Five essential tools and spares for cyclists

Mechanicals can happen at any time, so it’s important to always be prepared with the must-have cycling tools

Clock16:20, Monday 25th September 2023

There’s only one thing worse than an unwanted mechanical issue while out on a ride: realising you don’t have the correct tools or accessories to fix it. Cue plenty of frustration and choice words as you're left stranded on the side of the road.

Okay, you probably won’t be stranded. It's possible to bodge a repair out on the road, and you can always call upon family or friends to launch a rescue mission.

But things are much easier if you’re prepared by carrying all of the necessary accessories ready for any mechanical mishaps. Here are five essential tools and spares that every cyclist should carry on their rides.

Read more: A stick for a seatstay - Ashton Lambie's brilliant hack

Inner tube

A puncture is the most common problem cyclists encounter. No matter what steps you take, they can sometimes be unavoidable.

While you can’t always prevent one, you can be prepared by carrying a spare inner tube. It’s quick and easy to replace a punctured inner tube on the side of the road, and you can be back powering along in no time.

Now, we know the tubeless fans amongst us will be scoffing at the humble inner tube, but they can also be really useful for a tubeless set-up too. While tubeless set-ups limit the risk of punctures, they don’t completely eradicate them and some larger punctures can’t be plugged, leaving the inner tube as the best solution.

Most cyclists will be familiar with the butyl type of inner tube, made from rubber, but there are now multiple options available.

Read more: Butyl vs latex vs TPU - what are the best inner tubes for cycling?

Tyre lever

To change an inner tube, you’ll need tyre levers - unless you have incredibly loose-fitting tyres and hands like Hulk Hogan. These are used to hinge a tyre off of the rim, and can be useful when trying to remount it.

While they’re fairly basic tools, tyre levers are constructed from different materials, and it’s worth investing in a high-quality set from a reliable brand like Park Tool.

We’d recommend a nylon over a metal option as they’re lighter and easier to carry, plus they’re less likely to damage the rim of a wheel.

Once a tyre has been removed and a new inner tube inserted, you’re not quite out of the woods just yet as the new tube will need inflating.

Read more: Complete guide to road bike tyres

Bicycle pump

Which leads us neatly onto the next essential tool: a bike pump.

At home you should have a track pump. These are larger pumps that provide quick shots of air, quickly inflating a tyre. You’ll struggle to fit one in your jersey pockets, though, which is why you’ll also need a mini pump.

Living up to their names, these are small and compact, fitting snugly into a jersey pocket or saddle bag - like the Topeak Roadie TT Mini, a pump GCN’s Alex Paton is a fan of. It also has a mount that can be attached to a bike.

Just make sure your pump is compatible with the valve type you’re using - for most road cyclists this is a Presta valve.

A multi-tool

Mechanicals can happen at any time and to any part of a bike - so you need to be prepared for any eventuality.

The jack-of-all-trades of the tool world, a multi-tool, as the name suggests, contains lots of mini tools in one compact package. Every multi-tool will comprise different tools, so pick yours wisely.

Any multi-tool needs to meet the demands of your bike and should contain hex/allen keys, from 2mm to 6mm, plus a flat-head or cross-head screwdriver. Some bikes now use torx screws, so a torx key may also be necessary.

While it’s possible to get a generic multi-tool, a cycling-specific one is likely to have some handy auditions like a chain tool (if it doesn’t, it’s worth having a separate chain tool just in case).

Puncture repair kit

We know, we’ve already covered tools and spares for punctures. But anything can happen when cycling, so it’s good to have a back-up to a back-up, in this case a puncture repair kit.

These feature little adhesive patches that can be applied to a tube over a puncture. Doubly useful, they can also be applied to a cut on the inside of a tyre. There are other products specifically designed for this purpose, but puncture repair kits are small and compact, making them the perfect choice.

Special mention: mobile phone

Virtually everyone now owns a mobile phone, so it’s unlikely you’ll need reminding to carry one - just in case, always carry a mobile phone with you on a ride.

They give that little extra peace of mind and security that, if anything does go wrong, you can easily contact someone to receive help - your family members may complain when you call asking to be rescued from a mechanical nightmare, but they’ll secretly be grateful you called.

That’s our go-to list of cycling tools and spares for any ride. Is there anything else you would have included on this list? Let us know in the comments.

For more tech news, features and pro bikes, head over to the Tech section on the GCN website, linked here.

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