Whether you’re setting off on an overnighter or a 5-year expedition around the world, you need to pack some tools and spares while bicycle touring or bikepacking. Exactly what you need to pack depends on where in the world you’re touring, for how long, and what type of bicycle you ride. In this guide, I explain exactly how to put together the ideal bikepacking and bicycle touring tool kit for your next adventure.
This guide is divided into 3 sections:
- Tools and spares to pack on every bicycle tour- Gear to carry whenever you leave your neighborhood
- Short tour bicycle touring tool kit- Additional gear to pack for a 3-30 day bicycle tour
- Expedition bicycle touring tool kit- Additional gear to pack for a 30 day to 5 years+
Each section builds on the previous. For example, for an expedition tour, you should pack everything listed section 1 and section 2. Use the links above to help you navigate the page.
Tools and Spares to pack for Every Bicycle Tour
These are the items you should pack whenever you ride your bike more than a few miles from your home. You need these items to make basic repairs and adjustments to your bicycle.
A good bicycle multi-tool includes all of the basic bike maintenance tools in a compact, relatively lightweight package. Make sure your multi-tool includes:
- Allen keys- The most common are 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8 millimeters.
- A chain breaker- This allows you to remove and replace your chain.
- Spoke keys- So you can true up your wheels in the field.
- Philips and flat head screwdrivers- You usually need these for attaching accessories to your handlebars. They come in handy off the bike as well.
- Wrenches- 8, 9, 10 mm are the most common. A small pedal wrench is nice to have as well. 15 mm is the most common size.
I like the Topeak Alien II Multi-Tool. It is the most complete multi-tool that I have found with 31 different functions. It’s a bit heavy but it includes so many features that the extra weight is worth it to me.
Tip: Some cyclists don’t like multi-tools. All of the tools are smaller and more difficult to use than the standard size. What’s worse is the fact that you always end up bringing tools that you don’t need. For example, you don’t need a chain breaker if you’re riding a bike with a belt drive.
You can save a bit of weight by putting together your own bicycle touring toolset based on the needs of your bike. Just bring the tools that you need. This way, your tool kit is easier to use and you’re not carrying any unnecessary items.
The drawback is that putting together your own tool kit is more time consuming and expensive than simply buying a multi-tool. I still carry a multi-tool.
Mini Tire Pump
Your pump is one piece of gear that you shouldn’t cheap out on. You’ll use it quite a bit and you want to be able to rely on it. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a patched tube but no way to pump it up.
Look for a pump with a gauge so you can pump your tires to the optimal pressure. This improves cycling efficiency and handling. Look for a pump with high volume and high-pressure settings. This makes filling your tires after a flat much faster and easier. Also, make sure your pump works with your valves. Most modern pumps work with both Presta and Schrader these days.
Be sure to test your pump once in a while. I got a flat while touring last year and found that my cheap pump had broken somewhere along the way. Luckily, I was with a friend and I just used his.
When I got home, I bought the Vibrelli Mini Bike Pump. It’s compact and compatible with both Presta and Schrader. The only drawback is that it doesn’t include a gauge.
If you’re riding tubeless: you may have better luck with a co2 tire inflator. These fill your tires much faster than a mini hand pump and may be required for getting a good seal around the bead of your tire when repairing a flat while riding tubeless. I like the Pro Bike Tool CO2 Inflator.
One of the most common mechanical problems you face during a tour is a flat tire. Luckily they are easy to fix as long as you have a simple patch kit. Your kit should include:
- Rubber patches of various sizes
- Vulcanizing solution
- A small piece of abrasive material like sandpaper
I recommend you buy a decent patch kit rather than use the one that came with your multi-tool or pump. I’ve never had any luck with those freebies. The patches always fail. Also, avoid patches that don’t require any glue. They rarely hold for long.
I like the Park Tool Vulcanizing Patch Kit. These kits include plenty of patches and last quite a while. It’s also really small. Be sure to check the glue before your tour to make sure it hasn’t dried out.
If you’re riding tubeless: you’ll want to pack a tubeless patch kit instead. It should include
- A plugger
- Some plugs
- An extra valve core or two.
You may also want to pack a sewing kit with heavy duty thread so you can sew up any sidewall tears.
1-2 Spare Tubes
You can only patch a tube so many times before it needs to be replaced. Some large puncture just can’t be patched. Sometimes a patch doesn’t hold and you just want to get on with your day. In these cases, you need to have a spare tube or two. For shorter tours, you can get away with 1 tube. While riding through somewhere rural or less developed, carrying 2 may be a good idea.
Also, consider your wheel size. In some parts of the world, 700c tubes are hard to find. Make sure you’re carrying enough spares in these situations. You may want to carry more than 2. It’s your call. In a pinch, you can usually stretch a 26-inch tube to fit a 700c wheel.
For tubeless riders: Always carry at least one tube. That way, if you can’t get your tire to seal or you run out of sealant, you can still get back on the road. Simply clean out the tire and install the tube.
2-3 tire levers
These make removing and replacing a flat tire much easier. They are lightweight and save you a lot of pain while fixing a flat. Some tight tires take a lot of prying to remove from the wheel. Make sure you get some quality levers. The levers that are included with your multi-tool or pump are usually too flexible and break easily.
I like Pedro’s Tire Levers. They are cheap yet sturdy. They also clip together so you won’t lose one.
Short Tour Bikepacking or Bicycle Touring Tool Kit
In addition to the above, you’ll want to carry the following tools and spares for a 3-30 day ride.
- A small bottle of chain lube- You’ll want to do a quick cleaning and apply fresh lube every few days or so and a thorough cleaning every month. More often when you’re riding in wet or sandy conditions. For info on types of bike chain lube and how to apply it, check out this excellent article from Cycling About.
- A small brush- For cleaning your chain. An old toothbrush works well.
1 brake cable- Even though cables last a long time and are unlikely to break during a short tour, I like to bring a spare. They take up such a small amount of space it’s worth it for the peace of mine.
- 1 shifter cable- Again, cables weigh nothing and can save the day in the event of a failure.
- Spare chain link- If your chain fails, you can replace the broken link and be on your way. This isn’t likely if you properly maintain your chain, but a spare link is so small and light, you might as well carry one. Having a spare link saves you from having to carry an entire chain.
- 1-2 sets of brake pads- These can wear out faster than expected. Particularly while riding hilly or mountainous terrain. I always like to bring at least one set of spares. They are light and small so packing isn’t a problem.
- Needle nose pliers with cable cutter- These are heavy but have many uses. First, you need them for replacing cables. You need to be able to cut the new brake or shifter cable to size. You can also use them to crimp the end cap on your new cable. Needle nose pliers also come in handy for repairing bent gears. While touring last year, I knocked my largest chainring and bent it up pretty bad. I just tipped my bike over and used my needle nose pliers to bend the teeth back into place. After 15 minutes of work, it was as good as new.
- Several spare spokes- Breaking spokes isn’t too common but it’s a good idea to carry a few spares just in case. Remember, the drive side and non-drive side may take different sizes depending on your hubs. The front and rear may be different as well. It’s a good idea to carry spares as you may not be able to get your exact size at every bike shop. There are just so many different sizes. The most common spoke to break is the rear drive side.
- Spare derailleur hanger- If your rear derailleur gets knocked or caught on something, the hanger is designed to break so as not to cause damage to the derailleur itself. It’s nice to have a spare hangar just in case. This is another replacement item that takes up hardly any space and can save the day if you need it. On some bikes, the rear derailleur attaches directly to the frame and don’t use a hangar.
- Zip ties- These come in handy often. You can use them to temporarily repair a broken rack, for example. You can also use them to attach spare parts to your frame to save space in your bags or panniers.
- Tweezers- To help remove the small staple, thorn, debris, etc. that punctured your tire.
- Duct tape- Another handy tool to have. The uses of duct tape are endless. You could repair a torn pannier, for example. You don’t need to carry a whole roll. Just wrap a couple of meters around a bottle, your water filter, or some other cylindrical piece of gear.
- Hose clamps- These come in handy for repairing broken racks and attaching spare parts to your frame. They have many uses.
- A small rag- For keeping your bike clean and shiny. Clean components perform better and last longer. If you’re using rim brakes, it’s important to wipe the rims clean every day or two. This helps to increase the life of your rims and pads.
- A small sewing kit- These come in handy for repairing small tears in gear including bikepacking bags, panniers, clothing, and camping gear. If you pack some heavy duty thread, you can also use your sewing kit to stitch up sidewall tears in your tires.
Expedition Bikepacking or Bicycle Touring Tool Kit
In addition to the above, you’ll want to pack the following tools and spares 30 day to 5 year+ bicycle tour or bikepacking adventure.
Note: Many of the following items don’t need to be carried at all times. You just need to use your best judgment. If you’re traveling through a remote region like West Africa or Central Asia, you may need to carry most of the following items. Bike shops in developing countries may not have the tools required to repair your modern equipment. Some spares just aren’t available because they aren’t even imported.
If you’re bicycle touring in the developed world, you can do without many of these items. You can simply pick them up in any bike shop or have them shipped to you in a matter of days. Bike shops in the developed world have the tools required to repair modern equipment.
- 2 spare tires- If you are riding through a remote or developing region where you may not have access to quality spares, carrying 2 spare tires is a good idea. To save space, consider buying foldable tires. You don’t need to carry spare tires all the time. For example, in the developed world, it’s not really necessary.
- Spare chain- In some parts of the world, finding 9 or 10-speed chains can be a challenge. During a long tour, you may want to swap out chains every 3000 kilometers. This extends the life of your cassette. You’ll also have a spare if one chain fails.
- Cassette removal tool or freewheel removal tool- You’ll need this if you have to replace a rear drive side spoke, cassette, freewheel, or service your hub. Make sure you get the right one for your bike.
- Chain whip- In case you have to replace a rear drive side spoke, cassette, or service your rear hub. There are methods ways you use to remove your cassette without a chain whip. Check this thread from mtbr.com for some ideas. I’ve never tried any of these methods.
- Spoke tool- Sometimes wheels get slightly out of true. You can true them up with just a couple of turns if you know what you’re doing. You could even rebuild a wheel if you know what you’re doing. I recommend you pack a steel spoke tool. Aluminum ones tend to get stripped easily.
- Cone spanners- You’ll need these if you need to service your hubs.
- Crank puller- To remove your cranks in case you need to replace them or service your bottom bracket. Make sure you get the correct type for your bike.
Bottom bracket removal tool- In case you need to service or replace your bottom bracket. A bike shop in the developing world might not have the right one.
- Spare cassette or freewheel- This isn’t something you have to carry at all times. If you are traveling through a remote or developing region where you may not be able to find the proper size cassette, it’s a good idea to carry a spare. In the developed world, carrying a spare isn’t really necessary.
- A thin adjustable wrench- This has many uses. You can use it to tighten your headset, remove your pedals, or take your hubs apart for servicing. You can save weight and space by carrying one wrench rather than a wrench for each job.
Replacement bearings- Make sure you have the right sizes and types. Hubs, bottom brackets, pedals, and headsets may all require bearings.
- Bike grease- You don’t need a whole tube. Just carry a bit in a small container.
- Cable end caps- So your cables don’t fray after you replace them.
Extra nuts, bolts, and washers- Sometimes bolts work their way loose or shear off after many miles. This is particularly common on racks. Some cyclists like to use locktite to keep bolts in place.
- Spare clip for panniers- After enough miles, these tend to fail. If you don’t have a spare, you’ll have to rig up a way to attach your pannier until you can buy a replacement clip.
- Internal gear hub parts- If you’re touring with an internal gear hub, you may want to bring some spares as they can be hard to come by in some parts of the world. You may need a replacement sprocket, oil, or a spare cable.
- Tubeless sealant- In some parts of the world, this stuff can be hard to come by. Even though you’re unlikely to need it, it may be a good idea to carry a small bottle.
- Bar tape- If you’re riding a bike with drop bars or butterfly bars, you will need to replace the tape eventually.
- Standard multi-tool- These come in handy for bike repair and around camp. I even use mine while cooking. To save some weight, choose a multi-tool with a built-in needle nosed pliers. I like the Leatherman Wingman multitool. It contains 14 tools including a knife, pliers, file, scissors, screwdriver, and bottle opener.
- Disposable gloves- These are nice to have when you have to do messy work like applying grease or cleaning. They keep your hands clean and can be used a few times if you’re careful.
Things to Consider While Putting Together a Bicycle Touring Tool Kit
As you can see, this is a lot of gear to pack and lug around. Luckily, you usually don’t need all of it at the same time. After you put together a basic kit (basically everything from the weekend tour and average length tour sections), you kind of have to pick and choose the additional items that you need to bring. When putting together your kit, you want to consider:
- Your bicycle maintenance skill level- Make sure that you know how to use every tool and spare part that you pack. If you don’t know how to remove and replace your cassette, it probably doesn’t make sense to pack the tools to do it. There is an exception to this point. While touring through some developing countries, bike shop mechanics may know how to do the work but just don’t have the tool. In this case, it’s a good idea to pack a tool that you don’t know how to use. Maybe somebody else does.
- The condition of your components- If you just re-wrapped your handlebars, it probably doesn’t make sense to carry replacement handlebar tape. If you just replaced your cassette, you probably don’t need to lug a new one around. There is an exception to this point as well. Sometimes, you can anticipate when a part will wear out. For example, if your tires are in good condition with 2000 miles of life left in them but you the closest place where you can buy a new pair is 3000 miles away, it makes sense to carry a spare set.
- Where you are touring- In some parts of the world, parts are easier to come by than others. Finding replacements can be surprisingly tricky sometimes because having parts shipped is not an option. I have even heard of cyclists having to fly to another country, buy parts, and fly back to their bike. When crossing remote or developing regions, try to carry all of the parts that you are likely to need to make it through.
- The age of your bike- A brand new touring bike requires less frequent maintenance than a beater from the 80s. You can get away with carrying fewer tools and spares. However, while touring through developing countries, local bike shops may not have the proper tools to replace modern components. For example, maybe you need to replace your cassette. The local bike shop doesn’t have the right size cassette removal tool. In this case, you’d be happy if you were carrying your own.
Before the Tour
Before setting off on any tour, it’s a good idea to give your bike a good look over to make sure that it’s up to the ride. Make the necessary adjustments and replace any parts that are worn out before your tour. You should:
- Clean the entire bike thoroughly- Spotting problems is much easier on a clean bike than a mud-caked one. For example, you could miss a catastrophic crack in the frame if it’s covered in dirt
- Make sure your chain is clean and oiled- You should oil your chain every couple hundred miles depending on conditions. If you’re riding through sand or in the rain, you’ll want to clean and oil your chain more often. In some extreme cases, you may need to clean it daily.
- Check the pressure and condition of your tires- It’s a good idea to use a gauge to get the ideal pressure. Make sure your tires have enough life left in them.
- Test your brakes and makes sure the pads have enough life left- Also take a look at the cables to make sure they move smoothly and are in good condition.
- Test your shifters- Adjust your derailleurs if necessary. Give your cables a good look to make sure they move smoothly and are in good condition.
- Go over your bike and make sure all bolts and quick releases are tight- Check all bolts with an Allen key to make sure they’re tight. Check your headset and stem. Test the quick releases on the wheels.
Additional maintenance to consider before an expedition tour
- Apply fresh grease- Including hubs, bottom bracket, and headset. While you’re in there, check the condition of your bearings and replace them if they’re worn out. This is kind of a messy and tedious job so it’s best to get it out of the way before you leave. After it’s done, you shouldn’t have to worry about these parts again for many miles.
- Tension and true your wheels- The wheels are one of the most important parts of the bike. If they fail, finding replacement parts can be a major hassle. A properly trued and tensioned wheel lasts many thousands of miles. You may have to take your wheels to a bike shop to have this done if you don’t have the proper tools or know-how. Wheels are kind of tricky.
- Replace any worn parts- While touring, you want to be proactive with maintenance. Don’t wait for a part to fail unless you have a replacement and the proper tools to make the repair in your toolkit. You don’t want to be left stranded somewhere.
Final Thoughts on Building the Ideal Bikepacking and Bicycle Touring Tool Kit
Your bicycle touring tool kit changes based on where you’re touring, the type of bike you’re riding, and the condition of your gear. There isn’t really one ideal tool kit for every tour. During my first bicycle tour I carried more spares than I needed. I have since adapted my kit to my needs.
In the developed world, you can get by with a very limited bicycle touring tool kit. As long as you can repair a flat, you’re good to go. Most any bike shop will have the tools and spares that you need to get you back on the road if something does fail.
In the developing world, you have to put a bit more thought into exactly what tools you need to pack. Maybe you need to service your bottom bracket but the bike shop doesn’t have the right crank puller for your bike. In this case, you’d be relieved if you were carrying your own. At the same time, you don’t want to weigh yourself down with heavy tools and spare parts that you don’t really need to carry.
Overall, bicycles are pretty reliable machines. Particularly if you have quality components installed. You probably don’t need to carry as many spare parts as you’d think. Having said that, having a good toolkit does bring peace of mind.
What’s in your bikepacking or bicycle touring tool kit? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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