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Touring bicycles often require roadside repairs. The bike tools and spares in your panniers are very important components of your bike touring gear. Your tool kit is unlike most of the other gear onboard; it's the part you dread having to use. The right tool or spare can save your bike tour but tools are a heavy load. The right tool can save the day, if you know how to use it. Otherwise, it's just added weight. Emergency repairs may require tool experience and ingenuity to make on-the-fly repairs. As a bike tourist, you want to be independent and keep your touring bicycle rolling no matter how bad your luck. But there's a balance between a useful tool kit and one that is too much extra weight.
Choosing Tool Kits
When building your tool and spare kit, consider where and how long your trip will be, along with your mechanical aptitude. In my experience, the longer the tour, the bigger the tool kit you'll need.
Travel in less-developed countries requires carrying more spare parts, as there will be less real bike shops. A two-year tour through Asia will require an extensive set of tools and spare parts. Developing countries do have bike shops, but rarely do they carry high end parts. Relying on bike shops saves lots of weight, but leaves much more to chance.
On the other hand, a loaded tour in a developed country (US/Canada/Europe) requires a smaller tool and spare kit. For example, a three-month trip across the USA requires minimal tools. Bike shops are abundant in America and, assuming you begin with a well-maintained set of wheels, three months is not really enough time to expect major breakdowns.
For touring cyclists on extended trips through undeveloped parts of the world, riders should be prepared to deal with the occasional breakdown and major repairs. Of course, just having the right tool is not enough. I recommend taking the time to learn and practice bike repairs before the trip begins. It's much easier to learn to replace a broken spoke in a workshop than on the side of the road.
Tools for bicycle touring have to be lightweight enough to be carried in bike panniers or a seat bag, yet adequate to cover emergency roadside repairs and regular maintenance.
Common Roadside Repairs
On a short tour (under three weeks) you may not have any mechanical issues but after 3-6 months, problems should be expected. You need to be prepared with enough tools and spares to be self-contained and self-sufficient.
This list covers the most frequent repairs I've encountered on tour.
Bicycle Tool Lists
There are a lot of ways of categorizing tool kits but I like to boil it down to three different levels of riders/travelers. I expand each level with a whole page explanation in more detail. Here is a summary and list of tools. Everyone's tour and specific needs are different but I hope these lists give a reference to start with.
What Do I Do?
Because I live on tour, usually in Advanced bike touring situations, I have a pretty big set of tools and only feel comfortable if I can take my whole bike apart with what I'm carrying. At one time or another I've used all my tools. My tool kit in my panniers expands and contracts depending on where I'm traveling. I tend to help other cycle tourist I meet and like to be prepared.
More Information Here
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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