I have to admit that I took quite a bit of kit with me on PBP: everything from tools and spares to washkits and battery packs. This article is my attempt to list everything in some sort of sensible order, as much for my own memory as for anyone else's utility.
It's always interesting to poke around in other people's bags … welcome to mine.
Over the past few years I've developed a system where I have a single neoprene bag for a basic toolkit and another neoprene bag for a few spare parts. I also carry a Topeak Mini 9 multitool, in its own neoprene case, close to hand for ongoing adjustments as required. I have one set of tools and spares for each of my two main bikes: they vary slightly, since one's a Brompton and the other isn't. What you see here is my Brompton kits.
The basic toolkit consists of a Topeak Race Rocket mini pump plus a CO2 pump: I carried three CO2 canisters on PBP, for a quick inflate, the mini pump as a backup to get me to the next control if I have CO2 issues (like running out). The Brompton specific problem I faced was that 16-inch tubes tend to have Schraeder valves, a size that's definitely not guaranteed to be readily available (I've needed a top-up on a sportive and the mechanic hasn't had the necessary fittings). The mini pump is neat in that it fits both Presta and Schraeder.
The Topeak Mini 9 multitool includes a 6mm Allen key and I take an 8/10mm adapter for pedals and cranks.
The Brompton has a nutted axle on the rear (it's not possible to convert to quick-release or a long Allen bolt because it's a hub gear) and so needs a suitable spanner to remove the wheel. These two plate spanners come as part of a bigger multitool, which isn't a particularly small or light tool, so I just use the spanners with the 6mm key on the mini-9 for leverage.
For some unknown reason Busch & Muller lights — I have a Luxos IQ2 front light — are attached with a Torx nut and bolt, a tool that's missing from the mini-9. So I carry a pair of Torx keys in case the lamp comes loose and 'droops' onto the front mudguard.
A chain splitter — I have a really nice Park Tools one that collapses into a little oblong, but for some reason I left it in the other bike's toolkit
The small-blade screwdriver is the other tool missing from the mini-9. The only reason I carry this tool is in case I need to remove the sprockets from the rear wheel: they're held on with a circlip, which has to be flipped off with such a screwdriver … it's a Brompton thing (in fact any Sturmey Archer hub gear uses one).
I normally carry a solid wheel kit of two inner tubes, just one CO2 cannister, some self-adhesive patches and a pump. For PBP I carried four inner tubes — two new and two repaired, all packed tightly into a strong polythene bag to prevent chafing in my saddle bag. As well as those I had two different packs of self-adhesive patches — I bought some Lezyne patches after poor experiences with the Park Tools ones, which I carry really to help other riders … plus a proper rubber-glue patch kit. I wanted to make sure I could fix two double punctures and more besides quickly, or slowly, but at least well enough to continue.
I had even worked out — yet to be tried — that a 16-inch wheel is just over half the rim diameter of a 700C wheel (349 vs 622) and so at a squeeze I could use a full-size tube wrapped twice around the wheel in case I managed to shred all six tubes I had with me!!
Add in a spare tyre (clipped as well as bungied on — I wouldn't want to lose it over the speed bumps), three CO2 cannisters and the previously listed pump, therefore I would have to be incredibly unlucky for tyres and tubes to be ride-ending.
I also carried some spokes and a spoke key in my spares.
My spares kit usually consists of a neoprene bag containing various spare nuts, bolts and washers. It includes a pair of cleat bolts and a cleat plate.
I always carry a spare pair of AAA batteries for the rear light, plus at least one CR2032 button-cell for sensors (wheel/cadence and heart-rate monitor) — they weight nothing, so I took four on PBP (wrapped in white tape to be easy to find and not get accidentally shorted out and depleted in the bag).
A foldable pair of scissors makes trimming the strips of old inner tube much easier, as well as trimming the electrical tape (with the cardboard tube removed to make it smaller).
I carry 10 or so links off a new chain, in case I break the one on the bike — really to get me to the next control/bike shop rather than get me to the end.
The small chain/rod at the bottom of the photo is a new Sturmey Archer "indicator chain" — it changes gear. If I fall off on the right-hand side, or hit a high kerb, I could be stuck in top gear to the end, so carrying this enables a road-side fix, which I have had to do a couple of times in the last few years. It's a part I believe I won't get from any bike shop in France!
Some spare electrical bits: a length of wire to fix a broken dynamo loom, plus a new dynamo hub plug. And a spare Brompton-specific bracket for a front light: it's lower than for a full-size bike, so the front bag still fits on the bike. I heard recently of these suffering from fatigue over time, and as this has done upwards of 13,000km on some pretty rough roads, I thought I'd carry a spare.
My Brompton has a custom geared hub with a non-standard 15T sprocket (the standard hub uses a 16T sprocket). The one on the bike currently is titanium and I didn't want to risk it shattering on PBP and knocking me out, so I carried a spare plus a spare circlip and spacer.
A spoke key is essential, as an untrue wheel can be ride-ending. The Brompton wheels, as all small wheels are, are bulletproof, and even with spokes missing they remain true. Nevertheless, I carried a Fiberspoke (two actually), but I figured I would end up giving them to other people rather than using them myself on the B.
I carry a couple of 5mm P-clips with me in case anyone else needs some to mount a light: they are perfect for mounting lights to Bagman frames. I had to buy a whole bag, so if anyone needs a couple they just need to ask
I've carried a bottle of chain oil since my second-ever audax ride where road spray washed the chain dry: the Brompton's chain is very close to the ground and does tend to catch the weather. I did have to lube the chain once on PBP.
Elastic bands and some Sugru in case I have to get all MacGyver on the roadside — either on my own bike or someone else's.
And for PBP I carried a Brooks saddle tool — I figured there would be a lot of Brooks saddles and nobody else would bring a tool …
Fasteners and fixings
I always carry some zipties and a couple of luggage straps: when I need to, I can and do strap objects or bags to the bottom of my Bagman frame. For PBP I had my sleepkit strapped in front of the Carradice.
I keep a spare "clippy" to hang something onto the bike if I have to. And some emergency paracord knotted into a convenient braid.
A few spokes are shown, too — these are specifically Brompton-wheel sized (148mm if memory serves).
These were totally unused on PBP, but still worth carrying for peace-of-mind. Next time I might take just one or the other.
I have been playing around with my charging kit all season, trying to settle on just enough battery to keep everything juiced up while topping it up from the dynamo (via the IQ2 light). A 6000mAh and a 3200mAh ought to have been enough — it wasn't quite, but it should've been. I had to carry two AA batteries as spares for my spare front light, so I took them in a USB-charging thingy: I did use this, but it still wasn't quite enough for the ride.
Some cables to charge with: a 50cm micro USB to charge the Garmin 1000, a 6-inch iPhone cable and a 4-inch mini-USB cable plus adapters to convert it to micro USB and to convert micro to iPhone — even if a cable failed, I should be able to cobble something together to charge the GPS and phone — and I have experienced cable-failure on a brevet previously. These all pack away into the little SanDisk neoprene case.
The USB adapter to charge my headtorch, plus a spare battery for the camera (which is waterproof, shockproof, etc.).
Finally the headphone cable for my waterproof iPhone case, plus a stereo-in-one-ear headset that Marcus had recommended — for once completely unused.
Miscellaneous bag fillers
Some moist toilet paper — I would've used this in the toilets at Brest, but it would've meant a half-mile hike to fetch them from the bike. Suncream.
After hearing about Drew Buck's unfortunate alarm snafu on LEL in 2013, I decided to take a proper alarm clock! And some ear plugs. I didn't use either.
Two types of electrolyte tabs: ones with caffeine and ones without.
This is an audax/randonnée, so a pen and pencil are mandatory … aren't they
And some cutlery, just in case somewhere runs out. Ti of course. Foldable. And unused.
On the pill
I keep a small zipsac close to hand with toothbrush and toothpaste, contact lenses, a small mirror to put them in with, and pain killers. I include ProPlus for multi-day rides, and some Rennie tablets — I gave mine away early on to a UK rider who needed them more, and was then given some by another UK rider, whose name I can't remember, on the way back
And a small first aid kit — little more than sticking plasters and alcohol wipes, I added some muscle tape in case of ITBS or Achilles issues.
And a blister plaster. Just one. One small one.
I managed to get the size of my washkit down to tiny: I didn't wash or shave at all on the ride, but I still thought it was quite a neat little kit …
Possibly the most useful and most used kit I carried: an inflatable pillow, Therm-a-rest NeoAir Short sleep mat, cotton sleeping bag liner (wrapped inside Therm-a-rest in photo), and a foil blanket. I used this kit multiple times on the ride (I slept in a real bed only once and only for about 35 minutes).
I also took an Alpkit Hunka bivi bag, which I used to sleep on, but never in.
Richard used the foil blanket when Carhaix ran out of beds.
What would I take/leave next time?
There are definitely some things I would take next time: the sleep kit, tool kit and spares kit are definite keepers. In fact I would take most of it all over again.
There are a few things I would do differently, though:
- Just two inner-tubes
- Leave out the CO2 cannisters altogether
- Miniaturise the first-aid kit — lots of alcohol wipes, fewer plasters
- Although it appears unnecessarily kitchen-sinkish, I would keep the cutlery, as it weighs almost nothing and eating is so important
- No Dubs
- Just one bigger USB battery — trying to work out which one to charge when I was tired nearly blew my mind, and I could've done with the extra juice
- Just one café lock
- Leave out the washkit
On the whole, though, the kit has been developed and tested over the past three years and it's pretty comprehensive: there are only a couple of jobs I couldn't do with the kit I have, limited to tightening up the bottom bracket and headset, and replacing the swing-arm bushes, none of which should be ride-ending. The comfort kits did their job, or weren't used, but I wasn't lacking anything and probably had too much.
All in all I was happy with what I took and I'm just going to tweak it a little for next time