In the last few days I've been confined to regimen of riding from my apartment to work and then back to my apartment to write (a few deadlines for a couple of other publications have crept up on me like silent assassins and I've had to chain myself to the desk to get them done). But on Wednesday night my wife and I invited a friend of ours over for homemade Pad Thai (I finally perfected my recipe!) and then we went for an evening bike ride through Prospect Park around the outer road that runs along the contours of my favorite park in NYC. It's about a three-mile loop and we did it twice and then stopped to sit on a bench, just on the southeast side of the great field. My wife mentioned to me that her seat could probably use a few inch raise and as I reached for my bag with my Allen tool, I realized that I was totally unprepared.
My wife and friend cackled and hissed at my preparation faux pas and I hung my head in shame. Horribly embarrassed, I decided right then and there that a biker should never leave home without his tools and I vowed to never do so again. Also, I vowed to write a glib blog about it!
A bikers tool box
These are the tools that should always be with you.
The picture above illustrates, for the most part, everything that is in my bike bag at all times. I'll go from left to right, the way people read in America.
Standard Allen tool: This tool can be acquired at any bike or hardware store and will take care of all the little detail work on your bike. In my very unprofessional opinion I'd say 90 percent of all new bikes use all hex sockets for raising seats, adjusting brakes, etc. A must have.
White Lightning Lube: This wax-based chain lube is the best that I've ever come across and any chat you have with an experienced mechanic will tell you the same. It's waterproof and can be dry rubbed off the chain for an on-the-fly lube job. It comes in varying degrees of toughness but even the least heavy duty would be perfect for the weekend warrior or everyday grinder.
Patch kit: Essential for fixing flats when you're not at home. Though a bit of a pain to figure out and work, a cheap patch will at least get you to the nearest shop so you can get a new tube or (ew) pay a professional to do it for you.
Cheap sunglasses and heavy-duty Thermos: Used alternately to look cool and stay caffeinated. Duh.
Rear safety light: You MUST have one of these if you are going to night ride. A blinker on the back will keep every person on the road aware that you exist (use also to signal your whereabouts to lost parties within massive Prospect Park; find nearest hill top and rotate).
Old Spice: I hope I don't have to explain this. But it's summer, people — have a heart.
Pump: Two tires brimming with fresh air make for a most enjoyable and relaxing ride. Topping off your tubes every week will change the way you think about your bike. Riding with less than full tires is like riding through sand all the time. Give it a try and I promise you will not be disappointed.
All of this seems pretty obvious, I know, but if you put together this simple kit (of course, you can tell which of these things you actually, truly need and which are for fun, i.e. deodorant) you'll be a lot happier when you run across any of these situations when you ride.
Miles since my last post (whoa, math): A bunch of times to and from work, the park, 36 miles.
Helpful quote: "The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well." —Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974