Sanny has been looking through his pack and has come up with some suggestions that will transform you into a trailside repair master.
Take a good look in your riding pack and you’ll probably find a spare tube, a pump, a multi-tool and a patch kit. All bog standard stuff which will get you home most of the time. But what about those times when the unexpected happens and you find yourself right at the crossroads of Nowheresville and Hermit Junction. Sure you can walk those seventeen miles home but unless you have Mr Miyagi like mindfulness techniques in your repertoire, you will be cursing each and every step. Read on if you want to benefit from others having had to endure that walk just so you will never have to. No need for thanks, cash is perfectly acceptable.
1 – An Old Phone
Take that old phone out of the drawer of obsolescence and embrace low tech. In this age of Smartphones and apps for everything, it’s easy to be drawn into a technological utopia where you are only a click away from sharing what you had for breakfast and when you last went for a poo (about an hour ago, thanks for asking). GPS enabled phones are great right up until the point at which the batteries die mid ride and you are faced with a situation where being able to phone and speak to someone would actually be a good thing. Once out of power they are useless – You can’t eat them and they don’t burn particularly well when trying to keep warm. I carry a fully charged phone that has buttons you can actually press and which has a battery life that can extend into several days. Protect your phone by sealing it within a zip lock bag and you’ll be the one with the smug grin as your Strava toting buddies look despondently at their now useless phone.
2 – Mech Hanger
Carry a generic spare rear mech hanger as well as a dedicated mech hanger for your ride. Take two mech hangers onto a ride? Sure do! Why? Because even if you are able to fix your own bike, as sure as dammit it will be your riding companion who rips their mech off and doesn’t have a spare hanger in their pack. Faced with the option of shouting “Leave the weak” and abandoning them to fend for themselves, tempting though it may be, and being able to help them out, you know what the right thing to do is. Soon you’ll be back enjoying the ride as opposed to having to share in someone else’s misery.
3 – Survival Bag
Invest in a survival bag. If you have ever watched the end of the Great North Run, you will be familiar with runners being wrapped like turkeys at Christmas in a foil space blanket. While you could be a dirt bag and use one of them, spend a few quid on a proper survival bag that will keep you warmer and drier than you would be if stuck out on an exposed hillside overnight. Weighing only a matter of ounces and packing down to the size of a small apple, they will happily sit at the very bottom of your bag going completely unnoticed until the point at which you actually have cause to use the. Having seen first hand their effectiveness in both keeping a riding buddy warm when he broke his pelvis and their use in attracting a helicopter to land, they represent a remarkably effective insurance policy.
4 – A Whistle
Along with a survival bag, a whistle is a must have piece of kit. Look for one that has no moving parts such as those manufactured by Lifesystems. If you find yourself clutching at the business end of a shitty stick, 6 short, loud blasts on a whistle followed by a minutes silence and repeat, will help draw the attention of other outdoor users or the Mountain Rescue to your aid.
5 – Chain Link
Beat the broken chain blues with a chain link. For the price of a bottle of pop, you can cheerfully avoid the frustration of pushing a chain pin just that little bit too far and seeing it tumble to the ground. If you’ve ever tried to reinsert a pin into a chain, you’ll know that you are on a fool’s errand. If you want to be belt and braces, carry a few extra chain links in your pack. Connecting them to a chain is substantially easier than trying to straighten out a bent chain. I know. I tried. It didn’t work!
6 – Storm Shelter
Invest in a bothy shelter. No, not a bricks and mortar bothy in the middle of the Scottish Highlands but a lightweight, packable shelter that you can whip out your bag should the weather take a turn for the worse. Normally constructed from some form of proofed nylon, a bothy shelter is basically a rectangular shelter that you can pull over yourself and a riding companion or two and sit out a storm or simply take a break from the elements for a brew and a chinwag, Think of it as a little tent where your body acts as the poles. Almost all feature a sewn in waterproof base upon which to sit, are constructed from bright material and often have a small clear window to look out of. Heat builds up pretty rapidly even on the coldest of days so don’t be surprised if things get a bit sweaty. While you wouldn’t plan to bivvy out in one, you would at least be warm and uncomfortable if you had to. Just don’t plan on using a stove in one. If you do, you’ll either be overcome by carbon monoxide or you’ll probably set fire to it and end up looking like Wiley Coyote after yet another unsuccessful attempt to capture Road Runner.
7 – Headlight
Light up your life. For the sake of lugging around a few extra grams in your bag, you could have a small headlight ready for action whenever you need it. Petzl do a particularly fine line in such things; be it the ultra minimalist E-Light or one of their larger but still pocketable Tikka series of head torches. Out on the trail at night, it can be a pain to have to disconnect your brighter than the sun, super fancy-schmancy bar mounted light. Aside from the fact that you will probably temporarily blind yourself as you remove it, you’ll need a third hand to hold it. Fine if you are Zeyphod Beeblebrox but for Earth dwellers, not so much. An added bonus is that as you come to the dawning realisation that you forgot to charge your main light, you still have a light to see you home.
8 – Zip Ties
“Zip it up and start again”, as Orange Juice almost sang. The humble zip tie is one of the most useful bits of kit you can carry in your bag. Over the years, I have used them for all manner of trail repairs including acting as a temporary bolt in a broken seat post, sealing off a torn inner tube, replacing a lost jockey wheel bolt, holding a sheared bolt in place on a suspension frame, replacing a broken shoelace, replacing a lost chaining bolt, reattaching a light when the clamp broke and even fixing a Gravity Dropper seat post when the cable attachment debonded. They cost buttons, weigh nothing but the only limit on their usefulness is your imagination.
9 – Spare Bolts
Make a bolt for it! Take a good look at your bike and imagine the inconvenience if one of them sheared. There are only a small handful of sizes on your bike so it’s no great hardship to pack them in a zip lock bag. Just don’t forget a bolt for the cleat on your disco slippers!
10 – Cash Is King
Money. Filthy lucre. Queenie vouchers. Call it what you will but it’s universally accepted and can be used for all manner of things from a telephone box (yes, they do still exist and while the design may no longer be classic red cast iron, they still retain that unmistakeable wang of stale piss) to the cost of a train ticket home when you discover who wins in the game of pointy rock versus carbon frame.