A bicycle must make a tradeoff among reliability, versatility, light weight -- pick any two, or some compromise among the three. Outside urban areas dense with bicycle repair services, any bicyclist will have to perform some common on-road repairs, or ride with a companion who can perform them, or call for a ride now and then. Even the simplest, most rugged beach cruiser bicycle can't offer the trouble-free service you would expect of a lawnmower, car or refrigerator. Still, the mechanical simplicity of the bicycle and the resulting ease of common repairs, performed with lightweight tools, allow bicycling to be a practical travel mode.
Other articles on this site give detailed instruction on repair tasks. This article includes links to those articles, and describes the tools needed to perform common on-road repairs. There is also good information in books and online.
There are certain basic procedures which any bicyclist ought to know:
What tools should you carry with you, to get you home or to a bicycle shop.?
Stories abound of bicyclists who go on tour lugging 10 or 15 pounds of tools, ready to fix almost anything on their bicycles.
At the other extreme, a road racer carries no tools. The team mechanic follows in the team car, ready to supply a replacement wheel or entire bicycle as needed.
A reasonable toolkit for a more typical bicyclist weighs a pound or two and covers the most common on-road repair needs. The weight can be even less on a modern bicycle which uses exclusively Allen-wrench fittings. On-road tools fit into a small bag which straps to the underside of the saddle, or which can be carried in a pannier or touring bag.
A small tool kit allows a bicyclist to get rolling again almost every time something goes wrong. You might carry some tools which you don't need for your own bicycle, to lend a helping hand to other bicyclists who are stranded. That has been the start of many a beautful friendship!
Here's my preferred tool list:
Park universal crank puller
Park folding chain tool
Park Master Link Pliers
Especially if you are traveling in rural areas, you do well to carry a few additional supplies:
Stein Mini Cassette Lockring tool
If your bicycle has a freewheel, you could carry a freewheel extractor, but then you will have to borrow the use of a vise or large adjustable wrench unless you are lucky enough to find the on-road tool which lets you use the handlebar stem. As I recall, this tool was made only to fit SunTour freewheel extractors.
Freewheel extractor holder with freewheel extractor
Necessity is the mother of invention. More articles in this series are in the works. Two are complete as of now:
On-Road Wheel Repairs -- to get you rolling again if your bicycle has suffered a proken spoke or bent wheel.
Emergency Frame Repairs -- If your bicycle has a steel frame and fork, an emergency repair is possible in a metalworking shop anywhere in the world, and sometimes even out on the road.
Last Updated: by John Allen