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Tools and Spares for Unbound Gravel: What I'll Carry On (and Off) the Bike

After a heartbreaking DNF at Unbound Gravel last year, I'm not taking any chances. I'm bringing all the tools and spares I might need to fix nearly any mechanical. Even if you’re not racing, this might be some good inspiration for stocking your own flat and repair kit.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Features

At Unbound Gravel last year, I failed to finish due to a mechanical. A broken spoke went into my rear derailleur, destroying it. I was able to put together a temporary fix by converting my bike to a singlespeed, but it didn’t last long. In the end, I had to call for rescue less than 25 miles into the race. That sucked!

At tough gravel races like Unbound, mechanicals are part of the game, so you need to be ready for them. This year, I’m bringing more tools and spares than I usually do on the bike and stocking my support crew with plenty of extras. This is the gear I’ll be taking with me to Emporia in a couple of weeks to give myself the best chance of making it to the finish. 

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Tools and Spares I’ll Carry On the Bike 

Unbound gravel bike tools, spares, and flat repair kit

At Unbound Gravel, the terrain is notorious for shredding tires and breaking derailleurs, so riders have to be ready to handle punctures and drivetrain mechanicals. There’s a lot more that could happen too — loose bolts, twisted handlebars, broken spokes, etc. Here’s what I’ll carry on my body and bike during the race: 

  • Cell phone
  • Multitool w/ a chainbreaker
  • Tire plug kit
  • Spare Tube(s)
  • CO2 inflator
  • CO2 cartridge(s) 
  • Small hand pump
  • Tire lever
  • Spare chain quick link
  • Spare tubeless valve core
  • 2 zip ties
  • Tape
  • Paint stick

I’ll have my iPhone in my jersey pocket to contact my support crew if I need to drop out due to a mechanical, injury, or other issue. It took my crew over 3 hours to get to me last year. The course is very remote and locations are difficult to describe, so dropping a pin or using a location app like what3words makes you much easier to find. If you’re a Luddite like me and aren’t familiar with these basic GPS tools, learn now! 

2023 Unbound Gravel broken rear derailleur singlespeed[product-block handle="6178924757184-silca-italian-army-knife-venti"/]

When it comes to multi-tools, there are a lot of good options out there, but I recommend choosing one with a chain breaker. Chain breakers add a bit of weight, but they can save your race if you snap your chain or destroy your rear derailleur. You can cut the chain and reconnect it with a quick link to create a singlespeed setup which can allow you to limp to a checkpoint or the finish. 

Otherwise, be sure your multitool has a bit for every bolt on your bike — likely a 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm, and t25. You don’t need anything fancy. My basic MSW Flat Pack 10-Bit tool does everything I need for only $25. 

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I’ll have a basic Genuine Innovations tire plug kit on my bike, mostly because it’s affordable and simple. Dynaplugs are probably the gold standard, but I’m just too cheap and I’ve gotten by just fine with the Genuine Innovations Bacon Strip tire plugs. They come in packs of 5 and it’s easy to pack multiple. I’d recommend putting your plug tool somewhere you can access quickly (I’ll have mine taped to my race plate) so you can plug punctures immediately. On that note, make sure you know how to plug a puncture!  

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I’ll carry two spare tubes and I like the Schwalbe Aerothan TPU tubes because they’re lighter than traditional butyl tubes. They’re also slightly cheaper than Tubolito and easier to roll back up after use, but both are solid options.

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[product-block handle="6178924495040-silca-tattico-mini-pump"/] 

Whether you’re repairing a puncture with plugs or resorting to tubes (hopefully the plugs work!), you need a way to reinflate your tire. I use the Silca Eolo IV Regulartor CO2 inflator because I’ve had more than a few spring loaded inflators fail in the past. I’ll have 2 20g CO2 cartridges in my saddle bag, but if some disaster happens, I’ll also be carrying a Silca Tattico mini pump, which in my opinion, is the easiest to use and most effective mini pump on the market. 

Other than that, I’ll also have some Gorilla tape wrapped around the body of my mini pump and a couple of zip ties in my saddle bag. If I'd caught my broken spoke earlier, I could have taped it to another spoke to keep it out of my derailleur. There are infinitely more uses too. You never know when tape or zip ties might come in handy! 


Tools, Spares, and Extras I’ll Keep With My Support Crew

Unbound Gravel support crew tools, spares, and gear

I’ll have 2 opportunities to resupply and get aid from my support crew around mile 70 and 140 (it changes depending on the year and course). Of course, my crew will have my nutrition and hydration ready to go, but I’ll also have plenty of tools, spares, and extras stashed in my car just in case: 

  • Folding chair
  • Bike repair stand
  • Feedback Rakk bike stand
  • Nicer tools
  • Floor pump
  • Tubeless sealant 
  • Sealant Injector
  • Spare tire / spare wheels with tires
  • Chain lube
  • Shop towels
  • Pump sprayer 
  • Baby wipes
  • Extra riding kit 
  • Chamois cream
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit
  • Ice

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I’m bringing my whole toolbox plus my repair stand, just in case I need to perform some sort of major repair. I’ll likely have a bunch of spare parts too. Since I ride a SRAM AXS mullet drivetrain, I actually plan to poach a spare Eagle AXS derailleur, chain, cassette, and derailleur hanger off my XC mountain bike. You never know. 

If my support crew had a whole spare drivetrain last year, I likely could have finished. Technically I’d be DQ’d for receiving aid outside of a checkpoint, but at least I’d have the satisfaction of riding the whole course. (Also, the race director likely won’t care about a lowly amateur like me.)

I’ll have a whole spare wheelset with tires mounted too. I can swap quickly if I destroy a tire or wheel. Obviously, this is expensive. You don’t need a second wheelset, but it’s probably worth bringing at least one spare tire. It doesn’t even need to be new. If you shred a tire sidewall, you’ll be glad to have a spare you can swap in.

bike pump sprayer wash

I also plan to bring a cheap pump sprayer filled with water to handle dirt and mud. I had to use a water bottle in past years, and having a more consistent stream of water to clean my bike or body will be nice. I’ll even bring an extra kit, just in case I’m super gross and want some fresh clothes. 

This probably sounds like a lot of stuff. It is. It’s probably overkill. But after DNFing due to a mechanical last year, I kind of don’t want to leave anything to chance. Knock on wood, but I think something will need to go seriously wrong to keep me from finishing! 

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