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Mountain Biking - Repair Kit and Essentials

This article was originally posted 2 years ago, but after one of our staff writers got stranded on Twin Peaks with a flat this week she reminded us that repair equipment should be required baggage for both rookies and grizzled mountain biking vets.


Mountain Biking - Repair Kit and Essentials

by Andy Dappen

Mountain biking out the backdoor and into our foothills is one of the pleasures of living in Leavenworth, Cashmere, Chelan, or Wenatchee. In minutes, and without a car, we can be riding dirt trails. Sometimes, however, familiarity breeds carelessness. All too often we mountain bikers hit the trails underprepared. We may be within sight of town, but that doesn’t protect us from mechanical failure. It also doesn’t mean we are off limits from flying over the handlebars and taking one of those wingers that sandpaper us with oozing wounds. Sometimes things can go south enough on short, after-work rides that we don’t even make it home by daylight. With all this in mind, here’s our take on what should accompany you on the trail -- even if you think you’re just headed out for an hour’s ride.

Items from left to right: chain lube and rag, compact pump, first-aid kit, spare tube in box, tire irons, multi-tool, small knife, flashlight, SpinSkin tire liner, socket-wrench tool, chain tool, duct tape, lighter, energy bars, neon windshell (underneath), pack (behind).

1) Flat tire tools and supplies. Flats are the most common bike-repair problem and you can get lots of them here in Central Washington -- particularly when the goatheads are in season. To reduce the frequency of flats, consider preventive measures like SpinSkin tire liners or tubes with sealant (e.g., Slime or Airlock sealant) Even with flat resistant tires and tubes, you’ll get flatted out from time to time so at the very minimum carry tire irons, a spare tube, and a compact pump. Flat tires seem to come in waves and when you’re in a rut, you sometimes get a few flats on one ride—which is why you might consider carrying a small patch kit as well.

2) Bike tools. Nuts loosen, chains break, derailleurs twist, and cables snap, so carry a few tools to fix minor problems and that can help you jury-rig major problems and limp home. As a minimum carry a chain and a multi tool like the Topeak Alien XS.

3) Chain lube. The dust on our trails can create terrible, even paralyzing, chain suck and all manners of maddening squeaks for which a chain lubricant is the only solution. Get a one-ounce plastic bottle for the pack and use a larger bottle of lube from home to keep the pack bottle topped off. Also bring a tissue-sized rag.

4) Injuries.  Occasionally (frequently for some riders) everyone takes a whipper and, while it’s not feasible to carry first-aid supplies for every eventuality, an iPod sized pouch carrying  antiseptic swabs, Band-Aids, gauze pads, and tape will let you minister to all sorts of ugly, if not deadly, wounds. A roll of Leukotape P is worth having at home – roll a few yards of this tape over on itself to create a mini-roll for the pack.

5) Water and warmth. Carry enough water to match the length of your ride and the heat of the day. During summer you can easily burn through a few quarts of water in a few hours around here. In spring and fall, you can cut back on the water but a little something for warmth in the event of a mishap (like the ubiquitous neon Pearl Izumi windshell) is highly recommended– especially if you’re riding closer to evening when a delay could you bump you up against dusk or dark.

6) Other essentials. A safe pack for a short ride doesn't need all of the typical Ten Essentials but it should have a few energy bars, a lighter, and a flashlight tucked down in its bowels as well. In the event of a serious problem, the lighter will let you build a fire and stay warm at night with virtually no extra weight added to the pack. Meanwhile a flashlight can be a tiny key-chain LED light that would give you enough light to build a fire or could be a more versatile torch like the Petzl ZipkaPlus which you could ride by (slowly) or hike with.

7) Cell phone. Don’t rely on a phone as your only salvation – all of us are notoriously sloppy about keeping the charge up or, like you, they can get smashed when you take a spill. Still, reception is good on most of our foothill trail systems. If you’re seriously hurt, a phone may prove invaluable for quick aid. Likewise if you’re significantly delayed, notifying family can make the difference in having a spouse that’s simply annoyed versus one who is going to murder you for showing up an hour late for a nice dinner.

8) Pack. The total load here is likely to be more than what straps onto your bike frame, so most mountain bikers rely on a pack that carries a water bladder and has extra room for tools, food, and clothing. Camelbak is one of several popular pack makers and their Lobo  is a good picks for our region. In summer you can use extra space to carry more water and on the shoulder seasons that space lets you carry clothing to match the temperatures of the day. Another excellent pack WenatcheeOutdoors will be reviewing in greater detail in a later post is the Geigerrig Rig 700 (it’s tough, easily expandable or compressible, and has a very cool water delivery system that squirts water rather than necessitating that you suck hard at the very time that you’re sucking air).

These supplies, or good substitute items, are available through such regional bike shops as Full Circle Cycle (Wenatchee, 509-663-8025), Arlberg Sports (Wenatchee, 509-663-7401), Second Wind Bicycle (East Wenatchee, 509-884-0821), Der Sportmann (Leavenworth, 509-548-5623), Das Rad Haus (Leavenworth, 509-548-5615).

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Editors note: Please add to the author's opinions (or offset them) by adding a comment below with your own repair or safety essentials.