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