There is no shortage of well-designed packable tools these days, but the overlap in utility can lead to you carrying far more than need be. We all know that person with 20 pounds of tools and spare parts jammed into their riding pack, and even though it's well-intentioned, it might not be the only way. My goal here is to assemble a svelte toolkit that can fix most of the things you're liable to break on a ride, at least enough to get you home. Ideally it can all fit in a small hip pack, or within the many pockets of your favorite cargo shorts. Unior Cassette Lockring Tool
This simple and ingenious little tool was the impetus for this entire article, so I think it deserves the first spot. For anyone who has faced the problem of needing to remove a cassette in the field - to fix a broken spoke or otherwise - you know how nearly-impossible it can be to MacGyver a solution. By leveraging the wheel, frame, and chain of your bike, Unior has devised an easy way to use this simple piece of metal to get your cassette off and back on with little fuss.
Unior Cassette Lockring Tool
• Can be used to remove and re-install cassette
• Includes frame-protection plate
• Bonus spoke wrench
• Weight: 20g
• MSRP: $8.25
Unior has easy-to-follow videos on their website and YouTube channel, should you need a primer on how to use this little guy. The assumption here is you have a couple spare spokes to replace the broken ones, which might seem ridiculous until you realize that you can stick some in your handlebar and insulate them with foam to keep things quiet. You can typically just ride out with one or two broken spokes, but if you happen to zipper a few, then this might just save you from a long walk. OneUp Pump
I'm certainly not the first person to recommend a OneUp pump to you, but let this serve as a reminder of how good they are. Though the 100cc version definitely gets the job done quicker, the little 70cc does a surprisingly good job. With the added benefit of a much smaller form factor, it's the perfect candidate for this toolkit. I personally always carry the 100 for the extra storage and air volume, but if you're really tight on space then the 70 will do the trick.
• Fully sealed and rebuildable
• Includes bottle cage mount
• Presta-only head
• Weight: 135g / 160g
• MSRP: $65
Sure, a CO2 and inflater head might take up less space, but I don't know many people who have anything above a poor success rate with that method when you really need it. Do what I do and wrap a bunch
of 1" wide gorilla tape around this thing; it works as everything from a tire boot to a bandage. OneUp Tool
Two recommendations from the same brand might seem a bit suspicious, but OneUp's system works so well it's hard to avoid. The self-contained form factor is huge, and the tools themselves all function as you'd want them to. There are higher quality multitools out there, but ultimately this collection of the most common bits handles regular maintenance tasks very well. In fact, this was the only chain breaker I owned for a long time after mistakenly lending my shop version out to a friend.
• 20 functions
• 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm, T25 Torx, Flathead
• Tire lever
• Holds extra quick links
• Weight: 130g
• MSRP: $65
They've updated the chain-breaker function to make it even more robust, but you still need masterlink pliers should you have to take the chain off - keep reading to see which ones take the cake. I should also note that I have the first version of this tool, and despite near-daily usage for the past 4 years, it's still truckin'. The tool itself is a bit worse for wear, as the pivots holding the thing together tend to get loose, but a bit of TLC keeps it working just fine. Again, you can find nicer toolsets, but in a pinch I have no real complaints with the tool assortment you get with the OneUp, and the self-containment means it's one less thing to forget.Dynaplug Micro Pro
Tire problems are the mostly likely culprit when it comes to a ride-stopping mechanical, so you might as well come prepared. There are smaller fix-a-flat setups out there, but I've had nothing but good luck with Dynaplugs over the years, so they've earned their place in this mini kit.
The beauty of the pill design is the space to cram some handy extras into it - I typically even keep some of the fat Lezyne
bacon strips in mine, for slashes that require more than one plug.
Dynaplug Micro Pro
• 4 insertion tubes w/ plugs
• Air-stopper awl
• Micro knife for trimming plug
• Weight: 43 grams
• MSRP: $63.99
Be it serendipity or design intent on the part of the two companies, this thing actually fits perfectly
inside the OneUp pump's storage area. Sadly, you can't hold both this and the OneUp tool at the same time in the 70cc, only in the 100cc.
With the spare room, you might notice the Dynaplug knocking inside the pump, so I simply take up that space with a few folded up zip-ties, since they're ultimately the most useful SOS tool there is. Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers
This is one of the rare packable tools that works just as well as the full-fat version. I use these in lieu of the workshop pliers 9 times out of 10, and they're small enough to warrant a place in this imagined toolkit. With the valve tools and the aluminum tire lever, they even constitute as a multitool of sorts. Though I'm trying to avoid redundancy here, the OneUp tire lever is a bit flimsy, so this one might be the primary when it comes to that function.
Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers
• Remove & install master links
• Holds two extra links
• Wrench for valve core and stem
• Weight: 38g
• MSRP: $32.95
Bring one pair of quick links that fits your drivetrain, and one that works on the other common systems, because a friend with a broken bike is almost as bad as your own being out of commission. Tubolito
Space Blanket & Lighter
It's just a small tube, but ultimately that might be the reason you take it with you and ride out after your 7th puncture of the day. I've used these for years on bikepacking trips, as multiple butyl tubes take up quite a bit of precious space, and whenever someone has needed it, they work just as you'd hope. They're more puncture-resistant than a standard tube, and seem to hold up better to long term storage, not getting crusty and worn-through in your pack.
• Fits 1.8"-2.5" tires
• 26", 27.5", 29", and Plus sizes available
• 42mm valve
• Weight: 85g
• MSRP: €29.90
Being that it's winter in the Northern Hemisphere, this pairing of lifesaving items might be worth tossing in with your bundle of tools, in case something goes wrong. Sure, a whole well-appointed first aid kit wouldn't hurt, but when temperatures are low, preventing hypothermia is a great start to feeling better after a good slam. Space blankets take up about as much room as a wad of Starbucks gift cards, and are a lot more useful. A lighter can be safely used to start a warming fire, if conditions allow - or you can whip it out and fit in should you end your ride at some sort of groovy concert.
• Windproof and waterproof
• Various sizes and styles available
• Weight: 40g
• MSRP: ~ $3
I'm sure you're thinking Dario, why didn't you include my 96-bit brick of a multitool that can open a can of beans and a beer at the same time??
, but I want to assure you that carrying that is perfectly fine by me, you just won't see it in my cargo shorts. The idea with a sparse kit like this is to have something you're comfortable taking on rides of any length, as there's always potential for something to go awry. I'm certainly guilty of riding without tools on any given day, but when I know I'm going to be way out there, even just far enough that I don't want to walk, then I pack something quite similar to what you see above.
Here are some things I tend to leave at home, and why.
1. Derailleur Hanger Alignment Tools
. If you really smack your hanger hard enough to require a solid truing, you're probably better off just throwing a spare on there. With the increasing ubiquity of the UDH design, it's becoming easier and easier to always have a spare around, and more likely that your buddy's bike uses the same one.
If you do want to try and torque your hanger pack into shape, a CO2 thread is the same pitch as a derailleur bolt, so you can use a spent canister as a lever to try and get things back into plane.
Even on very long and remote bikepacking trips, I don't bring anything to work on a hanger. This is partly out of hubris, but also because I run 11-speed on my go-far bike, and the gear spacing on those cassettes is a bit more forgiving to misalignment in your drivetrain.
2. Shock Pump
. I know plenty of people who think it's foolish omit this from your every-ride kit, but the times I wish I had one are truly few and far between. With modern suspension's reliability, you shouldn't need to worry about your pressures over the course of a ride, just check every so often before leaving home and you'll be set. If you're going out to bracket settings, then a pump makes sense, but otherwise I think it allows for more fiddling than one really needs to do - sometimes it's a worthwhile exercise to just go for a ride and not think about such things.
3. Sometimes: Everything
. Unthinkable, I know, but sometimes you just want to go for a silly little bike ride in the woods and not worry about your multi-item checklist. There's a bit of a slippery slope to this, as I've definitely gone on some way-out-there rides with little more than a multitool in my pocket, so tread cautiously. That said, don't stress too much, as bikes are fairly reliable these days, and your after-work ride probably doesn't warrant the same volume of tools as a World Cup pit.
Have fun out there!