On several occasions, I’ve served as a “tow truck” of sorts for the owner of a bike. How? I worked as an Uber and Lyft driver in 2017 and 2018. I’d show up to the pickup site, and somebody would have a flat tire, a broken chain, or some other issue. My vehicle (a Nissan LEAF) isn’t very big, but with one or both bike wheels removed, and only one human passenger passenger, it wasn’t really a problem to fit most bikes in the back. I’d take them to the nearest shop or back to their home, and they’d get things taken care of. But it’s always nicer to fix things yourself and get back on the road whenever possible. Plus, if you like exploring, you might get out somewhere where you can’t get help with minor repairs. For either of these situations, I’d like to share the tools I take along on e-bike rides.
If you’re an experienced cyclist or bicycle commuter, you won’t learn anything from this article. But if you’re new to e-bikes and new to bikes in general, knowing what to take along can be a great way to stay out of trouble and make electric cycling more enjoyable.
Sooner or later, you’re going to have a flat tire. Even if you take serious measures to thornproof your tires, you’ll eventually come across a thorn, nail, or some other thing that sealant and tube guards can’t handle, so you need to bring some spare tubes along. I take three tubes along not just for me, but for my wife’s bike. It’s probably overkill, but when I’m out in the desert far from where help would be available, I’d rather have too many tubes than too few.
This is bulky, as we both ride 26″ x 4″ fat tire e-bikes and I prefer thick tubes for thorn protection, but this all goes in a cargo bag on a cargo rack on a bike that’s already quite heavy. If you’re riding a lighter road bike, you could get away with smaller tubes, fewer of them, and use thinner ones to save space and weight. You have to assess the risks of the kind of riding you’re doing and prepare accordingly.
On top of at least one tube, it’s also a good idea to carry a patch kit. Some patches come with adhesive pre-installed, while others require rubber cement to apply. My patch kit comes with both, along with tools to help prepare the puncture site and get the tire on and off of your wheel.
If your bike is tubeless, this won’t really apply (you need a kit made for those, which usually includes a tire plug setup), but for everyone else, it’s good to be able to salvage a tube instead of switching to a new one. This your chances of making it home under your bike’s own increases power instead of being rescued by somebody.
Unless you’re replacing or repairing just a front tube, and your bike has a quick release, you’ll need tools to do that. Most e-bikes come with a toolkit, often in a small pouch of some kind. What’s great about that is that they come with most, if not all, of the tools you might need when you’re out riding. So be smart and take the little pouch along!
However, they don’t always come with everything your bike needs. For example, this toolkit came with nothing to remove the bike’s rear wheel. If I needed to put a new tube in the rear tire, I’d be SOL. So I also take along the right size wrench to get the rear wheel off, along with a few zip ties to put the rear wheel’s wiring back into place before taking off again. I also carry a multi-tool that can be used to remove zip ties (not pictured).
An Air Pump Of Some Kind
Once you’ve repaired or replaced a tube, you’ll need to put air in it. Plus, if your tire is just low, you’ll need air, so you’ll need a pump of some kind. You can get small hand pumps that fit either on the frame of the bike or in your tool bag/box. I carry a metal pump with a place to put my foot and a folding handle that makes it relatively easy to do the pumping.
Truth be told though, this manual pump is just a backup in case my Fanttik X8 Apex lithium-ion pump were to fail. You can read the full review of the X8 Apex here, but in short, it’s a combination air compressor and power bank to power phones. Let’s face it, I’m going out to ride for exercise, and I might be quite tired and on the way back to the car or my house by the time a flat happens. Being able to push a button and let the compressor do the work is very appealing.
Having Bike Tools Can Literally Save Your Life
If you’re only trotting around on city streets and bike paths, getting a flat or another repairable problem isn’t going to threaten your life. Help is probably just a phone call, a text, or an app away. No big deal, even if it’s a time waster.
But if you’re going out far from where you might be able to get help, you could get into serious life-threatening trouble if you don’t have the ability to get your bike going again. Where I live, in the desert, the temperature rapidly drops at night. There are dangerous animals, and even the occasional drug smuggler or other dangerous person. There are areas where cell phones don’t work well, especially down in rural ravines and canyons. Being able to get back out without a multi-day hike is key.
With an e-bike one could easily get far from help and far beyond a reasonable walking distance. If you’re not ready to tackle the most common problems, you could easily end up going through a dangerous ordeal or ending up dead in the wilderness. Be sure to take precautions like carrying tools, telling people where you’re going, or otherwise preparing.
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