The following is an extract from my OutSPOKEn column in the current September/October edition of Southern California Bicyclist magazine:
What to put in your seat pack
Some of you are relatively new to cycling. You have your bike, helmet, water bottles yet you know you need more. You’re certain you need something to fix flats, but what else do riders need and carry in their seat packs? For a local club ride I prefer to use a relatively small seat pack and not carry anything that I cannot imagine needing while I am on the road. Remember climbing is all about the power-to-weight ratio, and I find myself doing a lot of climbing. The last thing you want to do is climb encumbered by the added weight of every bicycle accessory or tool you own in an oversized seat pack.
For the last several years I have been using a seat pack that is 50 cubic inches. In it I carry two tubes (with a valve stem long enough for my wheels), a small patch kit, some material to use as a tire boot, a set of plastic tire levers, two metric allen keys that fit almost anything on my bike that I might wish to adjust on the road, a pair of thin polyethylene gloves (the disposable kind used by food vendors) and a pre-moistened towel called Grease Monkey Wipes. I also slip in two plastic zip ties which are weightless and are useful for attaching accessories to the bike should a mounting break and an on-the-road repair is needed. Finally I add one of my business cards in case I am injured and emergency services takes my bike away or to build up my legal practice. Cycling is supposedly the new gold when it comes to business development, and this cycling lawyer does not play golf. When I started riding I also carried change to use at a pay phone to call for help, but like everyone else I now carry a phone in my jersey pocket, and frankly when was the last time you even saw a pay phone?
I carry 2 tubes because in a group ride someone is going to have 2 flats in a day or you will meet someone on the road who is not prepared at all. I know my luck; if I carried only one tube and gave it to someone else, I would inevitably have a flat that very day. I dislike having to resort to using a patch kit on the side of the road. Some people carry nifty multi-tools with all sorts of screw drivers and allen keys. I get by with two allen keys and leave the other tools in my garage. The gloves are the luxury item, but they are nice to have to keep your hands clean if you have to handle a thrown chain or repair a rear tire. In the past months I have used the gloves to repair a rear flat and have handed them to two other riders. They are virtually weightless and probably can be obtained free for the asking at most fast food outlets or at a Costco. I have not used the Grease Monkey Wipes, because of the gloves, but I have shared them with others I come upon who are doing a roadside their repairs before I could offer them some gloves. I use a mini-pump that clips on to mounts next to one of my water bottles. Others swear by CO2 cartridges. If you want to use CO2, you will probably need a slightly larger pack to hold the adapter and at least 2 cartridges or plan on carrying them in your jersey pocket.
This is what I carry for local rides, a ride in which in the worst case scenario I could have someone pick me up and take me back home. My little seat pack is not intended for situations where I had to be more self reliant such as travelling cross country or in areas where bike shops and parts are not available. In those situations a larger pack is needed to carry more items such as a multi-tool, a chain tool, a spoke wrench, spare spokes, a folded spare tire, and replacement cables.
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