What's in the seat pack?

The following is all of the knowledge I've amassed over my cycling career on what you need to pack to make it home. The best rides are the ones where you don't think about your bike. What's with you on the bike should help achieve that.

My Bike Seat Pack Philosophy

Those of you that know me, know that I'm an Eagle Scout. The Boy Scout motto, "Be Prepared", has been ingrained in my head for over a decade. In order to be independent and self-sufficient on the bike, you have to be prepared. Otherwise, you'll end up stranded on the highway or a gravel road somewhere with limited cell phone reception. Most cyclists know that walking several miles in bike shoes is not fun. Trust me, been there, done that.

My bike seat pack philosophy can be summed up in three words.

Make it home

The whole goal is to be able to fix any common mechanical failures that may happen to the bike and make it home while only using the tools and supplies that are in the pack. But at the same time, you don't want to take every tool you own. You have to find that balance.

My personal system is something like this. I want to prepare for all likely failures. Getting a flat tire, pretty likely. Breaking a derailleur hanger, likely in cyclocross/gravel. Hitting an object that cuts through the sidewall of your tire, pretty likely. Breaking a chain, likely. Breaking a spoke, likely. Cracking your bike frame, highly unlikely. Hitting a land mine, going sky high, then landing it rubber side down unscathed. Radical, but highly unlikely.

My current configuration uses one seat pack per bike and a pump that is shared between them.
I'm using Bontrager Elite Small seat packs and a Lezyne Pressure Drive hand pump (black pump) that I keep in my jersey pocket when riding. I also have a Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV pump (big silver pump) which I used when I had a fat bike.

In addition to everything else mentioned I always carry my smart phone, Garmin Edge 810, wallet, keys with pocket knife, and my Road ID. The smart phone and wallet live in a plastic bag to protect them against sweat/rain. Road ID also has a smartphone app that allows select individuals to track you while you ride. Garmin and Strava have similar services, but I prefer the simplicity and free-ness of Road ID.

So what is in those seat packs? Let's start with the cyclocross bike.

Gravel/Cyclocross Bike Seat Pack

My gravel/cyclocross bike is a 2017 Trek Crockett 7 Disc (it's the red one pictured above).

Taking a peek inside, you can tell it is pretty full, which is desirable in a seat pack. Why? You don't want your tools and tubes rubbing against each other. This will leave your tubes unusable and your tools in bad condition. The Bontrager packs I'm using have a small pocket at the top that allow you to separate your multi-tool from the main compartment. I also slide my tire boots in there to give a little more cushion between the multi-tool and the tube below it.

Pulling everything out of the pack, you see that there is quite an assortment of stuff. Starting from the top left and working clockwise-ish...

  • Replacement derailleur hanger
  • Crank brothers M17 multi-tool
  • Spare inner-tube, wrapped up nice and neat (see below for details)
  • Park Tool TB-2 Tire Boot
  • Park Tool GP-2 Super Patch glueless tube patches (new addition)
  • Presta to Schrader valve adapter
  • Pedro's Tire Levers (pair)
  • Swisstech 9-in-1 Micro Pocket Multitool (looks like pliers)
  • Chamois Butt'r
  • SRAM Disc Pad Spacer with rubber band
  • SRAM Powerlock chain connector or "quick link" (not pictured)
For those weight weenies... 574 grams ± 2 grams

Road Bike Seat Pack

The bike is a 2015 Ridley Fenix Disc 10 Ultegra. (It's the black one)

Pretty much the same set up as the gravel/cyclocross pack. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Starting in the top-left and going clockwise...

  • Chamois Butt'r
  • Spare inner-tube, wrapped up nice and neat (see below for details)
  • Crank brothers M17 multi-tool
  • Park Tool TL-4.2 tire levers (pair)
  • Park Tool TB-2 Tire Boot
  • Park Tool GP-2 Super Patch glueless tube patches (new addition)
  • Presta to Schrader valve adapter
  • Shimano disk pad spacers with rubber band (pair)
  • SRAM Powerlock chain connector or "quick link" (not pictured)
Upon further inspection, you can see there is less in my road bike pack than my gravel/cyclocross pack. Why? When you are riding paved roads you are more likely to be close to a service station or convenience store. Paved roads also carry more traffic so you are more likely to be able to flag down a car for help or give directions for a friend to come pick you up. I also tend to ride with others more often on a road ride vs. a gravel ride, which means I can probably bum a tool/part from one of them.

146 grams less than the gravel/cyclocross pack, but who is counting?

Why I carry what I carry

Ok, so that's nice, but what is all of this stuff and why do you think I should carry it?

Spare Inner-tube 
Pretty obvious, if you get a flat, you need to fix it. I choose to always carry a spare tube, you could get away with just patches, but keep in mind that if your valve fails, you'll be out of luck. I've had my tube get a cut at the base of the valve stem, which is an un-patchable area. If you carry a spare tube you'll also be able to remove the valve core (assuming it is removable) and use it in the rare case that your valve core breaks on your other tube.  I'm not an expert on tubeless tires, but I'm guessing if you are running a tubeless set-up, I would recommend two tubes just in case you screw up both tires, you can put a tube in each and get home.

Tire Levers
Some tire/rim combinations can make it difficult to remove the tire to get at and replace the tube. A set of tire levers gives you the leverage needed to get the tire off. You might be able to go without tire levers if you are able to get your tire off with just your hands, but why risk it?

A multi-tool is essential. I chose the Crank Brothers M17 multi-tool because it has all of the necessary bits for my bikes and has a chain break built in. Multi-tools let you tweak and fix most problems on the bike, whether you need to adjust your cleat tension or dial in your shifting.

Park Tool TB-2 Tire Boot
A tire boot is an often overlooked item in the seat pack. In my experience, few people know what they do. A tire boot allows you to keep riding if you get a cut in your tire casing that makes the tube protrude through the tire. The tire boot adheres to the inside of the tire and keeps the tube from pushing through the gash in the tire casing. A tire boot is not strictly necessary, but it is nice to have. You can also use a folded dollar bill if you are in a pinch, not as nice as a tire boot, but it will get you home. I've had a shard of metal slice through the tread and casing of one of my tires, the folded dollar bill trick got me home.

Tube Patches; glueless or glue
There are two types of patches you can use on inner-tubes, glue patches and glueless patches. Glue patches are the "regular" type of patches that use a vulcanizing fluid to adhere the patch to the tube. Historically, I've used the Park Tool VP-1 glue patches, which work very well, but are slightly harder to carry and the tube of vulcanizing fluid is only good for about one patch, because it will harden by the time you get your next flat tire. I'm currently testing glueless patches, more specifically Park Tool GP-2 patches. The advantage of a glueless patch is that you don't have to mess with the vulcanizing fluid, or glue, and wait for it to dry. With a glueless patch you roughen the surface of the tube, then press the patch onto the tube over the hole while making sure to remove any air bubbles in the patch. Word on the street is that glueless patches don't work as well, but we'll see if I have the same experience.

Presta to Schrader valve adapter
If you are running presta tubes, which any serious cyclist is, a presta to schrader valve adapter will make sure you can stop anywhere with "free air" and fill up your tires. This can save you time and effort if you need to pump your tire up after a flat. A hand pump will get the job done, but is a lot more effort. Work smarter, not harder.
More information about valve types can be found here.

Swisstech 9-in-1 Micro Pocket Multi-tool
A midget sized pair of pliers that is really cheap. Great for adjusting fenders or other things that require a nut to be tightened. Also good for pulling thorns out of tires, etc.

Chamois Butt'r
I always have an extra packet of Chamois Butt'r. I typically don't use chamois butter for normal riding, but for long rides over about 40 miles I will always apply before the ride. The extra packet ensures I will be comfortable on any ride. Pretty simple. Easy to pack. Makes the ride more enjoyable.
More info. 

Disc Brake pad spacers
If you have disc brakes on your bike, you need a pad spacer. If you depress the brake lever without the rotor in there to separate the pads you can fuse the pads together. When you have take the wheel off of the bike to replace a flat it is a good idea to have a pad spacer set to make sure you can reinsert your wheel and get home.
- Why do I have a rubber band? After inserting the spacer I secure it in place with a rubber band by hooking the rubber band around the insertion tab in the pad spacer, looping it around the brake caliper, and then hooking it on the other side of the insertion tab. This is my insurance policy against losing the pad spacer. In my experience, it is not always necessary for SRAM calipers, but the spacers for Shimano calipers are incredibly loose. Either way, it is an easy way to make sure you don't loose a hard to buy part.

Replacement derailleur hanger
For cyclocross and gravel it is a good idea to have a replacement derailleur hanger in stock, because they are specific to your bike and can take a while to order from a bike shop. For the unaware, a derailleur hanger is what holds your rear derailleur (the thing that shifts in the back) off of the frame of the bike. Derailleur hangers are meant to break/bend in the event that the drive train of your bike experiences loads high enough to damage the rear derailleur or the frame of the bike. It is more desirable to replace a $20 derailleur hanger than it is to replace a $500+ frame.

Powerlink, Master link (quick-release chain link)(not pictured)
In the event that a link in your chain breaks, it is a good idea to try and maintain the length of your chain to keep the shifting on your bike in good order. Using a chain break, you can remove the broken link and replace it with the a Master link, Powerlink, or quick-release link, without additional tools. Different brands use different names, all you need to do is make sure you get one that is compatible with your bike. For example, if you have an 11-speed bike, you'll need an 11 speed Powerlink.

Hand pump or CO2 Inflator/Cartridges
Having used both CO2 inflators and hand pumps, I'll always choose a hand pump. Hand pumps have unlimited inflation, whereas a CO2 inflator is limited to the number of CO2 canisters you have. While CO2 inflation is definitely faster, it isn't always guaranteed. I've seen people blow an entire canister trying to put the inflator on, then they are stuck on the side of the road waiting for someone with a pump or CO2 canister to come along and help. There is definitely a cost disadvantage with CO2 as well. In my experience, you'll spend about $4 in CO2 canisters trying to inflate one tire. Another disadvantage is that the CO2 will leave the tube rather quickly. For this reason, when you get home, deflate the tire to remove any CO2 and then fill with regular air to ensure your pressure doesn't change during your next ride.

What's up with my spare tubes?

A properly wrapped tube is a happy tube. A happy tube is a happy rider. The idea is to get the tubes as small as possible, but also keep them protected and in good condition. The smaller the tube is, the easier it is to get in and out of your seat pack. I also apply talc powder to the tube before wrapping it to make sure it doesn't stick to itself. Just make sure to wash off the tube before applying patches, or they won't adhere. I use the Shane Miller method for packing tubes. You can watch his video here for more information: 

I label the tubes based on what bike they belong to, the length of the valve stem, and the tire size range. For instance, the top inner-tube is for my CX bike, it has a 42 mm valve stem and is suitable for 700c tire sizes from 32 to 47 mm. The lower tube is for my road bike, it has a 42 mm valve stem and is suitable for 20 to 25 mm tires. I exclusively use Continental presta valve tubes as I find they are the best value. I use electrical tape to help compress the tubes and label them. In a pinch, I can unwrap the electrical tape and use it to fix bar tape, cables, etc. 

Closing thoughts

You now have the knowledge to follow the scout motto on the bike, "Be Prepared". If you want to take it to the next level, follow the scout slogan and "Do a good turn daily". Be the cyclist that stops and asks the guy on the side of the trail/road if they need any tools or tubes. If nothing else, it will give you good karma, which means less flats! But more importantly, it means you are a good human being. 

Keep in mind, all of this stuff is useless unless you know how to use it. Check out YouTube, buy a book, or go to a local bike shop to learn how to fix your bike. Most bike shops have maintenance and repair clinics in the winter months. 

Happy Riding!


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