"Bike Maintenance & Repair" Archives

Jan 24 2018

It’s a Wrap: A Cyclist’s Tool Roll in Three Easy Steps by Tamia Nelson

Do you have trouble finding your tools when you have to do a roadside repair? Then you need a tool roll. The good news? You can make a custom one for yourself, and it need not cost a cent. Tamia shows you how.

When I head out on trips that will take me more than an hour’s hike from home — and that’s most of the trips I take — I carry a roadside repair kit in addition to my seat-pack tools and the rest of my cycling gear.

For a long time I carried tools in my handlebar bag, tucked away inside a plastic freezer bag. This wasn’t ideal. The tools rattled with every bump. More importantly, they weighed in at 2 pounds 4 ounces — about as much as a full quart water bottle. That’s a lot of weight to add to an already overloaded bar bag. I needed to find a better way. Luckily, I always mount a rack trunk or small pannier on my bike for longer rides, and either one would easily accommodate my tools. But I also wanted something better than a freezer bag to contain them. I wanted a tool roll.

Now it so happens that I own lots of tool rolls, in a full range of sizes, but they’re mostly made from heavy canvas. Moreover, every one is already in use. The upshot? I sat down at my sewing machine. It’s not my favorite seat — I’m no seamstress — but the job didn’t take long.

First, I drew what an engineer would probably call a concept sketch:

Sketchy Idea

Then I outlined the work flow:

  1. Hem the rectangle of fabric (keeps it from unraveling)
  2. Fold up the bottom
  3. Stitch individual tool compartments
  4. Pat self on back (optional, but recommended)

All that remained? Load and go:

  1. Slide tools into place
  2. Fold flap over
  3. Roll up
  4. Tie securely

I figured I could handle this sewing project, even if I’m not exactly the Tailor of Gloucester. I’d only have to sew straight lines, after all.

For fabric I chose to recycle a hi-viz nylon stuff sack I found on the verge of the road. (These strip landfills that do double duty as New York’s state highways are a never-ending source of swag for the resourceful cyclist.) I’d used some of that stuff sack already to customize my ill-fitting Performance Transformer jacket, but there was plenty of material left over to make a tool roll. The first step was easy. I flattened the nylon material on my work table and laid my tools on top of it. Now I knew just how much fabric I’d need.


As the photo above suggests, I’d originally planned to store my spare brake and derailleur cables with my tools, but that would have made the roll hard to fold and could have deformed the cables. They would go into my bar bag instead. They weigh almost nothing, after all.

Next, I traced the borders of the compartments with a laundry marker. Then I cut the fabric to size and hemmed the edges. After that, all that remained to do was to fold the bottom third of the rectangle up, close the sides, and stitch the individual compartments. (I backstitched at the openings to stop the stitches from unraveling.) That was that. It was time to put the tools in place:

Ready for Occupancy

They were a perfect fit, even if their slots were not exactly regular.

Snug as Tools in a Roll

A length of nylon cord — another bit of treasure trove from the highway recycling center — secures the roll:

Good to Go

Bottom line: My new tool roll may not be elegant, but it’s surely a cut above a freezer bag. The garish color has two unplanned benefits. First, I’m not likely to leave it behind after finishing a roadside repair. Secondly, the color contrasts well with tools and small parts like fasteners, making it less likely I’ll lose sight of them while making a repair. And as a bonus, it matches my riding jacket. Function and fashion rolled up in one tidy package. What more could anyone ask?

Read more: Saddle Bag Tools | Roadside Repairs | Bike Maintenance

This article is an update of one originally published on 11 February 2014.

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Jan 20 2018

Knots to Know: The Figure-Eight Loop by Tamia Nelson

If you’ve been reading SameBoat Shorts these last two weeks, then you know the importance of learning the ropes. But that’s not enough. Every paddler should learn a few good knots, too. Last week, Tamia tied one on with a bowline, but this week she’s in the loop with an alternative, and it 8n’t hard to tie at all.

A trekker’s world can come unstuck in a hurry if he doesn’t have a rope AND if he doesn’t know how to use it. Which is why learning the ropes is as important as learning any basic skill. Knowing which knots to use and when comes with the territory. And sooner or later, every adventurer will need to make a fixed loop in a length of rope. The bowline is a very good way to do this, but good as it is, the bowline isn’t perfect.

Where does it fall down? Well, to begin with, the bowline holds best in laid rope. Braided rope — probably the most common type in use today — is slipperier and (sometimes) springier. Bowlines tied in braided ropes will occasionally work loose, and therefore need to be watched carefully. Back in the late 1960s, when American climbers switched from three-strand laid rope — Goldline was one popular brand — to European kernmantel (a type of braided rope with a linear core), they also began to substitute other knots for the hitherto standard bowline. The figure-eight loop emerged as the preferred alternative. Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jan 12 2018

A Stitch in Time: Mending Tears With a Herringbone by Tamia Nelson

Hand‑stitching is becoming a lost art. And that’s not a good thing. A single tear in a sprayskirt or tent fly can spoil a trip, but sewing machines are few and far between in the backcountry. So it pays to master the rudiments of sewing, and this week Tamia revisits an earlier article describing one of the most useful tricks in the seamster’s (or seamstress’s) ditty bag: the basic herringbone stitch.

RIP! What canoeist or kayaker hasn’t cringed when a favorite tent, pannier, or jacket suffered a seemingly fatal tear? The world is full of sharp ends, after all, from errant nails in fences you may lean your bike against, to beaver‑gnawn alders to hawthorn branches to the spiky tangles of “spruce hells.” Of course, many of the resulting rents would be easy to repair at home — if you have a sewing machine handy and know how to use it, that is, or if you know someone who does. But what happens when you’re away from home? Most of us don’t carry sewing machines in our packs. When a pointy poplar stub pokes through the weathered canvas of a Duluth pack, or the sawtooth edge of a kayak seam‑tape (the bit that the builder neglected to sand down) slices through the sleeve of a paddling jacket, we’re on our own. Even if the tear is small, ignoring it isn’t an option. Small tears don’t stay small for long.

Fortunately, stitching a tear closed needn’t be difficult, even in a world devoid of current bushes and Singer portables. But you’ll need to know how, and you’ll also have to have a few simple tools. Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

Jan 10 2018

Knots to Know: The Bowline by Tamia Nelson

Imagine a world without zip‑ties and ratchet straps. Well, if you’re like many trekkers, you won’t have to imagine it. You’ve lived it. The upshot? You need to know something about knots. And one of the most useful knots is also one of the oldest and most celebrated: the bowline, sometimes known as the “king of knots.” So this week, in her latest SameBoat Short, Tamia salutes the monarch.

OK. You’ve got a rope. Now what are you going to do with it? Tie your boat down for the trip to the put‑in? Attach a painter? Track your canoe upstream? Rig a sail? Lower your loaded kayak down a seacliff? Whatever you’ll be using your rope for, you’ll need to put a fixed loop in it sooner or later. Read more…

Questions? Comments? Just click here!

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