31 Tools You Need For A Bike Tour

I’ve been guiding bicycle trips for a few years now, and each year is pretty much the same thing—two to three weeks in Europe (different country each year) in June, camping with a group of 24 students between 17 and 19 years old that have little or no experience in cycling or the outdoors in general. I’m also a mechanic in a bike rental shop. And even after all these years, when I prepare my luggage and I look at the tools I want to bring with me, I have some hesitations on what to bring and what to leave at home.

The problem you will encounter alone or in a group are the same, but in a group, they statistically should happen 24 times more often. So I want the ability to repair a bike with good tools, but without carrying 50 pounds of forged steel. The students will have more than enough things to carry with all the camping gear, so I don’t count on them to carry heavy things. The goal of your bicycle repair kit is simply to make your bike work until the next big town with a bike shop—which can sometimes take a few days. It’s a huge success when you repair a big problem on the road with your own tools.

About 98 percent of the problems you’ll encounter will be one of these:

  • Flat tire
  • Problem with brakes (adjustment, worn brake pads, broken cable)
  • Problem with transmission (adjustment, broken cable, broken chain)
  • Falling accessories on your bike (rack, fender, bottle holder, reflector, panniers, etc…)
  • Wheel issues (broken spoke, loosen bearing, bent wheel, etc…)
  • Problem with pedals
  • Problem with headset
  • Problem with crank set

If you happen to have very bad luck and encounter a problem in the other 2 percent of the list (broken frame, rim, fork, problem with free hub body, etc…), even if you have the most expensive and heavy tools, you won’t be able to repair it. In that case, take the bus, train, taxi or ask a friendly local to drive you to the nearest bike shop to change the broken parts.
Here’s a list of the things you’ll need for those 98-percent problems:

The bare minimum (even for a one-day trip):

  • 2 tires (good size and good valve)
  • 1 patch kit with tire levers
  • 1 brake cable
  • 1 gear cable
  • 1 Philips screwdriver
  • 1 flat screwdriver
  • 1 set of allen key (metric)
  • 1 small spanner (but large enough to use more specific tools)
  • 1 long-nose vise-grip
  • 1 small pump
  • A few 5 mm screws
  • A rag

Most of these tools can be part of a small multitool, which is less convenient to use if you plan to have a lot of repairs to do (on a longer trip). If you choose this option, make sure the tool can separate in 2 parts, which is helpful when you need two different tools at the same time.

The more specifics:

  • 2 sets of brake pads
  • Spare spokes (you may have 2 or even 3 different sizes for your bike)
  • Chain oil
  • Chain tool (see picture 1 for a small version
  • Bottom bracket tool and a holder (a bolt that can hold the tool to the bottom bracket)
  • Cassette remover (http://www.mark-ju.net/bike_ride/equipment/hypercracker.htm) 
  • 8 mm allen key (usually not on normal kit)
  • Cone wrench (2 different sizes on your bike, but goes from 13 to 18 mm)
  • Cable cutter
  • Half of a metal saw blade
  • A small metal file
  • Spoke wrench
  • Crank puller
  • 8, 9, 10 mm wrench
  • Electric tape
  • Tie-wrap
  • Worm gear clamp collar
  • Brass wire
  • Some more screws, different size and length (all metrics)

Most of these tools are made specifically either for the workshop or for the road. The difference is mostly that they didn’t put a handle on those for the road and you can use them with a spanner. Just make sure your spanner is suitable for them. I’ve seen more and more combined tools on the market, which are interesting, but if you are handy, you can make them even lighter (see the link of the cassette remover and the picture).

I suggest splitting all the tools in two kits: The one for the road containing all the bare minimum (the first list) that you put on your bike on an easy-to-access place. The other kit, you can put far away, hoping not to have to use it. For how to use all these tools, the only thing I can say is unassembled your entire bike components and reassemble it at home. Do this once a year, because only practice will make you a better mechanic.
Have a good trip!