Tools for the Road

August 29, 2009

I'm often asked by touring cyclists about tools. They are generally heavy, so you don't want to carry more than are necessary, but at the same time, not having the correct tools can leave you stranded. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when packing for the road. Terrain, climate, and bike setup can all influence your tool selection. To take some of the guess work out of the equation, here is my general roster of tools that keep me rolling with confidence.

For weekend tours (2-3 days), a basic tool kit will often suffice. This will handle almost any simple repair that will get you back up and running. Of course, make sure your bike is in good working order before you hit the road, and you'll likely bypass most major mechanical issues. Here are the basics:

Multitool (2-8mm allen keys, flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, chain tool, spoke wrench)

Frame or Mini Pump

Tube x 2

Tire Levers

For week long tours (4-8 days), I like to take the basic kit above and toss in a few items that will add some durability to small repairs:

Zip Ties

Duct Tape (can be wrapped around water bottles or bike frame for easy storage)
Chain Lube

Patch Kit

Adjustable Wrench

If you are hitting the road for an extended period of time (9+ day), you may benefit greatly by beefing up your tool kit, and mechanical know-how. At this point, you will not only be carrying a strong selection of tools, but you will also have a few key replacement parts as well:

Brake/Shift Cable

Spare Spokes or Kevlar Spoke

Spare Brake Pads

Replacement Cleats (if using clipless pedals)

Spare folding tire

Extra Bolts (M5 threading is most common)

Spare Chain Link/Pin

Cable Cutter

This is a pretty general outline. If you have any special needs regarding racks, trailers, and/or mountain bikes, be sure to address those as well (special tubes, torque wrenches, hose clamps, etc).


TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack, a part Adventure Cycling's Member Services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.


Lorena Corzatt October 3, 2015, 12:28 AM

Hi, guys! I am a reasonably savvy woman planning my first solo next March. The flat tire thing I have down. But a kevlar spoke? Where do I go to learn how to do those emergency roadside repairs? I can rebuild a VW engine but derailleurs mystify me.

Wally September 2, 2009, 2:17 PM

Josh, this is a nice overview of tools that may be carried on a ride. Thank you for providing it! I have a slightly different way of thinking about this subject that I'd like to share: bike rides I can walk home from, and bike rides I can't walk home from.

"Bike rides I can walk home from" represents rides that are generally taken with my home as the starting point, and are intended to return from that same day. For these rides, your suggestion of tools and parts to take for weekend tours is what I take. This includes the multitool, pump, one spare tube, two tire levers, a patch kit, and a couple of zip ties. I keep this set of tools and parts in a seat pack that never comes off of my bike.

"Bike rides I can't walk home from" represents any other ride I do - any ride that contains an overnight. For these trips, I take most of the things on your lists (multi-tool, pump, zip ties, chain lube, patch kit, spare brake and shift cable, a kevlar spoke, a spare folding tire, a little bottle filled with replacement bolts, a couple of sections of spare chain links and a chain tool (it is built in to the multi-tool that I have), folding tire, and a couple of extra tools and parts that fit odd-sized bolts on my bike.

I find that I'm more comfortable if I'm prepared for anything that I might come across on the road. I have used every piece of gear in this tool kit ... although not always on my own bike. I've given away many more spare tires that I've used, and I'm always glad when I have the part to get myself or someone else riding again.


p.s.: Speaking of being prepared, another piece of equipment I rarely leave home without is a small first aid kit. I bought one of the Adventure Medical cycling-specific kits. Once I changed out most of the bandages to extra-large sizes (to handle the extra-large abrasions that cyclists often get), this little first aid kit has been perfect for me.

Bill Abbey August 2, 2013, 3:50 PM

My touring blowout kit also contains a magnifying glass (small) tweezers and a forceps. We've all experienced repeat radial tire wire punctures and being unable to locate the cause or worse, unable to extract it without "digging" into the casing. Forceps are small, inexpensive and superlative for this particular application -and other uses as well. Tweezers for goat head thorns and because it is just a handy place to keep them.

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