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Travel tools and routine maintenance mean safer cycling

This is an excerpt from Smart Cycling by League of American Bicyclists.

Tools for the Road

Deciding what to bring with you on your bike ride can mean the difference between riding and walking. Knowing how to use your tools is just as important. If you don't know how to use a tool, take the time to learn. Most bike repairs are simple to do. Except the pump, which usually mounts to your frame, most tools you need will fit into a seat pack under your saddle. Some of the tools that you may want to carry with you on your rides include the following (see also figure 6.2):


  • Pump: A pump is a must because there is always the possibility that you will get a flat. The use of carbon dioxide (CO2) cartridges has also become popular in place of pumps. If you use CO2 instead of a pump, bring at least one spare cartridge. If a quick change is the most important aspect of your planning, carry a pump just in case. Pumps can mount to the bicycle frame or can be carried in a pack, on a bike rack, or even in a jersey pocket.
  • Patch kit and tire levers: Always carry a patch kit and tire levers. If you plan for one flat, you will probably get two. You should feel comfortable patching a tube before going out for a ride so that you can avoid having to learn this skill in the dark or in the rain.
  • Spare tube: To save time, it is a good idea to always carry a spare tube. In the event of a flat, it is quicker to replace the punctured tube with a spare and patch the damaged tube at home later, when you will have the time to be sure that the patch is perfect.
  • Multitool (including chain tool): Folding multitools include a wide range of critical tools, such as Allen wrenches, screwdrivers, and chain tools. Multitools are good to have in case of emergencies, such as a chain break. Other bike tools that are part of some multitools include a spoke wrench, an 8 mm wrench, screwdrivers, and tire levers. Other multitools have additional useful tools, such as knives, corkscrews, and bottle openers.
  • A dollar bill or energy bar wrapper: These can be used to cover holes in tires and seal holes in shoes or seats.

Routine Maintenance

To keep your bike working flawlessly, it is important to keep up with routine maintenance tasks. These items range from simply cleaning your chain and rims to more complicated and time-consuming tasks such as repacking your hubs and headset. The following is a schedule of maintenance intervals to help you keep your bike in top working order. The weekly tasks are easily done by you.


  • Check tire pressure.
  • Wipe down and lube chain.


  • Check rim brake pads for wear (should be showing at least one-eighth inch for the entire pad). The more brake pad on your rim, the more quickly you stop.
  • Clean rims of your tires.
  • Inspect tires for wear.
  • Inspect frame for cracks.
  • Check to make sure your wheels are true (that the wheels are not wobbling). This is done by standing above your bike, holding a wheel in the air, and spinning it. Look straight down at the tire as it spins and ensure it is spinning without wobbling. If it is wobbling, take it to a mechanic to have it trued—this is a tricky procedure.
  • Inspect hubs, checking for looseness. Do this by moving the wheel side to side and making sure there is no play in the wheel.
  • Ensure bolts and clamps are tight:
    • Crank bolts
    • Stem bolts
    • Seat post clamp
    • Derailleur fixing bolts
    • Shifter and brake lever fixing bolts
    • Water bottle cage bolts

Every 6 Months

  • Replace brake pads, if worn.
  • Check disc brake pads for wear.


  • Have a mechanic check cables and housing and replace if worn or frayed:
    • Brake cables and housing
    • Derailleur cables and housing

Every 18 Months

  • Have a mechanic check your chain and cassette; replace if worn.
  • Have a mechanic check your bottom bracket, headset, and internal geared hubs for wear.
More Excerpts From Smart Cycling


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