While bicycle touring my most frequent cycling breakdown has been flat tires. Fortunately, a flat tire is one of the easiest roadside repairs to make yourself if you are prepared for it. As a result, I always carry a flat kit. My flat kit includes:
Tire levers – to get the tire off the rim.
Small knife – to remove debris such as glass that gets embedded in the tire causing the flat. This is very important. If you don’t find and remove the cause of the flat tire you will most likely find yourself with another flat tire further down the road.
Small pliers or tweezers – During my 2015 coast to coast ride most of my flats were caused by small bits of wire from steel belted radial car tires that got embedded in my tires. These fine wires were nearly impossible to remove with my fingers, so small pliers or tweezers are a necessity. I’ve also found that finger nail clippers do a great job at of grabbing on to and removing these small pieces of wire.
Tube patch kit – to fix punctured tubes. While I occasionally replace a punctured tube with another tube to save time, if a tube is repairable, I always repair it. A properly repaired tube is just as reliable as a new tube, is cost efficient and reduces unnecessary waste. If you are not having luck repairing tubes I find it is because you haven’t followed the instructions. It sounds counter intuitive, but let the glue dry before applying the patch.
Spare tube(s) – In those cases when a punctured tube cannot be repaired a spare tube is a must. An extra tube can also come in handy when it is too dark to patch a small hole in a tube or when it is raining and you just want to get rolling again as quickly as possible.
Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack – There was a time when I could mount bicycle tires without any tools, but not anymore. However, when I use tire levers to remount the tire, I sometimes pinch the tube causing another puncture. If you struggle with mounting bicycle tires like I do, try the Kool-Stop Tire Bead Jack. If you are traveling light and find it too bulky for a seat bag, I have heard of riders shortening the handle so it would fit in their bag. You can generally find one at your local bike shop or on Amazon.
Presta valve adapter – just in case I’m fortunate enough to get a flat near an air pump, I can use the adapter to fit the air chuck to inflate the tube.
CO2 cartridge(s) – to quickly fill a tube. While I rarely use CO2 cartridges, I do carry them for those times when I want to inflate a tube as quickly as possible. If you experience air escaping from the tube when you disconnect the cartridge, you most likely aren’t giving the valve time to thaw. To avoid this problem, inflate the tube slowly and wait until the valve warms up before disconnecting the inflator. If there is frosty looking ice on the valve stem, it is too early to disconnect the inflator.
Air Pump – is a must have item. I’ve found that you can’t depend on CO2 cartridges. While touring on the C&O canal I once helped a cyclist fix a flat. He thought he had tubeless tires and was only carrying CO2 cartridges to top off his tire if he did get a puncture. Turns out his tires weren’t tubeless. We used my patch kit to repair his tire. However, after repairing his tube, when he tried to inflate the tube with his CO2 cartridges, they were duds. Luckily, I was carrying a pump. Otherwise he would have had to hike, pushing his bike about twenty miles to the nearest town to make the repair.
If you’ve never fixed a flat, it is a skill all touring cyclists must have. For more on tools and spare parts to carry while touring see Guide to 9 common roadside repair mistakes on this website.