Have you been watching the Tour de France? Are you seeing what those spandex-clad fellas are getting themselves into? Dozens of hungry looking guys with really bad tan lines tossing themselves onto the asphalt at 50 mph with naught but some stretchy fabric and garishly-colored styrofoam beanies to keep their insides inside. They accept the risks of pursuing their passion as we do. The main difference is that when we hit the trails (and sometimes when we hit the trails) we’re on our own. No support car, no camera crew, no guy dressed up like a devil capering on the sidelines.

So there you are: out on the dirt with a ration of hurt. It could be you or your bike, but as we all know when things heat up and the trails get rough, all sorts of carnage can occur. An errant stick kicks up into your spokes and you’ve suddenly got a very expensive single speed. You went into that turn a little too hot, lost grip on the front wheel, and performed a spontaneous verification of gravitational consistency (you fell your ass down). All the myriad things that can happen when you’re way out in the wilderness should get you thinking about a plan for getting yourself back out with a minimum of drama. So like the Boy Scouts say: “Be Prepared.”

PART 1: Fix the bike

Much of the following depends on your specific bike, so the more you know about how to work on your rig and the various parts, the better. I’ll simply list the tools, spares, and doodads I carry when I’m out on my 26″ hardtail.

A. 2 spare 26″ inner tubes (I never hesitate to carry this extra weight, since I’ve had more than one ride where I got two flats). If you’ve got tubeless I’d still recommend carrying a tube since, you know, sharp things are everywhere.

B. Patch kit. In addition to the two tubes I always carry a patch kit. The old school kind with glue, sandpaper and patches. Remember: if you don’t know how to use the patches they’re pretty useless on the side of the trail. Ask Sheldon Brown about it, you’ll get more info than you ever knew existed about tires, tubes, and wacky beards. If you’ve never heard of Sheldon Brown, well, shame on you.

C. Multi-tool. My latest favorite is a Topeak Hexus for a few reasons: it has a Torx head for disc rotor bolts, it has a chain breaker, since getting rad sometimes gets chains busted, and it also has a little curve of wire attached to the chain tool that blew my mind. The wire holds the two ends of a broken chain together so you can use the chain tool to rejoin the ends. Huzzah!

D. Tire levers. The Topeak Hexus is doubly sweet since it incorporates tire levers into the body of the tool.

E. Zip ties. Or if you’re from north of the border, Zap straps. That one always cracks me up, eh?

F. Master link. Chainpocalypse? No problemo, just use your chain tool to pop out the bad link and click it back together with this handy little fella. Remember to get the corresponding speed correct; 9 speed link for a 9 speed chain, 10 speed link if you’re one of those fancy rich dudes.

G. 2 hex bolts for clipless pedal cleats if you ride them. Seriously, you’ll never need these until you don’t have them. And they’re so small, just throw them in a dime bag tiny zip lock baggy for a rainy day.

H. Tire pump. There are tons on the market, find one you like and always have it. But remember this: no mini pump was designed for heavy use so don’t use it as your primary pump every time you’re heading out for a ride. I think it was BikeSnob who said that owning a quality floor pump is one of the things that separates actual cyclists from people who occasionally ride bikes. I concur.

The author’s best side. Photo credit to Brian McKinney

Part 2: Fix your broke ass

A. Bring plenty of water. A simple rinsing of the affected area is a great start to the healing process. Plus you’ll be hydrated and ready to get to the trailhead (or landing zone for the Medivac).

B. A clear head. One of the most valuable things I learned in survival training (yes, I actually did this) was “If you need to panic, get it out of the way, then get down to business.” Take stock of the situation and make the right decisions, don’t just spaz out because you’ve got a little boo boo.

C. Ride with a buddy. The probability of you and your bro breaking yourselves at the same time is menudo. He or she will be the one to ride out for help if your ride goes seriously pear shaped. Reward them with beer once you get out of the ICU. And not Bud either, the good stuff.

D. You’ll notice I’m not recommending you ride prepared with gauze, band-aids, antibacterial ointment and an air cast. Let’s face it; grams are important to those who want to tear it up. More important than a first aid kit in your Camelback, all you really need is common sense. Don’t get in over your head – let someone know where you’re riding and for how long, bring a friend, and don’t get (too) stupid.

None of these silly points of advice replace a sound mind and good judgement. It’s simply a mildly entertaining blog post with a few goofy internet pictures and some half baked ideas from a guy who barely avoids getting run down in traffic. Good luck out there and remember: chicks dig scars but you’ve got to stay alive to reap the benefits of their attention.

# Comments

  • topjimmy

    +1 for keeping bolts for the cleats. Learned this the hard way. Lost a bolt on each cleat and had to ride 2 miles back to the trailhead barefoot on eggbeaters. Now I keep two extra cleats with the bolts in my seatbag with the multitool.

    One other thing I always keep is a roll of electrical tape.

  • BikerPanda

    agreed with the cleats. somehow my cleat remained in the pedal and when I finally got int unlodged, i lost the bolts so I couldnt reattach the cleat to the shoe. I still dont know how that happened either.

  • limetownjack

    ha i really need to start carrying spare tubes. i’ve been riding 3-4 times a month for about two years (minus deployments and i ride anywhere from 10-40 miles) and i guess i’ve just been incredibly lucky but i’ve never once gotten a flat! it’s only a matter of time though…

  • GoldenGoose

    I’m a bit of a weight weenie too but…

    A well thought out 1st aid kit for one person weighs about 6 oz. Less than half a pound. Or in biker terms, a little less than the weight of your average XC innertube. They take up even less space. I started carrying one when getting into ultralight hiking and realized how incredibly small and light they are. Now it comes with me on bike trips too.

    Lots of people think that a 1st aid kit has to be full of expensive stuff that you buy in full size boxes from the pharmacy, as well. Wrong again. Toilet paper, a needle, 5 feet of paracord, sticks snagged from the trail, and 1 foot of duct tape will take care of a surprisingly large number of injuries.

    It seems weird, but having seeing someone hike out of the woods on his own with his leg sewn up with paracord and a broken wrist splinted up with duct tape, the first words I thought of were “That’s a Badass!” Something about cheating death on your own makes an interesting ride into something worthy of “Epic” status.

  • Luke_E

    GG, very excellent points. The badass factor is critical in situations like this. Thanks!

  • fleetwood

    Funny. I too recently learned about the inconvenience of losing a bolt to your cleats. And how hard it is to get your hands on some without buying a new set of cleats. I ended up bumming one from a buddy.

    @maddslacker, I’d vote that you go ahead and post. I’m sure your perspective will add something new to the discussion.

  • Fitch

    Great post, and I’m happy to say I ride with a lot of these. And hey, add me into the “spare hex bolt” list! I lost one of mine on a ride recently, too, and it was a real beast riding with one foot clipped in, and the other being a very firm plastic with no traction.

    Small roll of duct tape… yeah, good call there!

  • stevethousand

    On a group ride recently, I flatted and my tools had poked a hole in my spare as well. Nobody had patches, but someone had a roll of electrical tape. Turns out electrical tape works as a temporary tube patch! It got me 8 miles home, even though I had to pump up the tube twice.

  • bikecowboy

    I guess everybody knows the deal about using the pocketknife you should have with you to cut the tube in half where the hole is and tying a knot in it and air it back up. Will get you out of the woods if you happen to not have a patch kit with you.


    I’ll have to start carrying cleat bolts. Haven’t lost one “yet”. I also carry a Leatherman Skeletool CX. Weighs less than my multi tool, and the pliers have saved me and others. The knife on it is sharp enough to perform surgery. Besides it also has a bottle opener should I loose both peddles and have nothing to open my beer with.

  • trek7k

    I’ve lost a cleat bolt many times and while having an extra one would have been nice, the real problem is trying to unclip with just a single bolt in place. I’ve literally kept one foot clipped in for entire rides because there was no easy way to get the shoe off the pedal. Now I put blue Loctite on my cleat bolt threads and haven’t lost a bolt since.

    Funny article by the way. 🙂

  • mtbgreg1

    Nice photo 😀

    And I agree with everything you mentioned. One thing I would add is to ride with a spare derailleur hanger. I’ve destroyed so many of those….

    Great post!

  • CC4two7

    Something I’ve recently learned: ride with a spare collar bone…

  • Virginiaisforbikers

    I have two things for a first aid kit on my rides.
    1. I like to keep a cotton bandanna in my saddle bag, it keeps my tools and co2 from shuffling and making noise all day, and when you get a gnarly cut and realize your only wearing synthetic clothes and can’t stop the bleeding the bandanna’s really handy. Also you can make splints, slings, clean out scrapes. I’ve even used it to strap a saddle to a top tube after a friend broke his seatpost 12 or so miles from the trailhead.

    2. This ones obvious: Duct tape wrapped around a pencil. Perfect for any number of quick fixes, but it makes a great bandaid/or even is useful for temporarily stitching a wound. Lets face it if you cut yourself on the trail your probably not going to bother applying a scooby doo bandaid, but if that sucker is an X-treme wound you might appreciate the duct tape. Also could make backcountry splints or strap things back to your bike.

  • crazymethods

    Good read, as a beginner these are some good points. I recently experienced a chain breaking and that sucks!

  • 49637

    I carry:

    5+ zip ties (very useful for a lot of things including temporary fix for busted hub- attach to the cassette and spokes)
    29er tube and carbon fiber mini pump
    tire puncture repair kit
    presta core tool (yeah, I’ve had to clean a leaking one and tighten others)
    ~1′ of duct tape
    dollar bill size piece of tyvec (for sidewall patching)
    some paracord
    small knife
    extremely basic first aid kit
    benadryl tabets (just in case someone gets stung a lot on the trails miles away from civilization)
    halizone tablets (in case you have no choice but to drink BAD/stagnant water)
    a couple of small snack bars that I rotate out after 6 mos
    strike anywhere matches and dryer lint (easiest material to get a fire going)
    rubber bands

  • jaredmcvay

    Gives you something to think about…

    As far as the cleat bolt goes for me, I have left the shoe attached, and used the velcro to get in and out until I got home… Recently started riding regularly again, forgot about that until now.

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