July 11, 2017

You’ve been following your training plan, eating right, getting plenty of rest, and you’re ready to race. You’ve taken your bike in and had it tuned up and everything is ready to roll, or is it? What about the bag that’s been hanging under your saddle all winter? What’s in your saddle bag and when was the last time you checked it?
The Basics
If you’re riding clincher tires you need a few things to change a flat. You probably have an inner tube, tire levers, and a method to inflate the tire once you’ve changed the tube. Let’s take a look at that tube. If you cannot remember when you bought the tube, or if it’s more than a couple years old, it’s time for a new tube. Did you get new race wheels? Is the valve stem on that old tube long enough for the new wheels? It might be time for a new tube.

Tire levers are simple, just make sure you have a pair in your saddle bag. Even if you ride tubulars, you should carry tire levers. There’s a video of a triathlete at Kona trying to pry their tubular off with a stick.

Once you’ve gotten the old tube out, checked for whatever caused the flat, and put the new tube in, you need to inflate the tire. The quickest way to do that is with a CO2 inflator. I carry the Genuine Innovations Air Chuck which is light and easy to use. 

CO2 inflators have two parts, the inflator and the cartridge. Cartridges come in different sizes and are non-threaded or threaded. Make sure you have the right time for your inflator and that sure the cartridge size is correct for your tire pressure.

If you’ve never used your CO2 inflator, deflate you tire and then practice inflating it with your CO2 inflator. It’s not hard to do but you really don’t want to be trying it the first time during a race. A certain triathlete had a flat at Kona and messed up trying to inflate the tire. She had to wait until someone else came along and gave her another cartridge.  
Lesson learned: carry 2 cartridges and know how to use them.
Worried about the cartridges rattling around in your saddle bag? Stretch a piece of old inner tube over the cartridge. That will stop the rattle and keep you from freezing your fingers.
The Extras
If you like to be prepared, you should also have some type of multi-tool for tightening things that come loose. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes but for racing, get a small one. The Park Tool I-Beam is compact, lightweight, and has common hex wrenches you’ll need. Another good choice is Fix It Stick which I carry. Fix It Stick comes with replaceable hex bits so you only have to carry what you need.

If you’re riding deep aero rims, you should consider carrying a valve extender. You never know when you’ll have to borrow an inner tube and it’s nice to have a spare extender if you need it.
If you like to be really prepared or you’re paranoid, consider carrying a chain tool. The Park Tool mini chain tool is a great choice and if you carry a master link, fixing a broken chain is pretty easy.

With a little preparation, you can handle anything that happens on race day and now that you’re prepared, nothing will happen.