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Bike Touring Repair Kit: 4 Things You Should Carry (but probably don’t)

October 27th, 2010 18 comments


There are all kinds of little repair jobs you might need to do on a bike tour, and most people carry a tool kit for those moments when things don’t quite go to plan.

Spare inner tubes, zip ties, brake cables and a multi-tool are some of the more common things you might carry. All are useful, but here are 4 of our favourite repair items that many people don’t think to pack:

STRING – We always have 10-20 meters of strong string with us. It weighs almost nothing, but you just never know when it will come in handy. Use it to secure extra luggage to your bicycle, hang food away from animals in a campground or draw water from a well by tying the string around your water bottle (often wells in developing countries don’t have buckets and string supplied).

We’ve even heard of people who have used parachute cord to fix broken luggage racks by tightly winding string around the broken area and holding it in place with super glue. If you really want to go dual-purpose on this, dental floss makes a great string substitute in many situations.

SEWING KIT – From your panniers to your bike shorts, there’s potential for a hole in just about everything you’re carrying. That means you need a good needle, strong thread and a compact seam ripper. Next time your socks wear out or your sleeping bag splits at the seams, you’ll be able to fix the problem quickly and easily.

If you’re going on a long trip, add extra zipper sliders to fit your tent and jackets because prolonged exposure to dirt and repeated use will wear them out after a year or so (depending on the conditions and the quality of your gear). There’s nothing worse than climbing into your tent in the woods, only to have the zipper split and let all the mosquitos in!

HOSE CLAMPS - The simple hose clamp is normally used by auto mechanics and plumbers, but it’s also pretty useful on a bike tour. It’s cheap to buy, yet strong enough that you can use it to reinforce a cracked bicycle frame, secure luggage racks (if you lose a bolt, for example) or hold a slipping seatpost in place (great if you’re going over a lot of cobblestones and your saddle keeps going down!).

A really clever idea is to use a few hose clamps to hold your bottle cages in place. That way, you always have a spare hose clamp to hand and you eliminate the bolts that normally hold the bottle cage in place, meaning one less set of bolts that can come loose and disappear on bumpy roads.

EXTRA BOLTS – Bike touring jostles a lot of things loose, including the bolts and screws that hold things like racks, mudguards, bottle cages and lights to the frame. Before you leave, get a good selection of spares. Don’t forget about the screws in the cleats on your SPD shoes! Once you’re underway, try to check the various screws and bolts on your bike every few weeks and tighten them up.

You can help keep bolts and screws in place by dipping them in a bit of linseed oil (uncooked is best) or Loctite compound, before you put them in place. And if you are enjoying bike touring so much that you forget to check those screws every so often, don’t worry. You now have plenty of spares in your panniers.

Photo Credits: JanneM, M.A.X., Ben Eriksen, JFrancis

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17 Responses to “Bike Touring Repair Kit: 4 Things You Should Carry (but probably don’t)”

  1. erika! says:

    Yeah us, we have them all…including the hose clamps, of which we are carrying by default. They came with my used panniers. We didn’t know what they were for so took them along, just in case.

    Great tips for usage. Thanks for sharing.

    We would also suggest that bungee cords are indispensable. We use them to tie down our rack packs and extra bags, snacks or anything that needs to be easily accessible during the day…like a jacket or tights. We’ve also used them for a laundry line. Twirling two together eliminates carrying pegs. The clothes can be tucked between the two lines on windy days. They are also great for hanging food and other things high off the ground out of reach of animals. They are also good to bind your panniers together for bus and train travelling. Most airlines will not allow them outside of luggage.

    Your site is well organized and very helpful. Thanks for sharing. Keep up the good work.

    ride on,e!

  2. Arpad says:

    Don’t forget the plastic ties! They are very useful in a lot of situation! :)

    You have a really great site with tons of useful information for cycle tourists! ;) Thx!

  3. Hyung-il says:

    Yes, zip ties are essential! And a small piece of magnet to repair your bike computer.

    • friedel says:

      Totally agree on the zipties! I figured everyone carries them, so I didn’t mention them specifically… but yes, we carry them too!

    • Saviour Sam Agius says:

      I even managed to fix my rack with two ties when a bolt went missing (the bottom one!). I hadn’t thought of having extra bolts for the rack and I only had the ties to make do. I managed to ride about 250km with such a setup until I got hold of a few bolts.

  4. My NBT2 (next best thing) was invaluable when I had a wheel which kept breaking spokes. It’s so much smaller and lighter than carrying a chain whip to take the cassette off. The only place in the UK I’ve found them to buy is Spa Cycles.

    http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b0s72p595

  5. I guess chocolate bolts are handy as emergency rations too!

  6. Frank says:

    I also take a small tube of super glue with me. It weights next to nothing. I used it to repair my panniers and my shoes.

    • friedel says:

      Frank, how do you use it to repair your panniers? Just curious! With the shoes, I imagine you’re gluing the soles back together?

      • Frank says:

        It was a Vaude Discover Pannier and the seam started to let go. I could have used needle and thread, but that would have effected the waterproofing and glueing that thin material was much easier then sewing. And for the shoe, no it wasn’t the sole. The thread of a stitch broke and I didn’t have a good needle with me. I’m still wearing these shoes and the glue still holds.

  7. ben says:

    a small block of polymorph is essential for diy repairs

    http://www.maplin.co.uk/media/pdfs/N14AT.pdf

  8. Lorenzo says:

    Great advices,
    Oddly enough I find I carry the items you mentioned in the post, just I had never thought (or came to the situation I should have thought) of uses for the clamp hose other than securing a bottlecage.
    So thanks!
    But what about zip ties? I’ve heard they add grip if used on the tyres ( of disc-braking bikes) but how do you use them otherwise?
    You guys seem all to be so expert I feel a little silly writing here :)

    • friedel says:

      Zip ties… you just never know when they’ll come in handy!

      We have used them to put a bit of reinforcement around a crack in Andrew’s bike frame. Also to hold on bike lights and bike computers that weren’t staying on the bike’s handlebars. Andrew lost a screw out of his rack the other day, so the zip tie held it in place.

  9. Peter K says:

    Hose clamps are essential. I cracked the frame near my seat post and had quite a job finding clamps before I could finally brace it. So useful for keeping the rig going!

    I also find dental floss makes brilliant thread for sewing. Much stronger than cotton – useful for bag or clothes repairs. Tent sealant can then be applied to waterproof it.

  10. Taylor Winfield says:

    After losing a screw or two out of SPD cleats, I use red Loctite on ‘em now. Where you have a rack fastening screw that threads into a hole on a chain stay or seat stay and you aren’t using a jam nut on the other side, red Loctite is cheap insurance there, too.

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