What’s in YOUR saddle bag?

There’s nothing like finding yourself 20 miles from home with a mechanical problem that could be easily fixed – if you had just brought along the right stuff! Most riders carry the basics: inner tube, patch kit, tire lever, C02 cartridges (if you use them), frame pump, allen wrench set, cell phone, personal ID (medical info), $20. Below is a list of often-overlooked “life savers”:

Casing patch. To prevent your inner tube from exploding out of a slashed sidewall, you can line the inside of your tire with an energy bar wrapper, but I prefer a self-adhesive tire boot.

Universal spoke wrench. You trust your spokes until one breaks, and then never again.

Chain tool/quick link. After my chain broke during an ultracross race, a kind stranger repaired it with his quick link and I finished the race. Now I carry these with me.

Valve adaptor from Presta to Schrader. This tiny adaptor will allow you to use a gas-station pump.

Rag. I wrap my spare inner tube in a piece of flannel to protect it and to wipe my hands if greasy.

Caffeinated sports gel on reserve. If you have an unexpected bonk, make a wrong turn, find yourself in a deserted area, or on a ride that was longer than expected – a “reserve” gel might be the thing that will get you home.

Sample-size sunscreen. It’s easy to forget sunscreen on the way out the door, but you won’t forget the burn as easily.

Wind vest. Even in mild weather, I tuck a wind vest in my pocket. Unexpected rainstorms, clouds, or high winds can make a bike ride feel like being trapped in a meat locker. Also, when the sun goes down, the temperature can drop drastically. A wind vest packs small and will get you home in comfort.

Extra pair of gloves (in cold weather). Winter gloves often get sweaty inside and freeze in the cold air. When my hands are frozen, I switch to a dry pair of gloves and this helps bring them back to life. Alternately, when it’s cold but will warm up, I start with winter gloves and tuck a full-finger knit glove in my pocket for later – because no one likes riding around in swampy winter gloves on a pleasant day.

Mini first aid kit. These items have come in handy for incidents ranging from road rash to dog bites: 2 wet wipes, 2 alcohol wipes, 2 band aids, and a mostly used-up tube of antibiotic ointment (so it packs flat).


  1. Never count on your riding partners for tools, etc. They are probably counting on you!
  2. Definitely carry a frame pump! One day, your flats will outnumber your CO2 cartridges.
  3. I carry three tubes in an ultracross race. You can throw one out to a stranger and still have two left.
  4. For more information and recommendations, take a look at “Tools and Spare Equipment”, pp 16-22 in my father’s reference guide.

Stephanie Swan

My saddle bag and its contents
My saddle bag and its contents
Preparedness has a cost – in the neighborhood of 1 lb, 5.8 oz
Preparedness has a cost – in the neighborhood of 1 lb, 5.8 oz

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