When venturing into the backcountry, you stop measuring the distance from civilization in miles but rather days. Given the remote nature of the long routes some of us choose to undertake it becomes not just a matter of a good finish time but survival to have the skills and kit to get yourself out of a sticky situation.
Below is really what I would really consider my standard fix kit for going on long, multi-day rides. I have sort of curated it from ideas gathered talking to a lot of other bikepackers and touring cyclists as well as supplementing over time with little bits that would have helped me out of a tough spot. I can say that I have used every single piece of kit in this list in some form or fashion.
For the longest time I just crammed all of my fix kit into the far reaches of a frame bag but over the past year I have been working to try and keep things in their tidy little places. Like I mentioned in the first installation of this series, it saves so much time if you know right where something is rather than having to pull everything thing out of every bag to get to that one little piece. Fix kit stuff is not all that fragile and doesn't really mind getting a little damp. I envisioned being able to put it somewhere low and out of the way. I finally stumbled on a bag made by Rogue Panda out of Flagstaff called the Oracle that was designed just for this need. Attached to the downtube and sized just perfectly for my needs.
It has two straps that cinch around the frame, a horseshoe zipper that opens it wide and a thirds strap that secures the contents.
Inside I keep most of this stuff:
- 2oz Stans bottle filled with Orange Seal. Can use this to either top off a tire that has blown through some sealant when filling a puncture or to fill up one of those tubes that I keep in my seat bag if things really go sideways. It should be noted that this is a very important reason to carry tubes that have a removable valve core.
- Tire levers. Pedros are nice and durable.
- A rag for wiping down your chain and a 1/2oz eye drop bottle filled with Pro Gold Extreme.
- Zipties because you can never have too many zipties.
- A standard tube repair kit with a spare derailleur hanger and a pack of glueless patches.
- Crank Bros multitool with chainbreak and spoke wrench. Note on this. Make sure your multitool works on all of the fasteners on your bike. Test it, then test it again.
- FiberFix Spoke. This little kevlar emergency spoke. I have not had to use this but have heard good things about it. I have had a pretty bad run on spokes in the past year and this seemed prudent.
- An old brake pad box with lots of goodies that I will detail below.
- Bontrager AirSupport HV pump. I love this pump and I have put more strokes into it than I care to admit. I choose not to carry any CO2 inflator stuff with me because they hold a finite amount of air. A pump will work until your arm gives out. I also keep a few yards of duct tape wrapped around the shaft of the pump. Note that I keep this in my backpack, not in the downtube bag.
Inside that little brake pad box (which just happens to be the perfect size) is all this stuff:
- Shift cable.
- 3x 12 speed quick links.
- Heavy curved upholstery needle and some light braided cord. I keep this in a little fold of cardboard taped up to keep it from poking me or something else.
- Lots of little bits back up at the top right. Bolts for all kinds of things, a replacement valve core, chainring bolts and an extra Time ATAC cleat.
- A couple of 2032 batteries. Fits my power meter, heart rate monitor and a few of my blinkies.
- A length of 12 speed chain.
- Two sets of Shimano brake pads.
- Valve core removal tool.
- Genuine Innovations plug kit. Priceless when you have a cut that is proving tough to fix with sealant but not quite big enough to require sewing.
- Park Tire Boot
I have also recently started stashing some spare spokes (2x of each length) in my seatpost. I either saw this posted somewhere or had a dream about it. In the past I had just taped them to the top tube on my Ti hardtail but since getting this fine carbon Santa Cruz Tallboy I wasn't to excited about metal on carbon. To pull off the seatpost trick I just cut down a few pieces of foam and jammed them in the seatpost then stabbed the spokes through the foam. This past weekend I rode 180 miles of pretty rough trails and they did not budge.
I get asked a lot about the tire sewing thing. Before racing Dirty Kanza a few years ago, my friend John Karrasch recommended that I put a needle and thread in my fix kit to be able to sew up a tire if it were to be cut by the sharp rocks that the Flint Hills are notorious for. I thought he was crazy. 2015 Kanza was a little muddy so I decided to run a narrower but unarmored tire in the rear which I ended up slicing around mile 35 which completely blew my race plan but let me limp the tire along to the first checkpoint in Madison at mile 70 to get a fresh wheel. Last December on an Arizona Trail recon trip I sliced an Ikon dragging my rear wheel over a sharp rock on the first day of a three-day trip. No problems getting that repaired casing through the next 100+ miles.
Kurt Refsnider also just recently wrote a great article over on Bike that is definitely worth a read. http://www.bikemag.com/fully-loaded-bikepacking/backcountry-bike-repair
Bottom line....learn how to fix your bike. Are there things you carry in you fix kit that you wouldn't leave home without? I am always interested in hearing others stories of overcoming backcounty odds.
My most favorite and ingenious story is my friend Brendan Collier using two tent stakes, some tape and paracord to keep his crankset together on the Baja Divide this year. Brilliant!
Next up I will cover my AZTR cockpit including water, food and hygiene.