Cycing's Unsung Kit Heroes

Add these five low-cost household items to your toolbox to patch up your bike

by Matt Allyn and Christopher Worden

cycling tools

Duct Tape

Typical cycling use

Securing moving parts on your bike that shouldn't be moving, from unravelling bar tape to loose mudguards.

Other uses

  • Winter shoe conversion: Nobody wants cold feet while riding. If you don't have a pair of cold-weather cycling shoes, place strips of duct tape over your shoes' vents. When warmer weather finally returns, use WD-40 to remove any sticky residue. If you're protective of your shoes, opt for a roll of residue-free gaffer tape from your hardware store or remove the duct tape after every ride.
  • Torn sidewall: Energy-bar wrappers can patch a tyre in a pinch, but often push through big rips. The simplest and most reliable repair when you lack a dedicated tyre boot is a double-layered patch of duct tape. Use strips no more than an inch wide, and press both layers onto the inside of the tyre. Wrap a 12-inch strip around a tyre lever so you'll always have some tape on hand.

Toe Straps

Typical cycling use

Keeping your feet securely on flat pedals - or clipless pedals if your cleats break.

Other uses

  • Car-rack tie-down: Toe straps are great reusable fasteners. Unlike bungee cords, which are only tight if you fully stretch them, the metal teeth of the clasp cinch the strap to any length. Secure boot-mounted racks - in busy traffic your front wheel may hit your bumper, knocking it out of true - to your frame by looping a toe strap through the rim and over the down tube. Toe straps also provide extra points of contact for roof racks and can replace lost wheel-attachment straps.
  • Instant seatbag: A standard 370mm strap makes a simple kit to carry essentials - tube, inflator, CO2 cartridge, tyre levers - under your saddle. Use a rubber band or thin strip of duct tape to hold your inflator and CO2 (threaded together but not pierced) on a flat side of the rolled-up tube and your levers on the opposite side. Hold the lever side under the back of your saddle rails and loop the toe strap over the rails and around the inflator. Tighten the strap, pulling the tube and gear into the rails. To protect the tube from debris, wrap it in cloth or a sock.
  • Ankle loops: If you don't want to buy a special band to keep your trouser leg out of the way of your chain, a toe strap will do the job and can be adjusted to fit all calf sizes

Rubber Gloves

Typical cycling use

Keeping your hands clean when you have to work on your bike or touch the chain.

Other uses

  • Burn prevention: Ever rub your eyes after embrocating? It hurts. Wear gloves when applying the cream.
  • Hand warmer: Like plastic bags for your feet, a layer of latex under your riding gloves will keep your hands toasty and dry on rainy days - just ask the savvy racers who took on the monsoon known as the 2009 Tour of California.
  • First responder: If you crash, you don't want anyone to touch your wounds with dirty hands, and you might need help cleaning or dressing them. Bring gloves so your fellow racers or bystanders don't touch bloody skin or contaminate your wound.

Cable Zip Ties

Typical cycling use

Attaching your cycle computer sensor to your fork.

Other uses

  • Emergency headlamp: For about £20, you can buy a LED mini flashlight with the same brightness and weight as a bike headlight. Zip-tie one to your helmet and you have a homemade headlamp. Set up your headlamp with zip ties holding down both ends. Before you cinch the ties, put your helmet on and make sure the light's beam is focused on the ground at least 20 feet ahead. Adjust each tie as you would a two-bolt seatpost saddle clamp - tighten the rear zip tie to raise the beam, then the front to lower it. 
  • Chain saver: If your chain breaks, keep the links together with zip-ties. You'll have to ratchet the pedals so the ties don't get caught in the derailleur.

Safety Pins

Typical cycling use

Attaching a race number to your jersey.

Other uses

  • For modesty's sake: At some point in your cycling life, you will rip your clothing miles from home. No one needs to see your bum hanging out. l
  • Shoe saver: If you lose a shoe buckle, pin the upper back together, Frankenstein-style.

Saved by the Bike

Three tools you probably carry on every ride, whether you know it or not.

Bottle-cage bolts:
Use them to temporarily replace other, more essential bolts, such as the ones on your cleats.

Front quick-release: If your front tyre goes flat and you don't have tyre levers, use the quick-release handle instead.

Rear quick-release:
Use it as a tyre lever when fixing a rear flat. And, in a pinch, you can even turn it into a chain tool (visit for step-by-step instructions).

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