What’s In Your Saddle Bag?

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel opens a discussion of one of biking’s most common items.

HemmelsRide2Recently I came across a discussion of what people carried in their saddle bags. It piqued my interest, because over many years I feel like I’ve really streamlined mine to the true essentials, while still allowing for a few items I’ve come to appreciate from experience…and some people might overlook.

What do I bring along for the ride? I dumped the contents out to jog my memory. Chime in to add anything you think I’ve missed.


A Spare Tube — This one is obvious. A spare tube is there to save the day should you flat on any of the detritus that lines the roads, and as such should be the key item in any saddle bag. Tip? Bicycling magazine recently suggested to wrap a spare in plastic wrap. I guess the idea is to keep it “fresh,” but it also keeps the tube as compact as possible, as well as protects it from some abrasion by other items in your bag.

Perhaps the real question should be one tube…or two? I try to keep things as minimal as possible, so I go with one, reasoning that I can call someone for a ride should things go really haywire. If I’m venturing out into some unknown area, however, I sometimes squeeze a second one into my bag…just in case.

Patch Kit — One reason I often go with just the single tube is that I carry a patch kit. You can find them in tiny little packages that are easy to add to your bag. That way if you ruin your spare, you can do a quickie repair.

Tire Levers — I usually just use my hands to remove a tire, but I still keep a pair of tire levers in my bag. They’re helpful for getting a tire off the rim, especially if the tire is new and not very pliable.

CO2 Inflator — My brother gets on me about this one, noting that all of us quick-fix types aren’t doing the environment any favor. But a small CO2 inflator is the simplest, quickest way to get you back up and riding, especially if a group may be waiting for you…or you don’t want to lose them. CO2 inflators, however, are notorious for misfiring. After a little trial and error, I’ve settled on a Genuine Innovations Air Chuck Elite. It’s a tiny, spring-loaded, inexpensive inflator head that’s got a great reputation. There are flashier solutions, but I’m not sure any really better.

CO2 Cartridges — I have a mini frame pump that tucks behind a bottle cage, so I stick with just one CO2 cartridge in my streamlined bag. For the typical road bike tire, one 16 gram cartridge should get you back up to about 110-115 pounds. Theoretically it should fill to 130 psi, but I’ve never quite seen that happen.

Presta Valve Adapter — This summer I had what I’ll call the “flat change from hell.” Suffice it to say my old CO2 inflator leaked, my frame pump broke, and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes on the side of a steep country road. I was finally able to walk to a convenience store, only to find I had to do a little surgery on their air hose just to get a little bit of air into my tire. Then and there I vowed to get one of these little adapters (about $1.50) and throw it in my bag. I may never need it again, but if I do, it’s cheap insurance.

Multi-Tool — I’ve seen better (and bigger) alternatives, but I think most people can get by with just a simple tool, like Park’s tiny IB-2. It’s got a multitude of hex wrenches, a flat-blade screwdriver, and an I-beam handle for strength.

Grease Monkey Wipe — I scoffed at this when a friend gave me one, but these little foil-wrapped wipes really do clean up your hands after a chain issue, or even a dirty tire change. I just used the one I was given. Time to find some more.

Oh, a side note…the makers were funded by one of the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank.

As to the actual bag I keep this stuff in, I’ve found one — again, a small one — that works perfect for me, the Serfas EV-2. I like the bag’s durability, but I primarily appreciate that it’s not just one wide-open bag. Instead, there’s a mesh pocket in the zippered entry flap (a great spot to stow that little inflator and Presta valve adapter), a pocket on one side to hold my multi-tool, and a strap on the other to tuck in my CO2 cartridge and tire levers. Best of all it’s even got a strap with a clip to securely hold a house key…something you definitely don’t want to lose out of your saddle bag when changing a tire on the side of a hill while being attacked my mosquitoes.

Not that I would know about that sort of thing.


  1. says

    GREAT write up! I love the plastic wrap idea (I’ll do that tomorrow), and the presta valve adaptor is one of those, “Doh!” things. OF COURSE I should have one in my bag! I have a great multi-tool WITH CO2 inflator in it. It protects the CO2 canister inside the tool. I always carry two spare tubes and two CO2. I had a double-flat day and it just isn’t any fun to fix a flat…only to have the spare go bad on you too. I also have a small hand pump that is strapped inside the bag. Gonna have to get the patch kit.

    A couple things I don’t see on your list: a) a small sheet of paper with my name, blood-type, and whom to call in case of emergency (I use the Rider ID app on my iPhone as well, but this is my backup), b) an LED strobe light that clips to the back of the bag (wait… I do see something red in your picture), and c) GUM!

    Great post!

    • says

      I wear a Road ID, so no ID in the bag, but not a bad idea to have some backup. And yup, little Blackburn Flea red LED on the back of the bag. As to the gum, always afraid something unexpected would happen and I would choke on it!

  2. says

    Reblogged this on Just Enjoy the Ride and commented:
    Now… Here’s a great discussion for everyone! What’s in your bag (brand names please, I may want to buy it)? Why do you carry it? Why do you feel it is valuable? And in another direction… what have you heard/witnessed people carry on a ride that you think is utterly crazy, as in, “What the… WHY DO YOU CARRY THAT?!?” Make us laugh people!

  3. Mark X says

    I carry the same, except bring 2 CO2 cartridge as I don’t have a pump.
    Like the plastic wrap tip & grease wipe (will add that).

    Nice post.

  4. Mark X says

    PS. I carry a few baby wipes in a baggie in my jersey pocket. Never know when nature calls & you have to go behind a tree by the road.

  5. jeffburnett says

    Next time you renew youre Drivers license and have to get a new one, keep the old one and put in Bag. That is if you don’t have the Road ID
    Also – Park makes a Tire boot that will work like a tube patch but is made for sidewall cuts. Its a stick and go patch so no looking around for an old Powerbar wrapper or using the money that you carry as a tire boot.

  6. says

    Good thoughts on this. I always make sure my phone is with me, a cable tie/ safety pin/ spare dust caps always come in handy and I go along with the ID card and the disposable gloves. Mending a puncture once, I cut my finger on the sliver of glass that caused it so always have a plaster (bandaid for the Yanks!) in my bag.

  7. says

    May I add that a $5 bill is very helpful. I once got caught in a storm. A compassionate cyclist in a van picked me up with huge bolts of lightning blasting all around. I put a $5 bill on his dash. It allowed got some expression of appreciation!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *