On Trail Tool Kit: The Fat Edition
One thing every fatbiker needs is a good tool kit that they know how to use for the backwoods. Of course, every rider should have everything they need to safely get them off the trail at any point in time. But, for the fatbiker, this sentiment gets turned up a full dial.
When you fatbike there is a good chance that this scenario will happen at some time in your mostly-wonderful—definitely memorable—fatbiking career: it’s 10 degrees F and the sun is going to set in 30 minutes. You’re still 15 miles from your car and you haven’t had cell service for an hour. As you grind along, suddenly your feet are pedaling as fast as they can yet you aren’t moving—your chain snapped. Or the snow feels strange under your tires—your tubeless setup failed. Maybe you just got hung up on a log and now your gears are clanging around like a middle school band practice—you bent your derailleur hanger.
When this happens (and it will) you need to have the gear to get yourself home safely.
When I started riding a few years ago I was never exactly…prepared. I hated carrying extra weight and worrying about whether or not I had some tiny tool lodged in my over-stuffed pack. Most of the time I got away with it—until I didn’t.
Luckily, I was always with someone that was a little more of a girl scout than me. Since then, I’ve started to realize just how important it is to be able to depend on my own skillset and gear, instead of someone else’s. Furthermore, I’ve learned just how powerful a feeling it is to be out riding on the trail and know that when shit hits the fan, I will be okay.
Here’s how I channel my inner Safety Sam(antha) during the winter.
In the top left-hand corner is a necessary evil, HotHands. They seem to only work when you don’t really need them, and never work when you do. However, there are so many times I’ve forgotten them at home and regretted it (once to the detriment of my digits). Over any other piece of gear, HotHands can save your fingers and toes from frostbite (or your friends’!). Sometimes I’ll even throw one in a grub bag or on a water bottle to keep it from freezing. Tip: stash some in your pogies for super fast warmth.
I keep a small tire pressure gauge with me all the time. Fatbiking requires dialing in tire pressure juuuussst so, and a gauge will help you get it right. I’m always making micro adjustments to my pressure on trail.
I also stash an extra headlight and batteries in my BurritoBag at all times. If I know I’m riding in the dark, I’ll bring a helmet light and a bike light, as well. However, even if I’m expecting to be home before dark I still carry a small headlight—just in case.
There are a lot of times when I find myself riding home after dark. Make sure you have a red, rear bike light on your seat post or stuffed in a bag.
Finally, don’t forget a lighter to heat up frozen valve cores or start an emergency fire. It’s never a bad idea to carry some waterproof matches, too.
Since chatting with friend and local mechanic Chris, I’ve added a Leatherman Squirt to my list.
Bottom right in the photo is a half frame bag, called the Rippity Doo Dah. It’s small enough that I can still fit a water bottle in my bottle cage, but large enough to fit my maintenance tools.
Center right is my multi-tool. My only criteria for a multi-tool is that it has the right wrenches for my ride and that it has a chain break tool, like this one from Crank Brothers.
Middle right is my pump. I’m not crazy about it. While a small, road bike style pump will get the job done, I actually recommend something with a larger air chamber. My little pump takes a long time to fill up my massive fat tires, and that means more time in the cold.
Instead, consider something like this pump from Lezyne. What I like about it is that the air chamber is big enough to fill up a tire quickly and efficiently, yet it’s small enough to fit into a backpack. Another feature is that it attaches to your valve stem with a hose instead of a direct mount, which makes it harder to bend your valve core and stem.
I keep all my small items in the Crank Brothers case that came with my multi-tool. On the far right is an item you probably recognize: bobby pins! Sometimes (rarely, but sometimes) all that sealant in your tubeless system can gum up your valve core. You’ll want something skinny and long to clear it out.
To the left of my bobby pins is my derailleur hanger. These little buggers are always getting bent—actually, they are intentionally the weakest point on your drive train, which saves your more expensive components should you wreck (or carelessly toss your bike derailleur-side down). These are as easy to replace as they are to break, and can save your butt if you take a digger in the backcountry. Make sure you buy the right hanger for your bike.
To the left of the hanger is a valve core. Because fatbiking requires a level of tediousness when it comes to tire pressure, your valve cores get a lot of extra attention. I go through a couple every season from airing my tires up and down.
Center are a few master chain links. Without a master link and the chain break tool on your multi-tool, you’d be in rough shape if you snapped your chain. They are inexpensive and oh-so-easy to pack.
To the left of the chain links is a valve core remover. If you haven’t removed your valve core in a while and go to change your tire you might have a hard time getting it out. This handy little tool makes it a breeze.
The last bit of gear in my Crank Brothers case are some bacon strips and the insertion tool. If you run tubeless you can leave your tire repair kit at home and instead bring the bacon. These lil’ strips make patching large holes in your tire a breeze. That means less time being cold and more time riding your bike!
Because part of the fun of fatbiking is being able to rip in tough conditions, it’s even more important to bring the right tools along and know how to use them. Practice using your valve core remover and multi-tool before you break down on the trail—and if you don’t, make sure you have plenty of handwarmers to keep your digits safe while you troubleshoot on trail.
Did I miss a crucial piece of gear in your winter on trail tool kit? Share in the comments!