I have a tin. It lives on the shelf in my garage, where it has resided happily for many years. It is a large tin that once held Terry’s Chocolate Orange ‘Segsations’ but is now full of assorted items that we’ll come to in a moment. Its lid is long gone, mostly because the items it now contains are so numerous they’re spilling out of the top, but on the whole it does its job well – and its job is a vital one.
In my years of doing triathlons, I dread to think how much money I’ve lavished on bikes, wheels, saddles, carbon bottle cages, more wheels, more bikes, computers, shoes, racing tyres and more bikes, yet nothing has played so critical a role in keeping me on the road as this tin. It’s no exaggeration to say that without it, I could not have done half the triathlons, bike races and training rides that I have. So what does this wonder-receptacle contain? I’ll tell you. Items essential to every cyclist in the world – bits and bobs.
Yes, bits and bobs, those oddments that have accumulated over the years and on which I have come to rely.
I’m sure you also have a tin, because there isn’t a cyclist in the land who doesn’t have a stash of random items gathered from previous bikes, old shoes, unused tri-bars, redundant bike lights and God knows what else that we’ve looked at and thought ‘that will come in handy one day.’
I don’t know what’s in your tin but this tin is my tin. Here is a summary of the goodies it contains:
Heart-rate monitor strap.
Several tyre levers, all of different designs.
Wheel skewer (minus nut).
Race belt that’s lost its elastic.
Various headset spacers, retained on the off-chance I have another growth spurt and have to raise my handlebar height.
A charger with a port that doesn’t fit any of my electronic devices.
A three-quarters-used tube
of Black Witch neoprene glue.
A couple of old cleats, most probably from right shoes because it’s my left foot I put down when stopping, thus knackering the left cleat much faster.
An old, bent bicycle clip.
A spoke key, used only once after which I had to take my wheel to the bike shop to have it re-trued.
Rear bike light (not working).
Assorted watch batteries, none of which fit my watch.
A cone spanner.
A spare inner tube, which I keep forgetting I have until after I buy a new one.
Cable ties of various lengths.
A wheel magnet from an old bike computer, with several bolts and screws stuck to it.
A front reflector.
An indeterminate number of Allen keys.
A C02 cannister, which may or may not contain any C02.
A Cateye and a Sigma bike computer (neither working).
Some brake blocks.
A strange plastic bracket that may be for a bike light, a bell or a pump.
Some yellow lens inserts for a pair of sunglasses I no longer own.
Old inner tube dust caps.
Various strips of rubber, used to pack the gaps between the bike light bracket and seatpost or handlebars.
Numerous skewer springs.
A gross of screws, bolts, those washers you get with inner tubes and never use, and the oblong washers from shoe cleats.
Several million safety pins, all in one connected mass.
Handlebar spacers for clip-on tri bars I haven’t used for about 15 years.
The straw from an old tin of GT85.
Mysterious swivelling nut thing, never used but which I dimly recall is essential if you ever want to remove a bottom bracket.
Short piece of old tyre, carried in case of a split in the sidewall.
A combination lock (combination long forgotten).
This might sound like a lot of old crap to you, but I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years I’ve faced some pre-ride mechanical issue and thought, ‘Aha! I know what will fix that.’ And lo! There is just the thing in my trusty tin.
So with the new year upon us, the new season on the horizon, and an excuse to buy new kit, don’t forget to make time for the humble tin.