Monday 21 March 2011

A touring toolkit

Unless accompanied by a car carrying equipment, cycle tourists need to be self sufficient to some extent. You can't predict when breakdowns will occur. Obviously what tools you carry with you depends on how far you're going and what you think you'll need. Weight is always an issue.

Unless I'm just riding into town and back, I always carry tools with me. A few days ago I decided it was once again time to check that the contents of my tool-kit still made sense. A few items had been used up, like patches, and a few tools needed to change for my new bike.

Everyone travelling any distance will surely carry a pump and spare inner tubes. However, other things are also useful to have. Even on shorter rides, the walk home or to the nearest bike shop can take quite some time, but when riding longer distances and if you may be a longer distance from "civilization" then it's even more important to be well prepared.

At the moment, my toolkit contains the following:
  • Multi-tool. This is actually the only new thing in my tool-kit. A Beto multi-tool. It includes all the sizes of spanner, screw-driver and Allen key which I may need. Previously I had to carry more than one such tool to cover everything.
  • In the past I also carried a separate chain tool, however my new multi-tool includes one, so that saves a bit more weight.
  • The puncture repair kit is a Rema Tip-Top kit. I've used these for years as they have, in my opinion, the best quality patches. This one has been part of my kit for years, but is newly stocked with patches and glue.
  • When removing and refitting tyres, it is best to do so without using tyre levers as they can damage the tube further. However, if you have tight fitting tyres, or you find yourself doing the work with cold and wet fingers then a good set of tyre levers are well worth having. The Schwalbe tyre levers are well shaped, and wider than most, which minimises the risk of damage. I've had this set for years and they work well.
  • Well made wheels shouldn't go out of true in normal use. However, accidents happen and I like to be prepared. Spokey Spoke Keys are perhaps the lightest weight good quality spoke key. Mine has had a lot of use over the years, both building wheels at home as well as straightening them on tour. Usually in order to keep moving with a single broken spoke you merely need to slightly loosen off the two spokes either side of that which is broken so that the wheel straightens out. However, carrying a few spare spokes of the correct size means that replacements can be installed and the wheel can be made perfect again quite quickly.
  • A little duct tape wound onto a stick, some bendable wire, and a few zip-ties don't weigh much and don't cost much. However, they can be used for many repairs. In the past I've used tape to hold together broken lights, zip-ties to affix mudguards and wire to keep on a heavily loaded rack.
  • The white "paper" in my toolkit is actually cut out of a Tyvek junk mail envelope. It cost nothing and weighs almost nothing, but it is strong enough to make an excellent "boot" to put between inner tube and tyre in the event of a bad cut.
  • A pocket knife includes a few tools that the others don't have - such as scissors to cut the Tyvek, a sharp knife which can be used for a range of things, and a bottle opener which is rather a nice thing to have with you for a beer at the end of a long day.
Things not shown in the photo include the inner tubes (I carry two, and do any puncture repairs needed at the end of the day if possible), a spare folding tyre in case of damage to a tyre, chain links to join a broken chain, and a spare brake cable. Of course, I also carry a pump.

Different people have different ideas, of course, and some like to travel lighter than others. We've put our suggestions for a touring toolkits in a special section of our webshop.


  1. What do you recommend carrying on an ordinary ride when you shop? I have an airpump, but no pressure gauge, and a cell phone. Any other ideas about what to carry?

  2. As I explained above, this is what I carry "Unless I'm just riding into town and back". It's very rare that I have a problem with my bike on very short journeys. If that happens then I just walk home.

  3. With tire removal and fitting it back being such an arduous process for a Dutch bike, I think it would take me all day to fix a flat on my Opa. Im glad there are some shops on my way to work (in town). Thanks for the article.


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