Q&A: What do you carry in your road bike saddle bag?

In this Question and Answer series post, I cover the items I include in my minimalist road bike saddle bag to deal with simple roadside repairs.

Q&A: What do you carry in your road bike saddle bag?
My Silca Mattone saddle bag, fully packed.
This is part of an ongoing series of Question and Answer posts that are based on real questions I've received from others, and I thought that my responses were potentially useful for the future.

First, a little about me as a cyclist to properly set expectations here: I've been an regular indoor cyclist since 2018, but now that I work at Zwift, I usually do one 14-mile outdoor group ride once a week with my coworkers (which is awesome) with some occasional solo rides thrown in every once in awhile. I ride a endurance road bike with inner tubes (although might go tubeless one of these days). I'm on the high end of amateur at best, but I spent a decent amount of time researching what to carry in my saddle bag and have incessantly picked the brains of my coworkers who are much more serious cyclists than me.

So, here's what I carry when I'm out riding!

The entire contents of my saddle bag, including my saddle bag.

Saddle Bag

Silca Mattone Seat Pack

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I wanted a small, low-profile saddle bag that was large enough to carry just the essentials, noting that my longest rides thus far are around 20 miles (and I'm willing to call an Uber or my wife if I have a more serious issue). The Silca Mattone Seat Pack was just big enough to fit the things I wanted to carry, and the BOA closure cinches up nice and tight so the bag doesn't move at all while I'm riding. It's also waterproof, but that wasn't a huge factor for me because I'm very much a fair weather rider.


Updated December 2023: I upgraded to the Topeak Mini PT30 (from the previous and very capable Topeak Mini 20 Pro) because I moved to a new waxed chain with a quick link, and wanted to make sure my multi-tool had a quick link removal tool.

Topeak Mini PT30

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With 30 tools, the Topeak Mini PT30 is probably a bit overkill for the types of roadside repairs that I'm likely to do myself (let alone be capable of dealing with without first consulting a YouTube video). But, it had great reviews, clever design, a small and flat form factor (which was the perfect size for my saddle bag), and contained the tools I was most interested in carrying:

  • Basic Allen wrenches in many sizes
  • Chain tool, which lets you open up a chain by forcing out one of its pins and then re-assemble the chain by forcing in a new pin once you've repaired it
  • Chain hook, which keeps your broken chain held together while you repair a link - especially helpful if you're riding solo
  • Quick link removal tool

I previously carried the Topeak Mini 20 Pro which was also an extremely capable tool, but after I moved to a new waxed chain and installed a quick link for easier chain removal, I wanted to carry a multi-tool with a quick link removal tool which the Mini 20 Pro didn't have. Sure, it's probably possible to remove quick links without a tool, but I'd rather not be messing around any more than I have to if I'm on the side of the road doing a repair.

Plus, the PT30 has a few other improvements over the Mini 20 Pro: An improved chain tool with a second fence for better stability, a tire plug tool and knife (because, inevitably, I'm probably going to move to a tubeless setup), and a more secure spot to store spare quick links within the multi-tool itself. Granted, I also stored my spare quick links in my Mini 20 Pro, but they were floating around loose in there whereas in the PT30 they're perfectly snug and held in place by the disc brake spacer.

Disassembled Topeak Mini PT30.

Topeak makes a bunch of mini tools in various sizes, so you can get more or less depending on your space constraints.

Inner Tube

Tubolito TPU Tube

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I ride a road bike with inner tubes, so I decided to carry one spare tube just in case I had a puncture that I wasn't able to repair (more on tube repairs later). Sure, I have two wheels on my bike, so I'm banking that I'll only ever have one un-repairable flat tire on any given ride – otherwise, I'm calling for help.

Even though they cost significantly more, I decided on a TPU tube from Tubolito rather than a much cheaper butyl or latex tube simply because TPU tubes take up significantly less space (seriously, check out the size difference). I've seen a few examples of folks damaging their TPU tubes when inflating them in the same way they'd inflate a butyl tube, so it's worth checking out an example mounting video before using these for the first time.

Some folks I know who ride tubeless still carry a spare tube as well: just in case they have a flat that's severe enough that it can't self-seal, they could throw a tube in the tire and use that to limp back home.

I carry my spare tube in a Ziploc bag within my saddle bag, both to protect the tube from potential rubbing against other items in my saddle bag, and because the Ziplog bag itself may be handy in the event of a roadside repair.

Tire Inflator

CO2 Canisters (2x)

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Lezyne Control Drive CO2 Bicycle Tire Inflator

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In the event of a flat tire, I decided to carry two CO2 canisters instead of carrying a small bike pump mainly because of their smaller size (and I didn't want to give up one of my two water bottle mounts to mount a bike pump). I went with the Lezyne Control Drive CO2 Bicycle Tire Inflator because of its small form factor and positive reviews, and it came with one CO2 cartridge and a neoprene CO2 cartridge sleeve (which is great, because CO2 cartridges can get pretty chilly when you're inflating a tire).

Now, let's address the math problem here: My bike has two tires, but I'm carrying one spare tube and two CO2 cartridges. As I explained earlier, my rationale with carrying only one spare tube is to minimize the size of my saddle bag while betting that I'll only have one un-repairable punctured tube during a ride. But, in the event that my other tire gets a flat as well, I'm betting on it being repairable, so the second CO2 cartridge is for re-inflating the repaired tube. Time will eventually inform me as to whether I've made the right decisions here.

Tube Repair

Park Tool GP-2 Pre-Glued Super Patch Puncture Repair Kit (6x)

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For a small tube puncture, I have Park Tool GP2 Pre-Glued Super Patch Puncture Repair Kits in my saddle bag. These things are tiny and thin - about the size of a US postage stamp - and even though I probably only need one or two in my saddle bag at any given time, I opted to carry the whole pack of six because I had the space (and hey, maybe I'll be able to help out others while I'm on the road). Since these are pre-glued, you can just prep the damaged tube using the included sandpaper, peel the patch off of its backing, slap it on, and you're (probably) good to go.

Tire Repair

Park Tool TB-2 Emergency Tire Boot

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In the event that my tire gets seriously damaged, I carry one Park Tool TB-2 Emergency Tire Boot, which is a thin membrane with adhesive on one side that you can stick to the inside of your tire so that your tube doesn't extrude from a gash. This is small and thin – smaller than a credit card – and took up almost no space in my saddle bag. That being said, a lot of more seasoned cyclists I know said that they've just used a folded-up dollar bill to patch up tire gashes, so this may be overkill for most situations.

Tire Levers

SILCA Tire Levers Premio (2x)

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I know some folks can remove and replace tires without tire levers, but I nonetheless respect the benefit of the right leverage and the proper application of strength. These Silca Tire Levers Premio are small, look sharp (because I mean, what are you even doing if you aren't showing off your tire levers when repairing a flat), and I liked that they have nylon contact points so as to not damage carbon fiber wheels (which I don't have, but hey, someday!).

Chain Repair

SHIMANO 11 Speed Chain Quick Link Connector

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In the event that my chain breaks while out on a ride, I carry one set of SHIMANO 11 Speed Chain Quick Link Connectors, so I can use my multi-tool (covered earlier) to remove the broken link and replace it with this quick link.

I store my spare quick links within my multi-tool, which takes up slightly less space but also means I'm less likely to have to hunt for them in my saddle bag.

The Topeak Mini PT30 multi-tool has a cleverly designed chain tool, allowing you to securely store your spare quick links under the black plastic disc brake spacer.

You'll have to get appropriate quick links for your type of chain - in my case, I'm running a SHIMANO 11-speed chain, but similar products are available for other chain manufacturers.


Latex Gloves (2x)

Ok, nothing fancy here: latex gloves take up almost no space, and I figured there are plenty of situations where I might want to have some protective coverings over my hands during a roadside repair, like if I'm handling a dirty chain or dealing with bodily fluids from an injury. I also felt like these gloves would help minimize any rattling of the items inside my saddle bag, but it's packed tightly enough that this likely doesn't matter much.

Personal Items

Spare Contact Lenses (2x)

I'm pretty nearsighted, and if I was to lose a contact lens (or worse, both) during a ride, I wouldn't be able to safely continue riding. I always carry one extra set of contact lenses in my saddle bag, just in case.

What I'm not carrying yet (but should)

Although I think I have most of the essentials for dealing with basic roadside repairs, there are a few things I'm not yet carrying but definitely should.

First Aid: Even though I'm low on space, I think I could easily include a few band-aids, a piece of gauze and a few strips of tape, and an antiseptic wipe – these would be great to have in the event of a simple injury.

Cash: I always ride with my phone and wallet, so I'm not super worried about not being able to pay for something while out on the road (e.g. food, snacks, Uber, etc.), but it'd be smart to have a small amount of cash in my saddle bag just in case I forgot my wallet and needed some money in a pinch. Plus, I could finally join that club of cool people who use dollar bills to repair gashes in their tires.

My road bike with saddle bag.

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