As a professional cyclist, when I am racing with the team, you don’t stop a race to “change a flat tire”. I have the luxury of working with some of the best mechanics in the business. They ensure the bikes are clean, functional, and ready to rock and roll on race day. However, as a professional, it is my job to also be proficient in changing my own tires and doing basic maintenance skills. If I flat in a race, the mechanic will do a super quick wheel change in order to get me back into the race as quickly as possible. There is no time to stop and change a tire when the peloton is zooming away! When I am at home, it is my responsibility to take care of my bike and be ready to change any flats or deal with any other mechanical issues. I spend many hours training by myself or in small groups, and I need to know how to change a flat and make sure my bike is safely tuned and ready to ride. Yes, I will find myself wishing that I had that “entourage” of support behind me at all times training, but such is not the case.
Asking someone what is in their saddle bag may be a very personal question. It could hold the secrets of the universe, or at least a secret stash of Almond Joy or a compact. Saddle bags come in all sizes. Similar to purses. We have the big “hobo” style full of lip balm, sunscreen, and extra shoes, and you have those that opt to carry the sleek purse with only the necessities.
What do I do?! Think fashionable and functional clutch with form, style, and preparation.
The bike and tires: I ride a Felt F-1 road bike, size 56cm, and it is a beauty! I ride Zipp Tangente 25mm Clincher Tires with Zipp Tangente Butyl (not latex) 700c Inner Tubes. These tubes are paired specifically with Zipp integrated aluminum valve extenders, and you can choose the length dependent on your wheel choice. They are super light, and coated in powder which makes it easier to remove from the tire. I tend to ride “deeper” aero wheels so I like having the option of having my tubes come with a integrated valve extender on it for easier inflation and less room for error.
The saddle bag (aka purse): I carry all my flat fixing/repair “stuff” in a Fizik saddle bag. I like this one because it is small, but it still has enough room to carry all of my gear. It is noninvasive and doesn’t rub my legs while riding and snag my shorts! I like to get it all my stuff in there so I have more room in my pockets for food, extra layers of clothing and my phone, which are also imperative.
What’s in MY saddle bag?
- 2 Tire Levers: Just in case you might break one, and also 2 is helpful if you have a tight tire to remove. I like the tire levers to be sturdy and not risk breaking!
- 1 Multi-Tool: I love a really small, light multi-tool for those adjustments like if your seat slips, or your bars drop. This shouldn’t happen if all your bolts are tightened appropriately, but sometimes things just happen when riding. I have been carrying the Lezyne multitool for years and I love it because it has everything I need and is also super small yet still easy to use.
- 2 Tubes: Always bring 2 for the instance that you have 2 flats, or that after you flat once, you still have a back-up plan. Another reason is that you might for some reason have a flawed tube.
- 1 Valve Extender: Even though I prefer to have the integrated valve extender system that Zipp uses, I like to carry a valve extender just in case. You may be on your 3rd flat of the day and a generous cyclist has given you a tube, and that tube’s valve may be too short for your wheels! Believe me, I have learned this the hard way.
- Small Patch Kit: No brand, I think I got it in a SWAG bag from a race. I don’t really intend on using the patch kit, but bring it just in case I get that desperate.
- 2 CO2 Cartridges: I always bring 2 in case I have a mishap with one, or for the case of a second flat, slow leak, etc. I use threaded 16 (or 25) gram cartridges.
- 1 CO2 Nozzle: I prefer the kind that doesn’t make you empty the entire cartridge and allows you to modulate the amount of air you put in the tire. Sometimes you don’t need a whole cartridge and you want to save a little in case you have a slow leak and need a refill.
- $20 Bill. Sometimes you forget your credit card or you are middle of nowhere and it is a cash only store! Or you need a bus fare to get home (worst case scenario). Best to be prepared. It can also be used to cover a bad tire blow-out! Nothing like high rolling to repair a flat.
My functional and fashionable clutch.
My tips for my saddle bag and flat fixing:
- Be has lightweight as preparation allows. I personally don’t like to be weighted down when I am riding, and I have found a good balance of preparation and efficiency. I want to have everything I need but not be carrying too much extra “stuff”.
- Saddle bag is preferred over other forms of storage. Those jersey pockets are only so big, and I like to be able to shed layers or carry extra layers, have all the ride food I need, and have my phone, iPod, money, etc. in there! Saddle bags are great because they give you the extra room in your pockets and also make you getting out the door for your ride easier. If your bike is already loaded with all the flat fixing stuff you need, then it is one less thing to think about when heading out for your ride. I don’t want to store my “flat fixing necessities” in one of my water bottle cages. I want to have that for WATER!
- Replace any materials that you might have used your last ride! Nothing is worse than pulling out a CO2 only to realize it is empty. Doh! We all know someone who always seems to be “that person”.
- Make sure to discard your tubes and flat tire litter appropriately. I hate seeing tubes on the side of the road. Our job as cyclists are to leave the areas we ride in better than we found them, not worse!
- Clean, efficient, safe bike is the best. Take care of your bike to ensure less incidents.
- Preparation always wins. When in doubt, be prepared.
Additional options of saddles bags that I may or may not have been known to carry.
Appropriate for the Crazy Cat Ladies (guilty as charged) and Don Draper and Manhattan Fans of the world. Remember, you must always be prepared for any and all situations. You just never know.
Crazy Cat Lady Saddle Bag
Don Draper’s Saddle Bag.