But to be prepared for almost anything, carry an all-in-one tool, 4, 5, and 6-mm allens, spoke wrench, screwdriver, and tire levers.

  7. Phone money. Sometimes you may need to make that humiliating but timesaving call for help. A quarter may not be enough if you've ridden a long distance, so memorize your phone card number.

This basic list will get you through everything but fire and famine. Backcountry mountain bikers should also consider packing a compact emergency medical kit.

Stan Zukowski

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