We review a lot
of kit here at Pinkbike. In fact, sometimes it can feel like a constant merry-go-round of helmets, gloves, tires, or if we're extra lucky the latest bikes. It often transpires that we spend little time in the things we actually like most and more time trying to understand why things don't fit, work or feel as good as the manufacturer insists they should.
If you're relatively new to mountain biking, you're probably already used to getting bombarded by "advice" about what you absolutely have
to carry on every ride to avoid catastrophe and a guaranteed full-bike failure. But after a few years at it, we've all pared down our kits to a relatively slim selection of good tools and spares that should get us out of a bind if shit really does hit the fan.
I've gone through different phases of what and how much I carry on rides, varying from full-bore apocalypse preparation to truly helpless. At this point, I think I've assembled what feels like a pretty nicely capable and consolidated kit, with enough functional tools to make adjustments and get out of the woods safely if something were to break.
Tech Editor & chronic optimistOne must-have tool:
Basic hex key multitoolChosen tools:
SQ Labs NINE Key Card, Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers, OneUp V1 Tool, Dynaplug, CO2 or OneUp 100cc Pump, Lube, Tube, AXS Battery, Zip-Ties
There are a few key tools I try not to leave home without, but realistically there are still plenty of rides where all I bring is a little folding multitool. I'm lucky enough to live within coasting distance of my local laps, so a walk home wouldn't be too devastating if the unexpected were to happen. On longer rides, which are most days of the week, I bring the kit shown above, give or take a few pieces depending on the bike I'm riding.
I have yet to encounter a multitool that I really love to use, so I've landed on carrying the smallest and most neatly packaged set of hex keys that I could find. The SQLab NINE fits the bill perfectly, and they're a real joy to use. As you'll see below, I recently upgraded my Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers to their beefier 8-Bit variant, which has little tool bits that are usable enough to stand on their own. It's possible I'll give up my NINE sometimes, but time will tell.
A broken chain is damn near the hardest thing to bodge a fix for, so I try to make sure I have all the bits required to handle those unfortunate situations. I also have masterlinks for everything from SRAM's new Flattop T-Type chains to old 10-speed drivetrains squirreled away in various places, so hopefully one of those will do the trick if need be.
I usually run heavy enough tires that flats are less of a concern, but if and when they do fail, I try to have enough to get home. I've started bringing a tube on every ride after recently being reminded of how useful they are. After flatting deep in the woods, I had to stuff my tire with moss to get it to hold shape so I could ride the few miles back to my car. Not ideal, but it did actually work.
What I carry depends on the length of the ride I'm embarking on, but at the bare minimum I make sure I have a basic flat fix kit and a multitool. My kit has shrunk over the years as bikes have improved – it's much less common for major issues to occur in the middle of a ride.
I used to carry full-sized everything in a huge hydration pack, and now I'm typically stashing my fix-it kit in a hip pack or inside a downtube storage compartment. I prefer having a mini-pump over a CO2, but for short laps where I could realistically walk out if I flatted I'll save some space and carry the CO2.
Managing Tech Editor, realistOne must-have tool:
Basic hex key multitoolChosen tools:
OneUp EDC multi tool, Dynaplug Racer Pro, Specialized MTB Mini pump, Tubolito tube, Pedros tire lever
I've only had to install a tube once in the last three years (knock on wood); I've been able to fix all of my other punctures with a tire plug. Dynaplug's Racer Pro tool carries four pre-loaded plugs, which makes it quick and easy to deploy. I usually have the Racer Pro and a small multi-tool in a side pocket on my pack so I can reach them in a matter of seconds.
If the plugs don't do the trick, hopefully the tiny Tubolito tube I'm carrying around will help get me out of the woods. It's super thin and super light, so there's really no reason not to have one in case of an emergency (other than the price – these little things are expensive). I usually store it in a small cloth case to help make sure it'll actually hold air if I do need to use it. I also carry a Pedro's tire lever to help make a tire change easier.
Other tidbits include a SRAM master link, which can be used on most chains in a pinch. I also have a small chain tool, in this case one that was originally part of another Crankbrothers tool. It works well on its own, and it has spoke wrenches on the underside.
Specialized's Air Tool MTB Mini pump is one of the smallest pumps I've found that actually works. It's reasonably priced, too, at around $25. I've wrapped a bunch of electrical tape around it that can be used for all sorts of random jobs. I always carry a couple of zip ties too, since there's no shortage of fixes that can be performed with tape and zip ties.
I don't carry much in the way of first aid supplies for shorter rides, but I do like having at least a couple alcohol wipes and some steri-strips to help hold cuts together until someone can stitch them up. For bigger medical issues, there are plenty of sticks that can be used as splints in the woods around where I live, and clothing can be used to create a sling, etc...
The multi-tool that I've been carrying the most lately is OneUp's EDC tool. It's tiny but very useful – it has all the bits you'd need for quick adjustments, and you can get a decent amount of leverage on it by opening up the other bits to extend its length. If I'm not carrying the EDC tool I go with the Crankbrothers M19 tool. It's a fair bit heftier, but the bit lengths are longer, and it has a built-in chain tool and tire plug tool.
After 9 years of using the same cheap, crap Macpac bumbag, I've upgraded to the big time and got myself something to carry tools in. I largely won't use these tools unless it's for adjustments rather than fixes and my general ethos is that it's not a problem unless you're pissed off about it.
Tech Editor & wine country frequenterOne must-have tool:
A multi-tool, tire plugs that I won't use and a pump that I might for a short time before ultimately giving up.
If I puncture, I roll home. If I break something, I roll home. I always take a phone but that's about it. The little pack I have is good for carrying goggles and gloves on hot days but, if I'm honest, I'll probably use it for a month and then go back to the glorified loin-cloth of fanny packs. Covering the bare essentials and that's about it. The tool I have, which is a Birzman one, is good for everything except it has an annoying L-shape to its two mil, making adjusting limit screws difficult. I'll saw this off when I remember.
Largely, I have it there to adjust cockpit dimensions and things like saddle height or bar roll or tighten a loose pivot bolt. If something major happens - for example, a battered rim, snapped spokes or something bent or maybe a twisted mech - I have no pretense in going full Bear Grylls, thinking of 17 ways I can save the ride and start reaching for the water bottle to fill up with once-cycled Gatorade, hoping to get the really good stuff on the second time of asking. Nope, I'll just ride tomorrow instead and I will immediately head home to fix it there with Radio 4 playing and a cup of tea on the countertop.
I used to have a nice One Up one bolted to my frame in the past, but when on test bikes I found it irritating, and I thought buying several of them was a slight overindulgence. I mainly have this pump in case I burp a tire and need to top it up. I have zero faith in sealant or my own patience for fixing anything trailside. There will be no energy bar wrappers sandwiched between tube-and-tire with me. Nope, I'm calling it quits at the very first opportunity.
I'm two-faced when it comes to the tools I carry. For lunch laps I take a minimalist approach with a basic multi-tool and a utility-pump, maybe. On larger days, I typically pack too much, but I'd rather be prepared when you're more than walking distance from the nearest sign of inhabitance.
Those two approaches to self-help can vary based on what the bike of week is, who's along for the ride, and how far the trails are from additional support.
Tech Editor & unsuccessful multi-taskerOne must-have tool:
Basic hex key multitoolChosen tools:
OneUp V1 Tool, 100cc pump, gear strap, Jank Plug Buddy, Powerlink, Tube, Zip-Ties, ANGi sensor
If the bike has DH tires and I'm going for short laps to do comparative testing, I'll most likely just take my phone and a multi-tool because I hate riding with my pockets loaded up like a Navy SEAL. I'd rather carry a small pack, like the USWE 3L Hydro pack
and have it all in one secured place.
As trendy as it had become to place tools inside frames, juggling between bikes as us tech editors often do, it makes for tedious swaps and raises the risk of forgetting an important item. That's why I love the OneUp 100cc Pump, which includes all of the basics, and then some.
For an average day out, I'll take a few basic tools, snacks, a tube, zip ties, EpiPen, and plenty of water. That should cover foreseen problems like sliced tires, punctured rim tape, broken chains and snapped brake levers. Generally, I don't use tire inserts, so more than one lever is rarely needed. If shit goes further south, I'd rather just walk out in one piece and properly repair a clean bike in a well equipped garage.
Maybe I should have covered this in our editor's choice for helmets, but I've been tacking ANGi sensors onto most of my lids for a while now. I often ride solo when the weather breaks during shorter days of the year, and although it relies on the power and service of a cell phone, it isn't costly or cumbersome.
This could tee up another article, but for full-day, or even overnight backcountry missions, I'd load up with additional replacement parts, extra batteries, GoreTex layers, first aid supplies, and a satellite communication device. Spreading the equipment out amongst the group helps too - there's no point in taking five pumps and no derailleur hangers.