Imagine going on a leisurely bike ride a few miles from the house when you suddenly get a flat time. What do you do? This article is about what you should have in your saddle bag, a little bag that attaches underneath your seat and to the seat post, when you go out for a bike ride. Every cyclist should always have one because it is the only way to carry a few items that are necessary for every single ride.
The most important things to carry are the parts and tools necessary to fix the most common mechanical problems that could arise while cycling, namely a flat. For this reason you should carry at least one spare tube, possibly two if you are riding really far. Some people also carry instant patches that can be used on a punctured tube instead of replacing the tube with a spare. I would not recommend this as your only route but instead as extra protection. I don’t find patches to be easy to work or very reliable, so if you are really worried, just carry two tubes.
With a spare tube you must also carry a frame pump or a CO2 cartridge pump. I initially used a frame pump which is a miniaturized pump that attaches either to the frame of your bike or to the side of your bottle cage. They are nice because they are cheap and extremely easy to work; however, it can be hard to get your tire pumped up to the really high pressures that road bikes require. The other alternative is a CO2 pump which uses little CO2 cartridges like the ones that go in pellet guns. The pump uses the gas to fill the tire for you. They are much faster than frame pumps, but they cost more and operating costs can add up as you’ll need to purchase CO2 canisters as you use them up. I have made the switch because I don’t get a flat very often, so the cost hasn’t accumulated too much, and a CO2 pump is significantly smaller than a frame pump. Also, if you use a CO2 pump, make sure to carry a spare canister or two in case you double flat or, more likely, botch the initial fill.
Lastly, in the flat department you will need two tire levers to allow you to pull off the tire and remove the punctured tube and replace it with a new one. Tire levers are pretty simple, but do buy a quality pair that won’t bend and don’t give it anymore thought. It is also prudent to carry a bike multi-tool that can be picked up for around $20 that has numerous attachments for dealing with other non-tire related bike mechanicals like loose pieces held on by Allen bolts or broken chains.
Now for the non-mechanical related materials. One thing most people overlook is cash. It is always wise to carry a little cash as you never know when you will go a little farther than you intended and are out of water. If you are carrying $5-20 bucks you can stop and get a refreshing drink along the way back. Also, you can actually use folded up cash as a tire wall patch if the cause of a flat isn’t a nail. Most importantly, you should carry your cell phone if the worst were to happen. You can call for medical assistance call a friend for a ride home. One piece of advice is I would stow your phone in a watertight baggy, so it can’t get wet. Your saddle bag is also a good place to stick your keys while riding. Just make sure that they can’t scratch your phone in any way.
That completes your saddle bag. Basically, it should have 1-2 spare tubes, air source, tire levers, multi-tool, phone, cash and keys. It isn’t a very complicated or expensive list to accumulate but exceptionally necessary if you want to be self-sufficient while you are enjoying the great sport of cycling.