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Fail to prepare. Prepare to fail

The bike is a mechanical wonder but like anything with moving parts things can go wrong. And because they can go wrong it is inevitable that they will do so when you are furthest away from home, in a blizzard and you forgot to wear gloves. That is why it is essential that you carry enough tools and spares to get you home.

The most common problem a cyclist will face out on the road is a puncture. To the uninitiated a puncture is something to be feared.

For me this fear could be traced back to my childhood days of cycling on my trusted mountain bike. A puncture on one of these bikes would put it out of commission for days.

I was forced to watch as my cycling buddies vanished in the distance in search of another cool jump to do. Usually it was a mistimed bunny-hop onto the kerb that caused the puncture but back then most dad’s didn’t keep a stock of inner tubes in the garage for such an eventuality.

No back then, we used the trusty bucket and patch method of fixing punctures. This was not a quick process

These days I never leave home without two spare inner tubes and can get back on the road in about two minutes after discovering the puncture. I also carry a patch kit as a last resort.

It goes without saying that I also carry a mini-pump to inflate the new inner tube. I spent a lot of time researching the best mini-pump as I wanted one that was small enough to fit in my jersey pocket (a pro look) but also supplied a high enough pressure. The one I use can get the tyre back up to about 90psi with a bit of elbow grease which is enough to let me continue to enjoy my ride. It is also, incidentally, the only upper body strength training that I do.

There are plenty of good resources and videos online that show the best and quickest way to change an inner tube and there is nothing like a bit of practice in your garage to make you feel more confident. Commuting in the Scottish winters certainly gave me enough practice.

In summer (if there is such a thing in Scotland) I also carry a lightweight and waterproof gilet, a small multi-tool and some food. I use energy gels if it is a particularly long and arduous ride and found through trial and error the best ones for my stomach.

In winter I will add a heavier jacket and perhaps even spare gloves. If I am cycling with one of my accident prone friends I also pack one of those space blankets in case he falls and cannot continue (link to blog).

Into a small saddle bag I squeeze the two inner tubes, the spare patch kit, the multi-tool and my house keys. The rest is added to my jersey pockets. Please, for the love of all that is decent, do not use bags that go on the top tube or those disgraceful triangular bags or bags on the handlebars.

A road bike is a beautiful thing that can be immediately rendered ugly by using such things. Same goes for over-packing your jersey pockets. You have worked so hard to get that svelte, mountain goat figure so don’t ruin it by making it look like you have back haemorrhoids. This is a real thing.

To give you some reassurance my friend and I cycled for nine days throughout the Outer Hebrides in typical dreary Scottish weather and neither of us suffered from a mechanical or puncture.

On the flip side I once had three punctures in one day of commuting to work. My hands are still covered in grease from that experience.


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