Road biking is all fun and games ’til you get your first flat. I once walked, bike on shoulder, for two miles (thankfully it was only that far) because I didn’t have what I needed to repair my flat out on the road. Fortunately, you can equip yourself with all the necessary gear for about $60-80. And while learning to repair your own flats does feel daunting at first, you can do it! With a bit of time and practice, you’ll get through those first few frustrating flat repairs and be able to pop a tire off and back on in just a few minutes.
If you’re a beginner cyclist looking for bicycle repair kits online, the number of options can be a bit overwhelming. There are ready-made kits, standalone parts, and a wide range of prices to choose from. When I first started road biking, I kept a bunch of extra stuff in my saddle bag that I didn’t actually need because I wasn’t experienced enough to know what I did need. My beginner to intermediate riders bike repair kit recommendations are intended for people looking to do between 5-75 mile rides. You’ll notice I exclude certain items that you’ll find in many ready-made repair kits, and I’ll explain my rationale below. What I do include is the bare bones affordable gear- just what you really need when you’re out there on the road. Because even two miles from home is a little further than you want to walk with your bike on your shoulder, trust me.
Beginner to intermediate level riders bike repair kit:
note: for tube tires, not tubeless
- Saddle bag
- One spare tube
- Two tire levers
- One CO2 canister
- CO2 inflator tool
Stuff I don’t think you need in your saddle bag:
- Allen keys
- A multi-tool
- Patch kits
- A hand pump
- A third tire lever
- Tire glue/metal roughing patch
Products I love:
- Saddle bag:
2. Spare tube:
Continental Race 28 700×25-32c Bicycle Inner Tubes.
You really can’t go wrong with Continental tubes. They’re well-made, and the range (25-32c tire width) suits most road bikes. Do not skimp and buy the cheapest possible tubes- you will regret it when you get a flat! At under $20 for a two pack, these are a great deal and completely worth the money.
3. Tire levers: these things are pretty much all the same. As long as they’re made from hard plastic and have the proper shape, brand doesn’t matter much, and they’re a couple bucks each at your local bike shop. One feature I do like to look out for, though, is when they lock together like puzzle pieces. This feature makes them into a compact unit that’s easiest to store in your saddle bag. Bottom line: don’t pay more than a few bucks each for levers, it’s not worth it.
4. CO2 canisters: 16g Threaded CO2 Cartridges are the canisters I learned to fix my own flats with. Paired with the inflator tool below, they are super simple to use. A pack of five for about $12.99 is a great starting point that, provided you don’t have truly awful luck and aren’t riding a ton of miles in bad conditions, will certainly last you a year or two.
5. CO2 inflator tool: Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator is the most fun (and life-saving, honestly) bike repair tool in my bag. On top of that, this baby is the reason why I don’t recommend the vast majority of pre-assembled bicycle repair kits you’ll find online. When you’re road biking, your tire pressure is typically upwards of 90 psi. Instead of manually trying to inflate your tires back to anywhere near that to limp home after getting a flat, being able to rig this up with your CO2 canister and fill your tire to 65-80 psi in a matter of seconds will be sweet, sweet relief when you’re on the side of the road with a flat. If you take nothing else away from this post, know that getting into road biking means you gotta suck it up and learn how to fix your flats. Going for a patch-it kit with a hand pump and praying it works is risky, and likely to result in a lot more frustration than effortlessness. Fixing your own flats for real (replacing the tube when necessary) is the only repair solution I recommend to beginner and intermediate riders, and this tool makes the inflation part of the process pretty darn easy.
The rest of the stuff you’ll see in pre-assembled kits online:
You might be feeling a little skeptical at this point: really, only four items in the saddle bag? To be clear, yes. That is all you need. Multi-tools seem like a good insurance policy at first glance, but the truth is, you just won’t need one. Don’t waste your money on packing your saddle bag with extras that you don’t truly need.
With that said, since The Roswheel bag affords me a bit of extra space, I do carry two small allen keys in my bag. They’re not necessary for fixing a flat, but can come in handy in rare situations. For example, if you’re on a bike you recently bought that you’re still kind of slowly adjusting to get the right fit, you might want to make some seat post height tweaks mid-ride. A size 4 and a size 5 key will work for most of the fittings on most standard road bikes, so I carry both. In all honesty, I have rarely ever used them, but if it brings you peace of mind and you have some keys that are small enough to slip in the bag, then go for it.
One other final piece of advice I can give is that if you are absolutely terrified and mistrusting of your ability to change your own flat (it’s okay, we’ve all been there!) and you must carry a patch kit, then if and only if you also have a hand pump strapped to your down tube (part of the frame), then you can throw a small patch kit in your saddle bag as well. If this seems like a good description of your situation, I recommend bringing all of the above. Do give it your best effort to change the tube, but if you can’t make it work, use the patch kit, give it a good hand pump, and take it easy on the most direct route back home. Once you’ve paid someone to change your tire a few times though, I’m willing to bet you’ll commit to learning to do it yourself- and that’s a really good thing.
Lastly, if you’re a beginner or intermediate rider, I always recommend a riding buddy. Not only is it helpful in the event of needing to repair a flat, but you’re also a lot more visible to drivers when you’ve got two or more riders instead of just one.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments: what’s your worst flat tire story? Which emergency flat repair products do you love to carry and why? Good luck out there, stay safe, and take care of each other!