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It’s always a smart idea to be prepared when you’re going on a mountain bike ride, especially for some of the most common issues that occur while biking. Being able to fix a basic bike issue yourself will help ensure you’re not walking your bike out of the woods. Of course, anything can happen while you’re biking and you can’t be prepared for every bike problem that might arise. At the very least, you should carry the following must-have items in your pack or on your bike.
Bike Multi-Tool – There are dozens of different multi-tools on the market. Most have at least three different sizes of hex keys, or Allen keys/wrenches, but we prefer a multi-tool that includes a chain break feature. Many of the basic multi-tools don’t have this built in, but you can look for one that does. This will be essential if you break your chain and need to fix it mid-ride. The chain break tool removes the pin in the broken chain link so you can install a new one (see Chain Link below).
The Allen wrenches can be used for a multitude of different purposes. For instance, you can use them to tighten the stem that holds your bars, adjust the placement of your shifters or brakes, remove or attach a rear tire, adjust your brake calipers, tighten loose pivot points, etc. Basically, the Allen wrenches on the multi-tool can be used to fix or adjust almost all of the components on your bike.
Spare Tube – The most common issue you’ll likely experience while biking is a flat tire. You should carry a spare tube that fits your tire (26”, 27.5”, 29”, fat tire, etc.). If you’re in a pinch, you can sometimes use a different size tube from a friend, we’ve seen it work, but it’s best to have one that fits your tire specifically. If you’re riding a tubeless tire and have an issue where the milk won’t reseal the tire, you can usually put a tube in there to at least ride back to your car. Even if you don’t get a flat yourself, your friend might or you might come across someone on the trail that needs it. The wonderful thing about mountain biking is that most riders are willing to help you out if you’re having an issue on the trail. We have both given out and received tubes mid-ride, and we’re thankful for the folks who were generous to lend a spare.
Pump/CO2 – Your spare tube will be useless if you don’t have a way to pump it up. You’ll need to carry a hand pump or C02 cartridges to fill up your tire. A hand pump is good because you can use it multiple times. It is a little bit slower than CO2 but can be used again and again. C02 is convenient because it is very quick, but it’s typically a one-shot deal. If you (or someone in your group) get multiple flats on the same ride, you may be out of luck unless you have multiple C02 cartridges available. In addition to just having these tools, it’s essential that you know how to use them before you’re stuck on the side of a trail. Get a tutorial from a local shop or a friend so you’re prepared in advance.
Tire Levers – You’ll need to be able to unseat your tire and reseat it in order to change your tube. The tire levers (two levers, which come in a pair) will allow you to do that. They’re designed to get under the bead of the tire and to hook onto the spokes, allowing you to remove and insert the new tube and make the repair.
Quick Link – Many people don’t bother to carry a replacement chain link, or quick link, but for something that’s smaller than the size of a quarter, it’s silly not to carry one. You do need a quick link that’s specifically made for your drive chain, so don’t think that because your friend has one that you’re all set, unless they have the exact same drive chain. At some point, it is likely that you will break your chain so carrying a multi-tool with a chain break and a spare chain link will get you back and moving in just a few minutes.
You could carry all sorts of other tools and spare parts, but these are the essential ones that should go with you on every bike ride (unless you don’t mind walking out in case of an issue). Likewise, knowing how to use all of these tools and parts is fundamental too. In addition to tools and spare parts, there are other things that you should bring on a bike ride such as water and nutrition. Also, don’t forget to replace whatever you used so you have it for your next ride too. There’s nothing more frustrating than thinking you have a spare tube in your backpack, only to remember that you used it last month and never replaced it. Remember, being prepared makes for a better biking experience!