Why Carry Tools I Can't Use?
In a recent post I wrote that, when roadcycling, I've come to prefer carrying just the bare minimum that fits in my jersey pockets instead of a full-fledged saddlebag or handlebar bag - as the latter I inevitably tend to overpack, ending up with a 30lb+ bike before I know it. However, I neglected to mention an object that is so small and unobtrusive that I basically think of it as part of the bike and forget it is even there: my saddle wedge tool pack.
Mine is the small waterproof "Pak" by Fizik. It was put together by the Ride Studio Cafe and included with the Seven I had on loan last summer. When I returned the bike, I bought the bag from them and now use it on my own roadbike. A mere 5"x2.5"x2.5" it fits snugly underneath a narrow road saddle. It contains a set amount of objects and won't fit anything else, so there is no danger of overpacking it and weighing the bike down.
Inside the tiny bag is a folding allen tool, a spare inner tube, 2 tire irons and an air cartridge - just enough to take care of one flat tire and any mechanical problem that can be fixed with a 1.5mm-6mm hex wrench.
Of course, it helps to be able to use those tools. If you've been reading this blog for some time, you know that I am unable to do most of my own repairs. I know how to do them, but have nerve damage in my hands and lack the hand strength and fine motor control to physically do them. I can't open the quick releases on most wheelsets, it takes me a good half hour to get a tire seated on a rim even in the best case scenario, and turning an allen key with sufficient force is out of the question. Keeping in mind these limitations, I always check my bike thoroughly before leaving the house, use tires with puncture protection, know where the nearest bike shops are, and have cash and a phone in my jersey in case I get stranded in the middle of nowhere and need to call a taxi (for the record, the number of times that has happened so far has been zero).
So why carry tools if I can't use them? Because that way, others can help. When cycling alone, it would not be the end of the world to take a taxi home if my bike breaks down. But when cycling with another person, my mechanical malfunction can ruin their day as well. Last week I met up with another cyclist for a ride, and en route I noticed with horror that my front brake caliper had gotten misaligned, so that the left brake pad was rubbing the rim. I was unable to fix it myself, but I had the allen tool in my saddle wedge and my riding partner (who was not carrying her own tools that day) fixed it in 2 minutes. Having that tool pack made all the difference between doing the ride vs both of us having to go home.
I am of the school of thought that cyclists should not be shamed for being unable to do their own repairs. Not everyone can. But having a tiny tool pack permanently attached to my roadbike can at least make it possible for a more mechanically inclined cyclist to help me out, should the situation call for it.
Have you had mechanical malfunctions while out on your roadbike, and were you carrying any tools? If yes, were they helpful?