Essential Tools for Bike Touring

Every cyclist should carry a few tools but you don’t need the whole workshop.

A tool kit ready to fix absolutely everything is also one that will weigh down your bags and in our experience you’re unlikely to need most of it. Unless you’re going on a lengthy expedition to the earth’s truly remote places, you can get by with just a few key items that will let you fix the problem or allow you to limp along to the next bike repair shop.

Our essential tool list includes:

patchkitPatch kit and tire levers – The one repair you should always be ready for is a flat tire. Even with robust touring tires like Schwalbe’s Marathon XR model, flats still happen. With the right tools, it’s a quick and easy repair job but without them you could end up walking a long distance or hitching a ride. So, make sure you always have a patch kit, tire levers and a good pump on board. Make sure you know how to take your tire off and repair the hole before you get a flat!

Good pump – Try several out before you buy. Find one that is comfortable to hold even when you are putting a lot of pressure on it and one that puts a good amount of air into the tire. Cheaper pumps will be difficult to keep a tight grip on and the smaller ones put so little air into the tire with each stroke that you’ll die of a heart attack before you get enough pressure in the tire to keep rolling. We like the Topeak Mountain Morph pump.

spokewrenchSpoke wrench – You could carry extra spokes and a tool like the one made by JA Stein but if a bike shop is down the road all you’ll need is a spoke wrench that will let you readjust the spokes on either side of the broken one to true the wheel enough to continue pedalling. If the wheel is really wobbling, you may need to disconnect your brake cable to give it more room to move. Just go slow and you’ll get there.

A multi-tool or Allen keys and small screw drivers – We routinely find things like our racks and mudguards get jiggled loose. Throw in two or three extra screws to fit the various connecting parts since you may have trouble finding the right one on the road.

Small bottle of lube – You don’t need to carry a replacement chain around with you. It’s fairly unlikely to break and if it does you can connect the remaining links until you get to a shop. If you want to be prepared for this, choose a multi-tool with a chain-breaker over the individual allen keys screw drivers mentioned earlier. More important where the chain is concerned is a rag and a small bottle of lube, especially if you’re going to be riding over dirt roads or in the rain. A dirty chain is not the end of the world but grinds away as you pedal and if nothing else it’s very annoying to listen to! A quick clean with a rag and a new coating of lube helps immensely.

Zip ties and Duct tape – Throw in a few zip ties and a small amount of duct tape (we wrap a bit around a business card) for emergency repairs when you just need to hold something together. This might be on your bike or even if your shoes or bags develop a hole.

In addition to this bare basics tool kit, always give your bicycle a good check-up before you hit the road. Put on a new chain and brake pads. Check for wear on the chain rings, brake cables, rims and tires. Grease and lube everything. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


  1. Eric Hendrickson
    26th September 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    I carry my extra spokes inside my handle bars in a drinking straw for protection, I find three fit in a straw then I tap the end, no noise and they don’t move around. Also just returned from a rough trip where I broke the front rack and managed to put it back together with zip ties which worked for eight days of off road travel. I have always carried a few but without reason now I know why I carry them. Off road travel is tough on equipment.

  2. Jack W
    2nd June 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    I need to replace 2 spokes on my cannondale road bike, but need a special tool (wrench) to remove the chain hub to get the broken spoke heads out. The wrench would have four small posts that would fit into four small holes for the removal of the chain sprocket. Jack

  3. Jane
    17th October 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    No one ever mentions taking a pedal wrench with them on tour. But, surely you need one if you’re dismantling your bike and flying it somewhere?


    • friedel
      20th October 2012 at 7:24 pm #

      We just visit a local bike shop the day before our flight to get the pedals loosened, or taken off altogether if we are packing the bikes up that day.

    • Reed
      1st July 2013 at 8:44 pm #

      Buy pedals that will accept allen keys to tighten from the arm side and there is never a need for a big old pedal wrench!

  4. Tony
    14th June 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    I use my cone spanners to take off pedals.They are multi sized Saves on weight.

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