Biking tools!

What do you pack on the trail? Obviously, not your whole garage. Also obvious: it's not smart to go "bare" if you're riding a dozen miles away from help.

Your needs may differ. But here's what I pack every time. And yes, I've still had to hike out. But it's always been an unexpected equipment failure -- glue that had gelled, an inflator with a rusted skewer. I never assume that someone will come along with what I need.

Under-seat pack. Tools and emergency gear.
Under-seat pack. Tools and emergency gear.
I have this stuff -- as a minimum -- for every bike, on every ride.
I have this stuff -- as a minimum -- for every bike, on every ride.
A. Multi-tool. Includes hex wrenches, phillips and standard screwdrivers, brake wrenches, spoke wrenches, tire levers, and chain tool. This one also has an open-ended wrench for the bolts on my kid's wheels.
B. Press-on patch kit. Quickie patches for tiny punctures.
C. Spare tube.
D. Patches. Medium and big glue-on patches for big flats.
E. Sandpaper. To buff the tube before patching.
F. Glue. Fresh and unopened.
G. Cleat screw. Just in case one falls out.
H. Quick link. For chain repairs without loss of length.
I.  Pump. Fits schraeder and presta valves.
You can do a surprising amount of bike maintenance and repair with just the multi-tool. You can true the rims, tune the brakes, adjust the derailleurs, move and replace gear, repair flats, and fix the chain. If you're not heavy into bike repair, this (plus an odd wrench or two from the garage) could serve as your entire bike repair kit.

Including the pump, multi-tool, repair kit and spare tube, your on-the-bike kit will be around $50.

My Car Toolkit
I always have a bike-repair toolkit in my car.
I always have a bike-repair toolkit in my car.
A. Crescent wrench
B. Phillips and standard screwdrivers
C. Needle-nose pliers
E. Small parts (brake nuts, boots, cable caps...)
F. Crank extractor
G. High pressure (shock) pump
H. Multi-tool
I.  Cassette lockring tool
J.  Headset wrenches
K. Cone wrenches
L.  Spoke wrenches
M. Tire pressure gauge
N. Tire levers
O. Chain whip
P.  Pedal wrench
Q. Bottom bracket tool
R.  Cable cutter
A. Crescent wrench. Used to hold the outer nut on head sets, wheel hubs, etc, so you only need one each of cone wrench, headset wrench sizes.
B. Phillips and standard screwdrivers. For setting the limits on the derailleur.
C. Needle-nose pliers. Crimp and uncrimp cable caps, grab things in tight places.
D. Small parts. Extras of brake nuts and spacers, cable boots, cable caps, chain quick-links, spoke nipples, shoe cleats and bolts...
F. Crank extractor. Used to pull the crank-arm off the bottom bracket, for both male- and female-threaded spindles.
G. High pressure (shock) pump. Add or remove stiffness from air shocks.
H. Multi-tool.  Mighty useful. Includes hex wrenches that fit everything on your bike, phillips and standard screwdrivers, brake wrenches to fit the nuts that hold brake pads, spoke wrenches for truing, tire levers for changing tires, and a chain tool for fixing broken chains. (I have another multi-tool in the underseat pack of the bike. I leave it there, so it won't be lying on the garage workbench when I'm out in the woods!)
I.  Cassette lockring tool. Specific to your cogs. This is a Shimano-compatible cassette tool. In combination with the chain whip, removes the lockring that holds the cogs onto your rear wheel, so you can replace spokes or damaged cogs.
J.  Headset wrenches. Used to take a threaded headset apart to service the bearings. Also used to turn the bottom bracket tool.
K. Cone wrenches. For taking the axle of your wheel apart to adjust or service the bearings in the hub.
L.  Spoke wrenches. Handy and quick, these wrenches tighten or loosen spokes easily. Makes wheel truing a breeze.
M. Tire pressure gauge. Replaces the "squeeze" test in deciding when the tire pressure is right for the ride you've planned.
N. Tire levers. Freestanding smooth levers get those tight tires off the rim without (much) cursing.
O. Chain whip. Restrains the cogs on the rear wheel while you undo the lockring, using the lockring tool.
P.  Pedal wrench. Thin but long and beefy wrench takes frozen-on pedals off the crank.
Q. Bottom bracket tool. Specific to your bracket type. This one fits the teeth inside a Shimano cartridge-type bottom bracket. Turned with a headset wrench.
R.  Cable cutter. Makes quick clean slices through cables and cable housing.

You can spend as much as you like on bike tools. Shop around for the best prices. Expect to spend $125-200 for a reasonably full set of tools. The toolbox, the supplies box (below), and the workstand go with us anytime we're biking more than an hour or two away from home. We do some serious work in motel rooms.

In the Cleaning and Supply Box

Yes, believe it or not, all the supplies you see below go with me on those weekends in Moab or St. George. You'd be surprised how often it saves the day. (Often, it saves the day for the unprepared biker who's with me.)

On a weekend biking trip, I have supplies for my buddies or my kids as well.
On a weekend biking trip, I have supplies for my buddies or my kids as well.
A. Cantilever brake pads. These pads attach by clamping the post. (I carry a full set of 4 brake pads for every bike that goes with me. I have kids.) 
B. V-brake pads. Threaded-stem pads for V-brakes.
C. Cartridge pads. For linear-pull rim brakes.
D. Disc brake pads. These are harder to find "in the wild."
E. Presta valve tubes. For high-performance tires. This is in addition to the extra tubes in the underseat packs.
F. Schraeder valve tubes. For the kids bikes.
G. Tires. If you cut a big slash in the tire, it's nice to have a spiffy new one for the next ride.
A. Degreaser. To clean chain and pulleys.
B and C. Wax chain lube.
Doesn't pick up dirt.
D. Pressurized dry lube. Blow dirt out of the cable housings, lube derailleur mechanism and levers.
E. Light oil. For the kids' chains, because they leave their bikes in the rain.
F. Heavy oil. Chain lube for creek-dipping or roads.
G. Bearing grease. For threaded joints that will be taken apart or adjusted routinely.
H. Sunscreen.
Backup. Sometimes I forget to pack sunscreen with my personal gear.
I. Chain cleaner.
There's nothing like a clean chain.
J. Cleaning brush. Scrub the gunk off the pulleys so they track correctly.
More stuff that's always in my car...
More stuff that's always in my car...
And I fit all this in an oversized tackle box.
And I fit all this in an oversized tackle box.
A. Cable ties. Very useful for securing cable housing, speedometer cable, etc.
B. Dog leash.
C. Swap-out pedals.
For alternative terrain.
D. Light system.
In case we decide to take a moonlight cruise, headlight and taillight.
E. Extra patches and glue.
To replace what you've used from your on-bike kit.
F. Electrical tape and duct tape.
Bind down errant cables, tape a stick to a bent cable housing. Lots of uses.
G. Rim tape.
When the rim tape is old and the spoke holes are cutting your tubes, new rim tape fixes it.
H. Helmet mirror. Suppose -- heaven forbid -- I have to make a long trip on  pavement.
I. Derailleur hanger.
You WILL bend your derailleur hanger sometime.
J. Chain links. For chain repair.
K. Loctite. For bolts that should stay put -- chainring bolts, crank bolt, disc brake mounting bolts.
L. Spokes.
Take an extra spoke or two in YOUR size.
Repair stand

A repair stand sounds expensive, but is well worth the money. Once you've tuned your derailleurs and brakes on a repair stand, you'll wonder how you ever worked on a bike without one. Even for minor repairs, it gets your bike up away from the snow and mud, at a comfortable height for working.

The repair stand goes with us on trips. It's soooo nice to ride a well-tuned bike on the second and third day at Moab.

A repair stand gets your bike out of the snow while you work on it next to your car.
A repair stand gets your bike out of the snow while you work on it next to your car.
The Park repair stand above has an adjustable, rotating clamp that holds any part of the bike while you move it higher or lower, tilt it forward or back. You can even get a rim truing mechanism for it. 

Repair stands run from $50 (for something that simply props your bike up) to $250 for a professional model.

A hitch rack or trunk rack can do a lot of the same work as a cheap repair stand. Just let the bike dangle from the rack while you turn the crank and click the gears.

Wheel Truing stand
Wheel Truing stand
Truing stand

A full-blown truing stand is great for perfecting your wheel's performance. It's especially useful if you like close tolerances on your rim brakes, but spend your biking day dropping off ledges and logs. I don't take a truing stand along on bike trips. It sits in my garage for those times when I need to work on a kids bike.

Frankly, the typical biker doesn't ride hard enough, or often enough, to warrant the expense of a formal truing stand. Just have the rims trued, along with your general tuneup, at the bike shop.

For whipping a rim into true during a bike trip, we usually just do a quick'n dirty spoke adjustment with the wheel on the bike, using the brake pads as a guide to direction and degree of rim wobble.