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Top 7 Essential Items to Have Along on a Ride

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When you're out on a bike, you should be as self-reliant as possible. Here are the seven items to carry with you that will help you fix the most common problems you'll encounter when you're riding. The good news is that these will all fit in a little pack that attaches underneath your seat. And, if you don't already have these items, you can find them all pretty reasonably, without it costing you an arm and a leg.

1. Spare Tube

A new inner tube for a bike tire.
(c) Oskay/Flickr.
If you're going to be out and about, the most likely problem you'll have with your bike is a flat tire. So bring along another tube specific to your bike. They are fairly compact, easy to change out, and you'll be back riding in no time. Never changed a flat tire? Here are easy instructions on how to change a flat.
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2. Patch Kit

A typical bike tire patch kit with sandpaper, rubber cement and an assortment of patches.
(c) David Fiedler

In addition to a spare tube, you'll want to carry a patch kit as well. But isn't that redundant, you ask, when you're already carrying a tube? Not really. Murphy's Law means that you'll get a second flat in the new tube just as soon as you've replaced it. Plus, you are really carrying these items to be able to help cyclists who might need it, just as much as for your own good, right?

"The patch kit [I carry] is for other riders that my need help," says Pennsylvania cyclist Brad Morris. "Luckily I have used the patch kit 6 times, while still need to use the tube."

Plus, patch kits are typically quite small and are a nice "one-size-fits-all" insurance policy against tire problems.

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3. Tire Levers

Tire tool removing a bike tire.
(c) David Fiedler
If you're going to fix a flat tire, you'll need tire levers. These small tools slide under your tire and help pull it off your rim so that you can remove the tube to patch it or replace it with a spare. They fit easily in your pouch or jersey pocket, and you really don't want to be without them.
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4. Pump (or CO2 inflators)

Blackburn Frame Pump
(c) Blackburn

Whether you carry a patch kit or spare tube, if your tire goes flat, you will need to find a way to get air back into it. That's where a nice little pump comes in. Usually clamped to your frame, these mighty little dudes will put enough air in your tire to get you back on your way.

Some riders prefer to carry CO2 cartridges - little battery-sized cylinders that deliver a burst of pressurized gas and refill tubes in a fraction of a second. They are lighter, but require a bit of practice to use, else you can blow out the tube you've just replaced. Plus, they cost about a dollar a piece, for what is typically a one time use.

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5. Multi-Tool

(c) Topeak Corporation

For any number of potential fixes or adjustments you might face on the road, a multi-tool is a handy gadget that you'll want to take along no matter how short or long your ride. A multi-tool typically comes equipped with a dozen or more individual tools in various sizes, including Allen wrenches, hex bolt wrenches, screw drivers, a chain tool and more. Tucked neatly into one small package, it's like a portable tool box for fixing your bike - in more ways than you can ever imagine. Plus, many come outfitted with a bottle opener too, when the situation becomes particularly severe.

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6. Cell Phone

Cell Phone
(c) Oracio/Flickr

How did we ever get by in the days before cell phones? For calling home to get picked up in case of breakdown, for calling your buddies who may be ahead of you or behind you on the route during those longer rides, or for just calling ahead to order a pizza at your favorite place, there is no reason not to carry a cell phone if you've got one.

There's at least one rider I know of for whom a mobile phone is all the equipment and tools needed on a ride. In case of a breakdown, he calls the bike shop (free service with purchase of a bike) to come get his wheels and then rings a cab company to send him a taxi for a ride home.

7. Identification/Money/Insurance Card

Money
(c) Tracy O/Flickr

This is one of those just-in-case items that you bring and hopefully never use. Take along a few dollars for drinks and snacks along the way. And, in case of a split in your tire, a dollar bill can be laid along the split inside your tire to keep your tube from bulging out too badly until you can get it repaired. And, be sure to bring along copies of your identification and insurance cards. God forbid you get into an accident, but in case you do, you'll definitely want and need these items. Tip: on the backside of these documents, write down your list of emergency contacts as well as any special medical instructions or allegies to medicine you might have.

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