Whether you use your bike for long distance bicycle touring or for commuting around town, there are some tools that every bicycle owner should keep close at hand. If you are on a long distance trip, then these tools need to be carried with you. When using your bike around town you can probably get away without having some of these tools with you at all times.
Bike Tools â€“ Flat Repair
It is inevitable if you ride your bike much that you will need to do a tire repair occasionally. Your tires take the brunt of the work. They have to deal with forces of friction and heat. They get bombarded by rocks, thorns and glass on every ride. Eventually something will penetrate your tire and cause you to have to repair or replace a tube.
Learning to repair an inner tube is an important part of bike maintenance. To do so you will need a set of tire levers, a patch kit and a pump. Tire levers are small tools that are used to help you remove the tires from the rim of your bike. Some tires are easier to remove than others and you may find that you don't need them for your beach cruiser or fat mountain bike tires. They are usually essential for removing a road bike tire or a skinnier touring bike or mountain bike tire.
Once the tire is removed you will use a patch kit to patch the hole. Patch kits consist of some sort of patch and an adhesive. Be sure to check your glue occasionally to insure it has not dried out in the tube. Having a tube of dried glue when you need to get back on the road is just as helpful as having no patches at all.
There are times you may need to remove the wheel from the bicycle to do a repair. In those cases you will need a wrench that can remove the nuts holding the wheels in place. You may have quick-release hubs that allow you to loosen the wheel by simply lifting a lever on the hub, in which case you won't need any wrenches for this. If you do need a wrench though, you can get one that is the right size for your wheel nuts. These are usually much lighter than carrying an adjustable wrench. Remember though that an adjustable wrench can be used for more than one type of repair.
You will want to have a good pump available to you at all times. The smaller the pump, the harder it is to work with. At home you may have an air compressor, or a good floor pump. However when you are on the road and need to make a repair you will want a portable pump. There are several varieties from hand pumps to ones that function through CO2 cartridges. When looking to buy a new pump you should take your bike with you to the bike store. This will give you a chance to test the pump on your bike to see if it fits between the spokes on your bicycle. You need to check to see if it is comfortable in your hands and that it actually delivers enough pressure to air up your tires. Road bike tires require twice as much pressure as mountain bike tires. You need to check that it fits well on your bike in relation to your other accessories. Carry at least one extra Presta adapter with your tools if you have tires with Presta valves.
Bike Tools â€“ Wheel Repair
Learning to align a bicycle wheel is an important ability; however, even if you never learn to true a wheel completely, understanding how to use a spoke wrench can help get your bike ridable after a wreck. The simple act of riding into a ditch unexpectedly can cause you to twist and warp your rim. A few minutes on the side of the road with a spoke wrench will get your wheel straight enough to get you back to the house or to a bike shop.
A cone wrench may not be something you need to carry with you on jaunts around town, but for a bike tour you will want to repair your hubs in case something unfortunate happens. A cone wrench lets you tighten or loosen the bearings in your wheel hubs. It is particularly useful when re-lubricating the hub bearings. It can take out the 'slop' that happens when wheel bearings and hubs begin to wear down over time.
Bike Tools â€“ Odds & Ends
If you carry some kind of multi-tool you can tighten various bolts and nuts that get vibrated loose on a long ride. Racks, fenders and accessories are not put on with the same large nuts and bolts that the rest of your bike uses. Having a multi-tool will help keep all of your attachments attached.
A good multi-tool will have various Allen wrenches and screwdrivers. Any bike mechanic will tell you that it is better to have separate tools for each of the adjustments you need to make, but when on a tour you don't have room for a tool box. A small pocket sized multi-tool should keep you on the road in an emergency. Many multi-tools will eliminate the need for some of the tools mentioned above.
One of the features of a multi-tool you should look for (or at least have as a small separate tool) is a chain repair tool. This is a small device that is used to break a chain and put it back together. Carrying a couple of chain links with you is a good idea too. Having a bit of lube and a rag in your bike kit will help you keep your chain in good health.
You can carry some duct tape wrapped around a water bottle for tire puncture repairs. If there is a large enough hole in your tire the tube will bulge out or at least rub on the rough spot of the tire. Duct tape on the inside of the tire will keep the repaired tube from becoming worse. Plastic wire ties can help re-route cables in case of emergency too.
The best repair advice is to do regular maintenance and know when items need to be replaced before they break. Chains don't usually break without warning signs. Parts don't often fall off because of a two-mile ride to the grocery store. If you spend just a few seconds looking over your bike before you hit the road you will probably never need to use most of these bike tools when you are away from home.
All of these tools, except the pump, can fit in a seat bag or a frame bag. There is no reason to leave home without these essential bike tools.