What to Pack in Your Bike Bag
Will you know how to get home if you suffer a mechanical problem? Read on to learn what emergency tools you should pack in your saddle bag for the BASC routes and beyond!
Boyd Johnson of Boyd Cycling
Gravel riding can be amazing. Whether you are riding in an event or by yourself the scenery, lack of traffic, and effort can be exhilarating. There’s no wonder why more and more people are getting gravel bikes. However, when you are out riding where there is no traffic, there can also be no cell service. Think to yourself for a moment, “If I suffered a mechanical problem in the middle of nowhere and had no cell service, how would I get home?”.
Fortunately, in a lot of events there will be some sort of assistance to help you out. A lot of the events will take you through areas of very little cell phone reception. However, chances are a fellow rider will ask how you are doing, and they can always ride until they have service and arrange for help to come get you. Gravel riders tend to be helpful like that! However, depending on where the event is, you may be waiting for a few hours until help arrives.
For a lot of us, we like to go exploring when we ride our gravel bikes. Forest Service roads are great for fun rides but are often never used by vehicles. Personally, I have been in situations where I was about 7 miles away from where any vehicle could ever drive and had a derailleur explode while I was riding. Fortunately, I was able to repair it and gingerly ride my bike back to my vehicle.
So what should you bring on a ride to be prepared?
Obviously, the first thing you’ll want is inner tubes. Flat tires are still the number one mechanical problem people suffer when riding. For a lot of flat tires, it’s as simple as installing an inner tube in your tire and inflating it. This is definitely something you should practice using just the materials you carry with you while riding.
In order to easily install an inner tube while riding, you should bring the following tools:
- Tire lever. This will help in the removal and installation of your tire in order to install the new inner tube. Plan on bringing two tire levers to work in unison (also in case one snaps).
- CO2 Bike Pump and cartridges. I like to pack at least two CO2 cartridges while riding. Chances are you will only need one. However, if you get two flats you will want that extra CO2. For the pump, you can get a small head that will thread onto the cartridge and that can stay in your saddle bag (more on saddle bags later). This CO2 cartridge head from Lezyne works great and is very compact:
- Hand Pump: It may be a little overkill, but I always have a small manual pump with me on rides. If you happen to use your CO2 cartridges, you’ll want to be able to manually pump a tire, even though it may take quite a few pumps. It’s still better than walking!
The best way to transport all this is going to be in a bag that attaches to the underside of your saddle. There are tons of saddle bag options, and you will want to look at one in the slightly larger size, especially if you are riding solo in very remote areas.
Inside your saddle bag you should have the following:
- Two or three inner tubes depending on how remote your ride is going to be. For BASC, two inner tubes at the start each day will be plenty. As there may not be room for three inner tubes in your saddle bag, you may want to put one of them in the back pocket of your cycling jersey. I have been using the Tubolito inner tubes recently. They are a bit more pricey, but they are very strong, much lighter, and much more compact compared to butyl inner tubes. Plus, they have a one year guarantee against flat tires!
Here is an image of a regular butyl inner tube compared to a Tubolito. This makes it MUCH easier to fit inside your bag.
- Multi Tool: The multi-tool will have an assortment of Allen keys, plus a screwdriver. For small adjustments, or for removing a thru axle that has a hex bolt on it versus a lever.
- Chain Tool: This is often a very overlooked tool that you should never ride without! While it’s not very common to break a chain on a ride, we do see a lot of times where a stick will jump up into a derailleur and damage it to where the bike is no longer rideable. Earlier I talked about my derailleur exploding (or if you have a derailleur hanger break), you can use the chain tool to bypass your rear derailleur, turn your bike into a single speed, and finish your ride on one gear. This is a somewhat advanced roadside fix so I would recommend practicing this one before you need to do this in the middle of the woods. A small chain tool will look like this and should permanently live in your saddle bag. Additionally, Here is a great article about how to make to make an “emergency” single speed conversion.
- Few Dollar Bills: No, you are not going to hail a taxi. However, if you slice the sidewall of your tire pretty bad, then simply installing an inner tube will not be enough. The inner tube will escape through the sidewall slice and pop almost immediately. If you use the dollar bills as a boot between the sidewall slice and your inner tube, it will hold well enough until you get home.
- Small Bottle of Chain Lube: Getting dirty is fun! However, your chain does not agree with you. If you happen to ride through mud, you’ll soon find that your chain may be skipping all over the place. Stopping and adding some chain lube can make things run a lot smoother!
Here is an image of everything I described, that fits nicely inside the saddle bag. The frame pump (on the very left) attaches to my bike near the water bottles.
Hopefully your rides will be enjoyable and uneventful. However, part of the fun of gravel is the unknown of what you will encounter. By being prepared you’ll at least know you can make it to the finish of that ride should anything happen.
Boyd Cycling is a craft wheel manufacturer based in Greenville, SC. All wheels are built in house to exacting standards and are found in bike shops and bike brands throughout the world. Boyd Cycling is proud to partner with the BASC and will be giving away two sets of GVL gravel wheelsets to two participants in the 3 day event (one male and one female).
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