You’re seven miles up a narrow valley and nearing the welcome end to hours of steady climbing when you hear a sharp thwack, followed by a hiss — your front tire has just gone flat, you don’t have a spare and there’s no cell service; you do not want to be here.
Next to everything else that might go wrong with a bicycle on an extended ride, a flat is a relatively minor issue that can be easily repaired trailside, if the right tools are at hand. If they aren’t, a quick fix can turn into a long walk. Well-prepared riders will perform a tune-up regularly and clean their bikes after every ride. For the less-diligent, a well-stocked repair kit will suffice.
Professional mountain biker Rebecca Rusch has been on plenty of long rides and experienced enough mechanical failures to know what makes a fully-stocked repair kit. One of her recent journeys, a 1,200-mile journey through the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia along the Ho Chi Minh Trail required the utmost degree of preparedness — “We brought with us a lot of extra bearings, o-rings, stuff that you would never be able to find in Laos and Cambodia. Before I go out on these big adventures, I replace every bearing in my bike, my fork got a total rebuild — everything is in pristine condition,” says Rusch.
That preparedness went a long way; she and her riding partner, Huyen Nguyen, completed the 1,200 miles of rough road and only had one repair: a flat tire.
Even though she didn’t have to use it frequently, the repair kit was there. “I really honed in on the way I was carrying stuff and what I was bringing,” she says. “It forced me to dial in my kit. I’ve taken what I used there, and what I learned there, into my next adventures.”
Those adventures run the gamut from a self-supported 300-mile bikepacking race in Arizona to the hours’ long rides accessible from her doorstep in Ketchum, Idaho. The repair kit is a constant, and it doesn’t change much even when the distances differ: “It’s pretty much the same each time around,” says Rusch.
You can watch the documentary about Rusch’s Ho Chi Minh Trail ride, called Blood Road, for free at Red Bull TV.
Photo: Josh Glazebrook Redbull Content Pool
Rebecca Rusch’s Repair Kit Tips
Be organized. “I like having everything be really small and super organized. I put all of my tools in CamelBak’s Tool Roll. It’s got little compartments, and I can separate tire changing stuff in one place, stuff like extra pedal cleats or an extra derailleur hanger in another, and it all rolls up into this tidy pouch. If I do have a repair, I can pull that one thing out and lay it out on the ground and it’s easy to work.”
Don’t rely on others. “People need to recognize that now there are different cassette sizes, so there are different chains depending on what gear you have. A lot of people are like, ‘Oh my friend is always prepared they always have the stuff, I’m not going to bring anything.’ All of the stuff now is very bike-specific, and you have to have your own package of stuff.”
Maintenance is the best prevention. “Prevention is the best medicine, and if you’re taking care of your equipment it’s super key. Bikes don’t just fail. If they’re in really good working condition and you clean them at night, and you’re religious about it, bikes are kind of like cars — they’ll start talking to you if something is getting worn or getting creaky or needs to be replaced.”
Rusch considers what to bring based on what she calls “dealbreakers” — items and parts that, if broken, could completely divert a ride. Things like an extra derailleur hanger or extra pedal cleats. Here’s everything that she packs in her bicycle repair kit.
Ultra-Sil Dry Sack by Sea to Summit $12+
Tool Roll by CamelBak $34
Signal Multi-tool by Leatherman $125
Multi Bicycle Tool by Crank Brothers $24+
Gem Short Frame Pump by Crank Brothers $18+
Tire Levers by Pedro’s $5
RACER Tire Repair Tool and Plugs by Dynaplug $44
Premium Cleats by Crank Brothers $27
Spare Cleats: This item is specific to Rusch’s setup. If you’re putting together your own repair kit, make sure to buy the item that functions with the gear you already have.
SRAM Brake Pads by Avid $20
Spare Brake Pads: This item is specific to Rusch’s setup. If you’re putting together your own repair kit, make sure to buy the item that functions with the gear you already have.
Powerlock Chain Link by SRAM $13
Spare Chain Link: This item is specific to Rusch’s setup. If you’re putting together your own repair kit, make sure to buy the item that functions with the gear you already have.
Derailleur Hanger by Niner $18
Derailleur Hanger: This item is specific to Rusch’s setup. If you’re putting together your own repair kit, make sure to buy the item that functions with the gear you already have.
Spare Tubes x2 $4+
Spare Tubes: If you’re putting together your own repair kit, make sure to buy the item that functions with the gear you already have.
Skabs Tire Patches by Slime $4
Wet Chain Lubricant by WD40 $5+
Tip: Instead of carrying a full bottle, Rusch buys this in single-use 2ml packets.
Gorilla Tape by Gorilla $8
Tip: Rusch stores the tape by wrapping a length around her hand pump.
Duct Tape by Duck $8
Tip: Rusch stores the tape by folding a length over itself multiple times.
CO2 Inflator and Cartridges by Crank Brothers $18
Asana Sunglasses by Smith $189
Tip: In addition to a dark lens, Rusch brings a clear lens for riding in low light.
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