When I first started riding, I knew I needed a helmet and a bike pump, but other than filling up my tires, I literally carried nothing else with me. That has certainly changed with what I keep in my saddle and downtube bags.
The necessities for basic mechanicals are pictured above for a standard road bike or tri bike. A spare tube is crucial for when you get a flat, but take it out of the packaging, coat it in baby powder, and wrap it in plastic wrap to make it easy to stash in your bag. The powder keeps the spare tube from sticking together in the heat (make sure the tube is the correct size for your bike). I do carry two CO2 cartridges just to have a spare, and I also have a valve to control the flow of CO2 into the tube.
When changing a flat, use the punctured tube to wrap around the CO2 cartridge because it’s going to get cold. In addition, I carry handlebar caps, a multi-tool, tire boot, and quick links. The tire boot is for a large hole in your tire and prevents the tube from poking through, which can cause another flat, and the quick links can be used for a broken chain to get you home.
If you ride a tubeless set-up, I recommend gloves or a rag, for the sealant that will inevitably leak out, and bacon strips to plug a hole in your tire. The bacon strips can be used for small punctures, but if the damage is too big, you’ll have to take the tire off, add a tube, and patch the hole before riding. Most of the time, a bacon strip and refilling the tire will do the job–one of the advantages to riding tubeless. I cut the strips in half since I have road tires– bacon strips were originally designed for knobby mountain bike tires. If you have disc brakes, use the spacer when you remove the wheel to keep the brake pads separate in case you accidentally squeeze the brakes.
Always do a bike safety check before your ride, and if you really want bonus points, make sure your lights are charged the night before. For those of you with electronic shifting, check to see that your bike is all charged up too.
For short rides, everything fits in my downtube bag, but for longer rides over two hours, I add another tube and carry a total of three CO2 cartridges along with plenty of snacks. Ride safely!
Comment below with your must-haves for your saddle bag.