Seven Saddlebag Essentials
Whether saddlebags are cool or not is something that'll probably be debated ad infinitum, but it's impossible to deny that they are are super useful. For example they free up your jersey pockets for more interesting stuff (like food) and mean that everything you need is attached to your bike when you want to ride. No more scrabbling around for those tyre levers that you absolutely left in that drawer but just aren't there any more. With that in mind, here's our list of the most useful things to have in a saddlebag. Oh, and if you end up in the middle of nowhere without the right tools to fix what's just happened to your bike then it's your fault. Unless you've snapped the frame or something, then we'll let you off.
Unless you’re running tubeless tyres (and maybe even if you are running tubeless as it’s never bad to have a plan B) you’ll need an inner tube in your saddlebag. You should make sure it’s solid one, too, not one of the super light racing tubes as you might have to ride home on a damaged tyre and the last thing you want is another puncture.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you’re running deep section rims you need to make sure that your tube has a long enough valve that you’ll actually be able to inflate it – or at least carry a valve extender as well.
Oh, and don’t leave your tube in the saddlebag for months on end without checking it. Give it a once over periodically to make sure that it’s still in working order. You don’t want to get caught out as your spare tube has degraded after getting knocked around in your saddlebag for 12 months.
Puncture repair kit
You can’t carry an infinite number of spare tubes, that’s just a fact of life. So if you have one spare tube and no backup, what happens when you have a really unlucky day and get your second puncture of the ride? A long walk, that’s what, with only your shame and lack of forsight to keep you company.
Carrying a puncture repair kit is just smart. A full one will give you the ability to fix multiple punctures which should have you covered on even the most nightmarish ride. All you really need is the patches, vulcanising solution and some kind of sandpaper to roughen the surface of the tube. You can leave the plastic case at home (or recycle it).
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: unless you have a very strong grip, tyre levers are a very useful. Some tyres can be removed and re-mounted with no trouble at all, but others take time, sweat and swearing and those are the last type you want to get caught with on the roadside with nothing to hand. Make sure your tyre levers are well made, not too bendy and long enough that you can get a decent amount of leverage with them.
This one is optional, but an inflator with a cartridge is a nice, easy way to sort out a puncture quickly and without 250 pumps from a mini pump. Again, it’s always smart to carry a pump as well, since inflator cartridges are single use and two punctures would leave you high and dry if you only have one cartridge with you.
If you’re not familiar with the idea of a tyre boot, it’s basically something that you can put inside the tyre – between the tyre and inner tube – to temporarily seal any tears in the surface if you need to ride home. It adds protection and stops you puncturing the moment you roll over something that works its way into that hole.
Plenty of things can act as a tyre boot – business cards, train tickets, banks notes, even crisp packets – basically anything that’s tough enough to withstand stones, small thorns or whatever other rubbish you might find in the road on your way home. Some brands do make purpose-built tyre boots, and they generally have a sticky side to keep them in place under the tyre which is a useful extra.
All bike riders are inveterate faffers, and how are you going to make those 24 super important mid-ride adjustments every outing if you don't have your multitool with you? Seriously though, a multitool is a very important bit of kit as it means you can adjust the bike should something untoward happen (seatpost or bars slip, for example) when you're out. But make sure that it has all the tools you need. If your stem bolts are a T5 torx and you don't have one, then you're pretty much stuffed.
Also, if your tool has a chain breaker or similar then make sure you practise with it a bit before you need it in anger. The side of the road in thrashing rain isn't the time or place to learn how to use something new...
Chain quick link
If your chain snaps, it doesn't have to be game over. A combination of a chain tool and a quikc link should be able to get you going again - or a least enable you to limp home to fight another day.