April 13, 2018 7 min read

What’s in your saddle bag kit?
The variety of saddle bags and tools to fill them with are abundant, and that’s putting it mildly.  The problem is, most of us put tools in there without ever really thinking about what we truly need.  We lug around stuff we don’t need, or worse, the wrong tools.  Even worse than that is tools that don’t hold up (maybe that was the reason the CO2 inflator was in the clearance bin for $0.99?).

Whenever we think of saddle bag kit, the first thing that comes to mind is: road or mountain? When it comes to road, we’re minimalists, weight weenies, and obsessive.

For mountain, not so much.  Hydration pack? Check. Plenty of room? Check. Throw some stuff in there that should cover the emergencies and go ride, the extra 2 pounds won’t hurt.  Yeah, they’re completely opposite.  Is there a good reason?  Nope, other than sheer laziness and a myriad of other reasons we know are wrong.

Enough of the excuses though and let’s talk about what should actually be coming with you on a ride!

ROADIE

We’re weight weenies, remember?  Minimalist is the theme!  2oz extra weight?  Yikes, we need to trim that off to win a Strava segment!!  Or so we tell ourselves…  The reality is, on road bike rides, weight does matter, more than you think, but enough, that goes into another topic entirely.

What’s in my kit?  Simple!

Saddle Bag
Be picky here, we like to keep it super compact with just enough room.  Two reasons:

  1. It won’t get in the way
  2. It’ll avoid the temptation to stuff extra junk in there.

You want to make sure you have a bag that secures well. The last thing you want is to realize that your just barely long enough Velcro straps let go and it’s on the side of the road 20 miles back after a stretch of rough pavement.  That’s why we love the Silca Premio Seat Roll.  It has a Boa closure that is super reliable and fits just about every saddle out there.  Did we mention it looks good too?  Hard to do for most saddle bags.

Budget conscious?  Lezyne has some great options too.  Ultra-minimalist or super budget conscious?  Tape can work wonders too, we know a fair number of riders who use some non-residue tape.  Just make sure nothing can slip out.  Jersey pockets work too, but we stuff them with nutrition and our phone, so limited room. 🙂

Tire Levers
Why only one tire lever? If you’re running folding bead tires, you seldom ever need more than one lever. This depends on your wheelset and tire brand though, so try popping your tires off at home before skipping on an extra lever.

Tire Boot
A boot is optional, but it takes almost no space and can be a lifesaver if you get a big gash on the tire. You can use a dollar bill too, but if it’s a big gash, it won’t hold up. The upside of a boot is that it’s sticky and won’t move out of place. Plus it’s stronger, so if you need to use it, it’ll hold for a long time.

CO2
Only one tube but two cartridges? Two reasons, the likelihood of a puncture is relatively low unless you have terrible roads, and tubes take up the most space. If it does happen twice, that’s what the patch kit is for and you’ll have the 2nd CO2 cartridge. Spare CO2 is always good to have.

CO2 Inflator
There’s a ton of options, but our favorite is the Genuine Innovations Elite or Silca Eolo.  Why?  They’re tiny, push to inflate, and hyper-reliable.  We have more than a few Elite units that have been in service for 5 or more years and they work as well as they did the first time. We also love push to inflate as it makes it easy to regulate.  Whenever you swap a tube, it’s a good idea to give it a small shot of air, check to make sure your tube isn’t pinched on the rim, and then inflate it the rest of the way.

Don’t love CO2 inflators?  Get an ultra-compact pump.  BUT, get one with a digital gauge and that is capable of reaching road pressures (and we mean capable in the field, those who’ve tried this before know what we mean).  Why a digital gauge?  You want to know what your pressure is at.  Few things are more energy-sapping than a half-filled tire that you can’t fill more because the pump requires herculean strength to get to the needed pressure level.  Lezyne and Silca have great options here.  For the techie gadget types, the SILCA Tattico Bluetooth connects to your phone via Bluetooth.  Crazy right?  By ditching the display they save weight and let’s face it, who doesn’t take their phone on a ride.  Why not combine the two?

Can you throw more stuff in?  Sure, but the weight adds up fast.  Doing some light randonneuring?  Long rides (70+ miles) solo? Strategically add an extra tube and CO2, while still keeping it light.  If you’re truly going for the long haul, a frame pump can be a great choice, but it’s overkill on anything less unless you’re nostalgic or just think extra weight is a training tool.

But you missed something!  You need a chain tool!  Maybe, maybe not.  If you’re maintaining your chain and monitoring chain wear (use a special gauge) and using a quality chain, the likelihood of having a chain break is extremely low.  We prefer saving the weight.  That said, if you’re going to remote and desolate areas, take a chain tool and spare link, an Uber or Lyft ride is a long way off if it’s even available.

Mountain Biking

We already told you we’re all slackers here.  Even though we’ve been caught short, we still don’t seem to learn.  But hey, writing this might just change it!

If you’re using a hydration pack, skip the saddle bag. Especially if you’re using a dropper post as it’ll get in the way.  To keep it organized, get a small pouch that everything fits in so you can simply toss it in your bag at the beginning of the ride.  What to put in the pouch is the question…

The deciding factor is going to be whether you run a tube or tubeless setup.

Tubeless
As the name implies, there’s no tube. For those not familiar with this increasingly popular setup, rather than a traditional inner tube, the rim is sealed, and a special sealant is added that will quickly seal up any punctures with minimal air loss (sealant choices are a topic for another post). In the vast majority of cases, this will work without you even noticing it’s happening.

If it’s a big gash though, you may need to give it some help. Few sealants if any will successfully fix a quarter-inch gash or bigger without a bit of help. Get a puncture that your sealant won’t seal, and it’s time for a plug kit or side of bacon, depending on what you want to call the funky little rubber plug strips! Again, plenty of options out there, but we like Genuine Innovation’s Tubeless Patch Kit or their Tubeless Tackle Kit. Either one is easy to use and solves your problem quickly in all but the most extreme cases, which are also a topic for another post, but trust us when we say you can get very creative (anyone tried some non-dissolvable sutures?).

Tube
If you’re still running tubes, then have a spare handy.  Depending on your trails though, it’s something you may just leave in the car.  For the more compact trail systems where you’re never too far away and might as well walk to the car, it’s one less thing to carry.  Big trail systems that take you way out?  Pack a spare tube, patch kit, and a couple of tire levers (MTB tires are typically harder to pop off than road tires, even with folding beads).

So, now that we’ve covered the tubeless vs tube caveat, what other stuff should you take?
We kind of hinted at this already, but what you take also really depends on the trail system.  Small trail systems where you’re close to your car, the only thing you really should take is a multi-tool, regardless of tubeless or tube setup.  Bigger trail systems or severe terrain? Here’s our gear list:

Tubeless

Tube

  • 1 Spare tube
  • 1 patch kit – the peel and stick variety
  • 1 boot – the peel and stick variety
  • 2 tire levers – SILCA Tire Levers Premio

Tube or Tubeless

Wait, did I just say a chain tool and a spare link after disavowing them for roadies?  Yep!  Mountain bike terrain tends to be a lot rougher, and chain breakage is much more likely to come from impact, debris, or a dropped chain.  Since MTB specific multitools typically come with a chain tool, there’s no reason not to keep a spare link.

Since MTB pressures run much lower, a hand pump is a good option, although expect to pump for a while to fill up the extra volume. We still prefer a CO2 inflator with 20g CO2 cartridges to accommodate the bigger volume, we’re lazy and impatient.

Phew, that was a lot of stuff, all about what you pack in your saddle bag! Got your own favorite setup?  A tale to tell?  Post a comment!


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