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Using a tool you didn't expect to need

Old 01-13-24, 09:05 PM
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Using a tool you didn't expect to need

I keep thinking about a time about nine years ago. I was riding home on the greenway. The entrance ramps to the greenway are sometimes a couple of miles apart, so if my bike breaks down, I have a lot of walking to do. Two spokes suddenly snapped on my rear wheel. Suddenly, the wheel would not spin in the frame. I disengaged my rear brake cable (rim brakes). I had a spoke wrench in my tool bag. I was able to true the wheel well enough that I could ride home. Later, I rebuilt the wheel with all new spokes.

If I had needed to carry my bike, it was heavy, and it was a long walk to the subway. I could not have rolled my bike anywhere.

The thing I'm pondering is the fact that one very rarely needs to make a repair with a spoke wrench while out on a ride. I don't carry one these days, and I don't believe I need to. But I was very lucky to have one that day and also lucky to have the skill to use it.

I feel like there is a lesson here, but what is it?

And have you ever used an unlikely-to-be-needed tool while out on a ride?


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Old 01-14-24, 10:18 AM
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Chain beaker. I put a 53-tooth chainring on my 90's MTB to get the top speed up. The ring just clears the chain stay but doesn't leave room for the chain if it falls off, so the chain will get caught and sometimes a link will get pinched or mangled beyond repair. I now also carry a masterlink pliers for the same reason.

I've also had spokes break causing wheels to go out of true enough to rub the frame.

Because my new commute is only 6 miles (vs the old 9-miles) and I'm now in my 60s, when I ride my rackless road bikes I've started to use a smaller, lighter backpack without all the extra tools. When I ride the bikes with rear racks I usually bring the whole kit and caboodle.
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Old 01-14-24, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG
Chain beaker. I put a 53-tooth chainring on my 90's MTB to get the top speed up. The ring just clears the chain stay but doesn't leave room for the chain if it falls off, so the chain will get caught and sometimes a link will get pinched or mangled beyond repair. I now also carry a masterlink pliers for the same reason.

I've also had spokes break causing wheels to go out of true enough to rub the frame.

Because my new commute is only 6 miles (vs the old 9-miles) and I'm now in my 60s, when I ride my rackless road bikes I've started to use a smaller, lighter backpack without all the extra tools. When I ride the bikes with rear racks I usually bring the whole kit and caboodle.
Great answers. Modern chains are more prone to breaking than the old ones are, because we want (or are believed to want) so many more speeds. I once took a long ride as a stoker on a tandem. The drivetrain had a 10-speed cassette. I was stronger than the captain's usual partner who is a woman smaller than I am. When the captain and I took off from a standstill, we torqued it pretty hard and broke the chain. I may not break a chain on a single bike, but I'm ready. I have a quick link and a mini chain breaker in my tool bag, and my tool bag goes onto the saddle of whichever bike I ride.

The way your chain broke is a failure mode I hadn't heard of. I imagine it's specific to the geometry of your bike.
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Old 01-14-24, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
The way your chain broke is a failure mode I hadn't heard of. I imagine it's specific to the geometry of your bike.
You are too kind. Specific to a combination of my poor engineering and mechanical skills combined with a general lackadaisical approach to bicycle modifications.
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Old 01-14-24, 11:11 AM
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Not sure if this counts, but I made it home once using my cable lock to secure my rack to the seat post.
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Old 01-14-24, 02:06 PM
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Below is my current travel spoke repair kit, including a good spoke wrench. I picked the design for on-the-go spoke repair on a German list.

My getting home, unexpected repair and recovery sequence runs a bit differently. I was riding a rented bike in Sicily and got hit by a current suddenly moving out of a parking slot. My hand was bruised, but the bike looked OK. Only after I started riding did the wheel get more and more out of shape to nearly locking. I managed to get to my base, but there was no way I could get to the other side of town to my rental. I took out the spoke wrench from my travel tool kit and started straightening the wheel. I got it to a shape where normal riding was possible, but the wheel was still in a shape you would not want. With the spoke wrench I had at the time, I also ruined the nipples - being shaken after the accident presumably also played a role. The next day, I took the bike to the rental, and they replaced the wheel. When I was returning the bike for good, they charged me only 25 euros for the straightening of the wheel, including new nipples. That rental was a counterbalance to the accident that also came with a rude, repugnant driver. Afterward, I upgraded my spoke wrench.

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Old 01-16-24, 03:29 AM
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@2_i you wrote that you got hit by a current. I don't get it. Is that a typo?
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Old 01-16-24, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
@2_i you wrote that you got hit by a current. I don't get it. Is that a typo?
Apologies. Yes, it is a typo. I got hit by a car, more specifically, a van. I was the last from a group of vehicles that cleared the traffic light. The driver assumed nothing was left and abruptly moved out onto the traffic lane, hitting me from the side. I braked, reducing the impact.
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Old 01-16-24, 06:41 AM
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Thanks, @2_i. Sorry that happened to you!

That emergency adjustable spoke is very interesting. I don't think I'll need it, but where can I get it? Also, tell us about the spoke wrench.
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Old 01-16-24, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider
That emergency adjustable spoke is very interesting. I don't think I'll need it, but where can I get it? Also, tell us about the spoke wrench.
The US distributor for the spoke wrench is Wheel Fanatyk. It is a nice wrench, grabbing the nipple well and optimizing the use of the space that you have by a spoke. To make that emergency spoke, you just cut a spoke and combine the pieces with screw wire connectors from a terminal block. The person on the German list who developed that design said that the connection lasted fine for several years on one of his bikes, as he did not bother to replace the spoke there. Note that in the repair, you keep one or other piece of the original spoke, depending on how it broke.
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Old 01-16-24, 12:01 PM
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Air compressor inflator for Presta valves. I needed this to get tubeless mt bike tires seated and inflated. I had no luck with a floor pump it CO2. I use it maybe twice a year when I replace sealant.
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Old 01-19-24, 10:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve B.
Air compressor inflator for Presta valves. I needed this to get tubeless mt bike tires seated and inflated. I had no luck with a floor pump it CO2. I use it maybe twice a year when I replace sealant.
For once or twice a year I think I'll stick with my Presta-Schrader adapter. Having just a Schrader chuck eliminates any headaches from grabbing the wrong chuck when going to fill car tires. And the adapter is a much smaller thing to store.

My answer might be different if I was constantly servicing Presta valves (like a bike shop does).
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Old 01-19-24, 01:29 PM
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I used to carry a length of polyester cord with me. (Sailor. Learned my knots long ago.) Was at the far point of a solo near century on my very new Mooney near Salinas, CA (where I was to learn later was not very bicycle friendly country) when my Avocet seatpost broke a clamp bolt. Tied the seat in place and rode it home. (It was a little forward, low and tilted nose-down. Painful to near epic level. But it got me home in a place I was brand new to, knew nobody and lost except my list of streets and turns.)
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Old 01-19-24, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by campfire
For once or twice a year I think I'll stick with my Presta-Schrader adapter. Having just a Schrader chuck eliminates any headaches from grabbing the wrong chuck when going to fill car tires. And the adapter is a much smaller thing to store.

My answer might be different if I was constantly servicing Presta valves (like a bike shop does).
Agree, I do like the digital gauge though, makes it easier to get inflated to where I want it,
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Old 01-19-24, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider
I feel like there is a lesson here, but what is it?
I don't know. But the lesson I learned in a broken chain thread when I said I've never broke a chain is to not invite bad juju by mentioning that I never carry [insert tool name] on a ride. Because within day I could have used a chain tool in my bag. So other than that, I have no comment.
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Old 01-21-24, 10:24 AM
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Back in the days of freewheels, I used to carry one of these. A 16 penny nail.




The lock ring on some old freewheels would come loose and the nail plus a rock could be used to retighten the ring.


Two other weird things I carry are a flint and a film canister (Google it, kids!) filled with cotton balls that have been coated in Vaseline. I can get a blazing fire in minutes.






I also carry about a square foot of a priority mail envelop from the post office. It’s made of Tyvek which is extremely tough material. I use it as booting material. As tough as a piece of old tire but a fraction of the weight.

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Old 01-22-24, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
I also carry about a square foot of a priority mail envelop from the post office. It’s made of Tyvek which is extremely tough material. I use it as booting material. As tough as a piece of old tire but a fraction of the weight.

I precut my Tyvek into short strips, about 1"x4", so I don't need a knife or scissors to cut it on the road. Works better than $1 bills IME!
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Old 01-22-24, 08:09 AM
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I've never carried materials for a boot, but I know I should. The above makes me realize I'm sitting on so much 2.5 mil HDPE sheet to boot every tire in the world.
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Old 01-22-24, 09:28 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
I precut my Tyvek into short strips, about 1"x4", so I don't need a knife or scissors to cut it on the road. Works better than $1 bills IME!
I just fold the Tyvek into the size I need. No need for trimming it. It folds very, very small even when not in use. That size Tyvek folds into about the size of a business card and about the thickness of 3 of the same.
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Old 01-24-24, 12:42 PM
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I was ten miles from work when my left crank got loose. I actually carry a 15mm wrench for my bolt on rear wheel, but no good - I needed a 15mm socket. I felt like an auto mechanic.

I made it to work and got the socket at Home Depot next door, so everything worked out.

Now I need to reevaluate what wrenches I carry.
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Old 01-24-24, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I was ten miles from work when my left crank got loose. I actually carry a 15mm wrench for my bolt on rear wheel, but no good - I needed a 15mm socket. I felt like an auto mechanic.

I made it to work and got the socket at Home Depot next door, so everything worked out.

Now I need to reevaluate what wrenches I carry.
What you need is one of the best multitools ever made. A Cool Tool. It has a socket for the crank arms and some had an 8mm adapter for the Allen wrench type crank bolt. Here’s on that is an original Robert Seals version before production was moved to Taiwan and later sold to Gerber. He also established Retrotec, although the current company is owned by Chris Inglis.



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Old 01-24-24, 04:47 PM
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I don't think anyone said it had to be a tool you'd carried along with you, right?

So I've stopped at a garage a couple of times to borrow a tool. Once when I was commuting on my spare bike, and the adjustable wrench was in the saddlebag of my good bag, and a fender came loose. The mechanic gave me an odd look, but let me borrow a small wrench to tighten the mount. Didn't expect to need it, so I didn't have it!

Also had to borrow something or other on tour in Bumpass, VA. Don't remember what it was, but again, I didn't have what I didn't expect to need. That mechanic was much more personable -- after we rode 30 miles with no convenience store or gas station, he was willing and able to take a break for a chat!
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Old 01-24-24, 06:05 PM
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Originally Posted by ScottCommutes
I was ten miles from work when my left crank got loose. I actually carry a 15mm wrench for my bolt on rear wheel, but no good - I needed a 15mm socket. I felt like an auto mechanic.

I made it to work and got the socket at Home Depot next door, so everything worked out.

Now I need to reevaluate what wrenches I carry.
Quoting myself - everything didn't quite work out. The loose crank got me 10 miles to work and Home Depot, but this also unfortunately rounded off the square ends of the bottom bracket. The socket at Home Depot got me 14 miles to the bike shop, but I had to keep stopping to tighten the crank. While the bike is ride-able, I need a new cartridge bearing.
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Old 01-24-24, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
What you need is one of the best multitools ever made.
Interesting tool. My first thought was something like this:

​​​​​​
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Old 01-24-24, 11:08 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb
I don't think anyone said it had to be a tool you'd carried along with you, right?

So I've stopped at a garage a couple of times to borrow a tool. Once when I was commuting on my spare bike, and the adjustable wrench was in the saddlebag of my good bag, and a fender came loose. The mechanic gave me an odd look, but let me borrow a small wrench to tighten the mount. Didn't expect to need it, so I didn't have it!

Also had to borrow something or other on tour in Bumpass, VA. Don't remember what it was, but again, I didn't have what I didn't expect to need. That mechanic was much more personable -- after we rode 30 miles with no convenience store or gas station, he was willing and able to take a break for a chat!
I carry this everywhere I go. With careful selection of parts, I can almost deconstruct my bike with these tools. The parts that I have selected for the various components hardly ever need any kind of adjustment any way but I can take the bike apart if needed. I do a lot of remote riding where borrowing tools (or even getting food) isn’t an option.
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