I just won an Arkel Seat Bag in a raffle and it got me to thinking about commuting and touring emergency roadside kits. There are all sorts of lengths one can go to to “be prepared” on the road. You can carry nothing at all because frankly, you don’t know how to change a flat or adjust your brakes. You could bring a whole menagerie of tools including chain break tool and pins “just in case your chain breaks one day and someone steals it out of your basket and then someone steals your new chain off your bike the next day.”
Personally, I think that if you are going to be commuting on a bike, you should at least know how to change a tube. Didn’t say fix a flat. I mean, I know how to. I even do it every once in a while, pulling out the glue and patches, sanding out the rubber and all that. But to be able to use the tire levers, re-seat a tube and ensure the valve is correct so as to avoid a pinch flat – that’s just basic. . . and I find so many commuters don’t know how to do that. So many commuters can barely keep proper air pressure in their tubes or their chains properly lubed.
When I was a teenager I was raised with the ethics to take care of and maintain your vehicle. There was a time when I drove a car. I don’t know a lot about cars. I know how to check the fluids and add more. Pump gas, etc.
Keep the interior and exterior clean. . . in theory.
Take it to a professional for maintenance when the light turns on or if it is acting differently.
Bikes don’t have a “Check Engine” light.
The nice thing is that we can see the gears. When they’re gunky, we can give them a scrub. Sometimes it’s not so obvious and that’s usually when we’re usually halfway to work or the like.
Back about four years ago, I made a new a friend who helped me put together my first roadside bike patch kit. That original pouch that Mike and I put together has been through mud and rain, touring and commuting. The knowledge that he bestowed on me has been priceless.
Since then, I have tweaked, added, removed and replaced items. This is what I currently have in my commuter kit.
1. Top/Center: Crescent Wrench. I don’t recommend most people use this. They strip bolts. I just haven’t replaced it with an epic multi-tool.
2. Top/ Center: A lighter. Just because.
3. Top/Left: Park Tool Self Sticking Patches - I recommend you use glue patches, but I never patch unless it’s an absolute emergency.
4. Top/Middle: Current bus fare in a watertight bag.
5. Top/Middle: Co2 for my not pictured PDW Magic Flute pump (which I also won in a raffle. I’m aces at raffles, by the way.)
6. Middle/Right: Tube. First line of defense if I get a flat. Replace the problem tube. Check the tire for nails and rocks and get rolling!
7. Middle/Left: 2 AA batteries & 2 AAA batteries. I commute with USB powered lights generally but my back-up and touring lights are on batteries.
8. Center: 10pc Click Woodie Allen Wrench Multi Tool - I actually use this ridiculously often.
9. Lower/Right: Coast pocket knife/multi tool. For extra multi-tooling action.
10: Bottom/Center: Tire levers. One’s a Soma and one’s some no-brand. The other Soma broke. Same with the no-brand. “Virtually impossible to break steel core levers” my ass. Just FYi. But, I don’t use the plastic ones because they break too. At least for me. I came into a ti lever recently and want to try them out as a regular thing. The Quick Stik is the only one that I have found that I haven’t broken, but they’re really hard to get between the tire and the rim. After a while they get really gouged up and plus, they’re REALLY BIG for carrying around with you.
So, back to my new seat bag.
It’s new and exciting. Arkel makes a hard shell case with a roll-top inner bag so the shell is permanently affixed under the seat with velcro and you just remove the inner bag with a quick clip when you need to access it. So much easier than unzipping and digging around in the little pouch at bike level. You get to stand up, stretch your back, not be all hunched over. I actually will attach this to my bike. Usually I would throw my old pouch in the bottom of my backpack.
However, the strap that tightens down the top flap on the shell is really long. It’s tipped with a fluorescent fabric loop making me less likely to want to hack it off shorter. I went to the website to see if it hung precariously in other people’s wheels or if reviews were in that vein.
I found pictures of seat posts jacked up really high. Like, I got a little girl-impotence looking at the photos. I’m actually afraid it’s long enough to drag and rub on my tire.
Like three inches down.
I don’t know if I even have three inches to spare in seat post height.
I’ll be trying out my new bag this week excitedly. Last week was my first week back on the bike after my month long of illness and I already have new swag.
That’s so me.
Other than that, the Arkel so far feels like a pretty solid item. Let’s hope it’s as waterproof as it says it is!
I’d be interested in hearing your must-have roadside emergency item. I definitely do not have the best. I do not recommend people emulate mine simply because my items don’t work for everyone, but I do recommend people get one together – and find items that work for you!
EDIT: 1/31/2014 – The Magic Flute pump sucks. I really needed it on my century this last September when my tube gave out on me twice. (We just kept filling it with c02 until finally deciding “Fuck it” and replacing the tube.) The flute gave out and didn’t do shit. I used someone else’s c02 inflator. (One of those little eL shaped ones.) I had my own c02. Worked great. The flute is dead to me.