Into The Wild: Backcountry Essentials – Part 2

by David Gould 3

Last time around, we looked at some of the bigger tools that you may wish to consider carrying with you on your next bike adventure into the great unknown, or at least, the moderately unfamiliar to you! However, there are a number of smaller items you may wish to consider that will make your journey that bit more pleasurable should the yellow bird of happiness leave you only to be replaced by the blue bird of depression.

1.  Spare nuts and bolts

Have a look over your bike. Now imagine removing each one. Can you easily live without it? For some applications like bottle bolts, you can always swap them around but for others such as a shock bolt, it can be a case of game over. Don’t forget your steerer bolt. It’s an easy one to overlook but if it shears and you need to adjust your stem, it can be an almighty pain in the arse. However, remember the couple of toe straps you packed? At a pinch, you can use them to tension the stem by tying them around the stem and top of your forks. Basic but effective!

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Better to be looking at them than looking for them.

When looking over your bike, be sure to try your toolkit on every part of the bike. Ask yourself whether you have the right Allen and Torx keys for every eventuality. It’s all fine and dandy having a fancy mini tool but if you can’t use it to get at the more awkwardly located parts of your bike such as when trying to adjust your front mech, the tool will have all the usefulness of a chocolate fireguard.

2. Spare gear and brake cable

At some point, your cables will either seize or snap. Consider it an insurance policy that you will be glad off should you ever have to cash it in. Consider throwing in a short length of cable outer with end caps.

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A lot easier to fix on the trail than electronic shifting.

It’s not uncommon for gear outers to split. Sometimes, applying a bit of tape to the outer just doesn’t cut the mustard and a new section of outer is required.

3.  Brake bleeding kit

This belongs in the “do I really need this?” category. If you are running cable brakes, clearly not, but if you use hydraulic discs, there is always the possibility of you losing some fluid.

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Don’t forget the brake fluid.

If it isn’t a terminal failure that can’t be fixed on the trail, chances are that all you need is a bleed kit. However, it does add bulk and weight to your kit. Oh and don’t forget the brake fluid. It’s kinda important!

4.  Universal mech hanger

Again, this is one of those items that you will rarely need but which becomes indispensable should you decide to play a game of rock versus rear mech. To anyone who says that you can just singlespeed it, I say suck it! Have these people ever tried this and succeeded in anything other than forcing their chain up the block to the point it becomes fantastically tight? Nope, thought not.

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A few ounces that mean the difference between a long and miserable trudge home or riding with a smile on your face.

Cassettes are shaped to ease the movement of a chain across them. Without a rear mech to keep the chain in place, it will always try to jump up the block. How do I know this? Let me just say that if you want to feel like you are riding through a combination of treacle and a brutal headwind for fifteen miles to get back home, do what I did and leave the spare hanger at home.

5. Puncture kit

Again, you know this makes sense. Consider packing two tubes of glue just in case the one that you last used six months ago has gone off and has all the stickiness of a brick.

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A lot less messy than a tubeless set up.

Throw away the puncture kit box. You don’t need it and it doesn’t burn particularly well.

6  Gorilla Tape

Ah yes, the wonder material. Did you ever notice that B.A.in The A Team always had a roll of tape with him as did McGuyver. For everything for fixing a torn sidewall to First Aid and everything in between, this should be on your must have list.

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I wonder if they make an unhandy roll?

7. Superglue

Not so much a bike tool but a skin fixer. Sometimes a plaster just doesn’t cut it for dealing with a wound. A flappy bit of skin can easily be sealed with superglue…unless, of course, your name is John Rambo and you carry an enormous knife with built in needle and thread and have a high threshold for pain.

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All the king’s horses and all the king’s men…just needed this!

8.  Needle and thread

No, not to practice your needlepoint and cross stitch technique but if you rip your shorts or tear a sidewall, you can fashion a pretty effective fix in a matter of minutes. The superglue can help strengthen the repair. If you are a seasoned business traveller, nab yourself one of the complimentary sewing kits you will find in your hotel room.

A needle and thread…I have no idea what Lesiir Sateen means though!

9. Spare brake pads

Well duh, really? You’d be amazed by the number of folk who don’t carry these. If you think you can stop yourself, BMX style, jamming your foot against the rear tyre, good luck with that. For the rest of us, spare pads are an essential.

Just make sure you pack the right ones for your brakes……..

10. Spare chain links and quick links

While it is easy to shorten a chain, extending one can be somewhat more of a challenge. Sometimes, the mechanical goblin decides to pay a visit and you find yourself with a twisted chain. A quick link will help join things back together but if you have to shorten your chain to get it to work again, you may find yourself unable to access your lowest gears. Typically, you can expect this to happen at the start of a long and steep Alpine climb. Sods Law! But wait, you remembered to pack spare chain links. And so it is two fingers to the mechanical goblin for you are back in the game!

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Just make sure you have the right speed of link for your chain.

11. A decent bag to carry them all in

Unless you take pleasure in ferreting about in the bowels of your riding pack, randomly pulling out the contents with a growing sense of frustration, a waterproof bag to keep your tools in is pretty darn useful. Waterproof means that your tools will stay in tip top condition on even the filthiest of rides while the bag helps prevent your tools from migrating to the very bottom of your pack.

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A snazzy bag to keep it all in.

So there you have it. 11 more tips for your next bikepacking adventure. It goes without saying that if you take all of these, you will be well prepared for most eventualities. Which you chose to take and which you leave at home will be determined by your experience and your attitude to risk. With a bit of careful planning, you can build up a tool set that doesn’t weigh that much more than your normal day to day riding kit. Besides, you are riding a loaded up bike. Are you really going to notice an extra few ounces?

Comments (3)

  1. Don’t carry a full roll of Gorilla tape! Apart from that stag do, when have you ever used a full roll in one go? Put strips of tape down the inside of your rucksack, or on your camelbak bladder, or round your water bottle, or down part of the bike frame, etc.

  2. Good point, well made! I do that too. Much easier than having a roll of tape with you which you will probably lose at some point! I go for the wrap it round the mini pump approach which works really well.

  3. Good tips – most are already a part of my.

    I bit of chain is a great advice. Have been carrying spare links since they came around but a badly twisted chain couldn’t be solved. So cheers on that.

    But… “Sometimes a plaster just doesn’t cut it for dealing with a wound. A flappy bit of skin can easily be sealed with superglue” … are you serious? Applying super glue to your own skin? I know doctors have a “similar” product – but I believe the compound is different 🙂 Less lethal I hope.

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