Most of us are used to hearing to the local bike shop to grab gear for bike maintenance or our race-day toolbox. However, there are other places you can look for tools if you want to look outside the box. One example is your local auto parts store, which has a wealth of items to help round out your maintenance gear.
Another place that is worth looking is your local dollar store. With tons of items available for literally one dollar (at least usually), it is a cost-effective spot to grab some gear that can help you clean your bike, organize your tools and make sure your bike computer and other items are charged for riding.
In today’s Mechanical Monday, we take a look at some of the bike maintenance gear you can pick up at the local bike shop.
Even if you have all the tools imaginable it will do you no good if you can’t find them. Organize your toolbox and save time when you need to find that specific screwdriver. Additionally, it’s nice to have somewhere to put bolts and things when you take them off in the parking lot.
Buckets are so versatile. I bought one with the intent to use it for bike washing, but it has become the jack-of-all-trades in my car. I’ve thrown wet gloves in it, used it as a trash can and even used it to wash my bike.
Solvents are nasty. Protect your skin when working with degreasers and other harsh chemicals. One can usually find big yellow dishwashing gloves that will do the job and, unlike nitrile gloves, will do it more than one time.
Great for cleaning a bike, but also just excellent hand towels. Grab a few.
First Aid Supplies
My mother taught elementary school, so she was prone to making purpose-specific kits. I can’t remember a time that I didn’t have an overstocked first aid kit nearby. I didn’t go into education, but I did build a first aid kit at the dollar store specific to the kind of injuries I’m likely to sustain at a bike race.
Gauze pads, antibiotic cream and medical tape abound. Hopefully you will never need them, but let’s be honest, you probably will at some point.
If it’s not part of your new first aid kit, it really is nice to have on hand. In addition to its antiseptic properties, it’s one of the few chemicals that can be used on and around disc rotors. Keep some in your shop area to clean rotors, if nothing else.
I have found that even when cyclocross races are held at city parks, the bathroom facilities there have been closed down for the season. Hand sanitizer is a nice item have to help you wash up and keep germs away. An early illness can derail your season, so don’t get caught in a portable toilet without it.
I am a tape snob. In a shop where I once worked, we finished bar tape with a special 3M product that didn’t contract when stretched, stayed put in wet conditions and never left a gummy residue. It even had a nice texture. It was perfect. It was also hard to find and expensive.
Interestingly, the closest thing I have ever found is Dollar Tree electrical tape. Grab a roll for finishing your bar tape and for race-day fixes when it can be called into duty.
Did you use some other brand of electric tape? You’ll want this then. It’s also nice if your wet lube makes a mess of things. You can use it to clean up sticker residue and hide any evidence of your summer triathlon.
Collapsible Water Bottles
Early season cyclocross training and races can be hot and dry, and hydration is key. But bottle cages can get in the way of a good shoulder carry, but hard plastic water bottle in your skin-tight jersey pocket might not be the most comfortable when it’s full or empty. Sure, you could chuck it outside the tape, but will you really remember (or have the energy) to go back and get it and avoid it from becoming litter?
Dollar stores often have squeezable, collapsible water bags. They’re typically about half a liter—smaller than a water bottle—and the squeezable material makes it easy to guzzle the hydrogen and oxygen combo before your competitor attacks.
Bonus? While filled, the water bags offer a bit of cushion should you land on it—at least more than your typical water bottle.
When you’re done? Roll it up or just stuff it in your jersey pocket or pant leg. You won’t notice it until you’re ready to change.
Pro tip: Freeze it partially filled, and add water before your warm-up. The ice-cold pack will help keep you cool before the start.
Want something less crinkly, and perhaps more durable than a $.99 product? Camelbak offers its Quick Stow hydration flask.
Lights, Garmin, phone, GoPro, Di2, they all charge by USB. Micro USB cords are usually dirt cheap at dollar stores. Buy a couple and toss them in your race bag, in case you need them.
Those are some of the things I have found useful from my local dollar store. Do you have cheap items that help round out your maintenance kit? Let us know in the comments.
ICYMI, see our recent Ask the Mechanics about disc brakes. For more tech know-how, check out our Mechanical Monday archives.