Four items to keep in your bike commuting bag

You like your bike ride to work. It fires up your heart, lungs and legs before you spend 8 hours sitting in desk chair getting soft. You lessen your impact on the environment. You spend a few more minutes outdoors, every day. It makes you smile.

One thing can wipe that smile off your face: A “mechanical” four or five miles from home or the office, which can turn your leisurely 20-minute ride into a frustrating one-hour walk pushing a broken bike.

Four pieces of gear can keep you rolling home through most basic problems:

1. The “Flat Kit”:

  • A small pump like Blackburn’s Air Stik Long Neck, which packs enough power to inflate any road or mountain bike tire.
  • An extra inner tube
  • A pair of tire levers
  • A patch kit

If you’re not already carrying this stuff when you ride, you’re setting yourself up for a big hitch in your commute someday. Carrying an extra tube, while a little heavy and bulky, is way faster than trying to find a tiny hole in your tube and patch it — especially on the side of a busy street, in the rain. But a patch kit is good to have along in case you’re unlucky enough to get two flats in one trip.

2. An emergency tire boot
This little wonder, made by Park Tool, is a vinyl membrane with fiber weave reinforcement backed with a strong adhesive, and can save the day when a piece of glass or a stout mesquite thorn slices all the way through your tire. It can be difficult to put your faith in something like this at first, but I once used a boot to hold together a mountain bike tire through a rocky 7-mile descent.

3. A multi-tool
Screws and bolts can unscrew over time, and you can be halfway home from the office before you notice your stem has worked itself completely loose and you can’t steer, or your seatpost clamp bolt has unscrewed to the point that your seat is pointing uncomfortably up or down. A good multi-tool like the Crank Brothers m17, including all sizes of Allen wrenches, both kinds of screwdrivers, a spoke wrench and a chain tool, can get you out of most minor mechanical jams, or even more complicated problems — like a smashed derailleur that necessitates shortening your chain and jury-rigging your bike into a single-speed for those last few miles.

4. Zip ties and/or copper wire
Zip ties and copper wire can be the duct tape of bicycle repair if you know what you’re doing — you might feel you can fix almost anything with them. For most of us, though, they’re definitely emergency use only — to temporarily fix a broken seatpost clamp bolt or fender attachment bolt, or tighten a loose jockey wheel.

A small bag containing these items can keep you independent and intrepid as a bike commuter, and even better, make you a hero to the occasional stranded fellow cyclist.