Punctures, flats, whatever you want to call them, spend enough time riding a bike and eventually you’ll hear the hisssss of escaping air and feel the mushiness of a deflating tire beneath you. And while you could take your bike to a shop to get this fixed, that may not always be a convenient option. Having the tools with you to fix a flat means you’ll be prepared wherever you are, and a potentially day ruining incident could be relegated to merely a minor nuisance. Here’s what you should carry in your flat kit.
The most essential part of any flat repair is of course having a fresh, functioning tube to replace your now punctured one. Pick them up from any bike store, but just make sure you get the right size. There are four things to pay attention to: tire diameter, tire width, valve stem length and valve type (Presta or Schrader). Tire diameter and width and can be found on the side of your tire. If in doubt, just ask someone at the shop. (Remember to bring in your bike or wheel to show them!) We usually stock a couple extra tubes at home so we don’t have to make a trip every time a flat occurs.
Generally $7-$10 at your local bike shop
You really only need one tire lever, but having a second or third on hand is nice for tires that are particularly tough to remove. Here are some good options:
The iconic lever that probably comes to mind when you think of tire levers.
About $5 per pair at most bike shops; pedros.com
Park Tool Steel Core Levers
An upgraded pair with a steel core that can remove the toughest tires without snapping. These ones are much pricier, but are made for the long haul.
To inflate your tire on the go you will need a mini pump. There are two general types: high pressure for thinner road bike tires, and high volume for fatter commuter and mountain bike tires. A good pump can be had for about $20 to $50 and the smallest ones will fit in your saddle bag or even a pocket. Larger ones usually come with a frame to attach to your bike.
Lezyne HV Drive
Lezyne makes a wide selection of high volume and high pressure mini pumps. This one is for high volume tires.
Blackburn Core CO2’Fer
This mini pump comes with a CO2 inflator as well for those times when you want to inflate your tire in seconds, rather than spend minutes furiously pumping away on a mini pump.
For the casual bike rider, a multi-tool covers about all the bike tools you might need in one convenient, compact package. It may not necessarily be essential for fixing a flat, but increasingly bikes are coming with with disc brakes that use thru axles, which usually require a 5mm or 6mm hex (a.k.a. allen) wrench to remove. Check what tool you need to take off your wheel and look for a multi tool that includes one. If your bike has a quick release, it’s still a good idea to have a multi tool with a set of hex wrenches, a screwdriver and possibly Torx wrenches if your bike has those bolts for basic repairs like tightening bolts.
If you want to keep things minimal, with quality that will last, this tool provides the most common hex wrench sizes—3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm—as well as a Phillips-Head screwdriver.
Topeak Mini PT30
This tool has just about everything you would ever need, 30 tools in all, for a road or trailside repair, all in a super durable package.
If you always ride places with the same bag, a saddle bag might not be necessary if you can stick your flat repair tools together in your always on-person bag. But we like to keep a saddle bag on our bikes so that we have everything ready to go in one place in the event of a flat.
Blackburn Grid Medium Seat Bag
This bag will hold all the essentials and maybe a little more.
Silca Seat Roll Asymmetrico
If you crave organization, this nifty pack unrolls to reveal three sections and the ability to see everything in your pack at a glance.
We mentioned it before, but a CO2 inflator can be a god send when you just want to get back on the road. It uses a small cartridge of compressed carbon dioxide to inflate your tire in just seconds. You can pick these up for under $20. It’s a bit of a luxury because you’ll want to also have a mini pump just in case, and each use requires a fresh CO2 cartridge, but it might be worth it for you.
A tube doesn’t have to be thrown away once it flats. A patch kit lets you fix small holes to give tubes a new life. It’s a good idea to keep a patch kit in your pack as a backup in case you flat twice or your spare tube fails. Pick up a kit for cheap at any bike shop. The VP-1 kit from Park Tool costs just $4 and comes with six patches.
If you cut your tire sidewall, it doesn’t have to mean your ride is over. Apply a tire boot and be back on your way in no time. You can find these adhesive strips in any bike shop for cheap. The Park Tool TB-2 comes with three boots for $5.
For whatever happens out there, whether you need to run into a bike shop for a repair, or a corner store to grab some snacks, we like to have a little extra cash always on hand. Ten dollars or $20 should be plenty.
If you want everything you need short of a tube in one package, check out this Caddy Sport Kit from Lezyne