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Small Item Essentials: Overlooked Must-Haves We Can’t Live Without

The new year has officially arrived, festivities have started losing much of their all-consuming grasp, and that bike of yours is wondering, like everything else that’s been put on hold in the wake of the holidays, when you will return to the life the two of you once knew. It’s a relationship that commonly gets tested during this stretch of the cyclist’s season, as the excuses for not riding as much as we’d like, or should, seem to conveniently pile up en masse.

So to help stoke that winter cycling fire, and get back into the two-wheeled mindset, taking stock of our tools and riding essentials always serves as a nice way for us to reboot. Now’s a perfect time to see what needs to be replaced in the toolbox and riding kit, as well as picking up a few new handy items for the workshop. Here’s a collection of some of our favorite high quality, often overlooked, small item essentials that’ll be sure to provide you with years of service to come. Here’s to starting off 2014 on the right foot.

Abbey Bike Works

We can go ahead and bypass the lecture on what it means to invest in quality tools. Some of us were fortunate enough to hear these wise words passed down from our elder mechanics, artists, machinists, etc. With the abridged version stating that solid tools will repay us many times over, as well as their worth being clearly visible in the work that we do, I’m going to continue promoting the message to whomever inquires.


In the bicycle realm, Abbey Bike Works finds its way into this select circle of durable, functional tools built by those who understand this philosophy. The Crombie Tool is one of these why-didn’t-someone-think-of-this-earlier products that have been getting nods by professional mechanics everywhere, in no small part due to its intuitive and strikingly good-looking machined design. Essentially, the splined tool allows you easily check and remove lockrings and cassettes without removing the skewer. It sounds simple enough, but once you try it, the Crombie will quickly replace all other cassette and lockring tools in your quiver.


Arundel has made a name for itself by manufacturing bottle cages and other small accessories that possess a timeless, golden-era style, yet that are fully functional for today’s cycling needs. Take, for example, its classic stainless cages, which find their way onto professionals’ feathery carbon frames during the Spring Classics year after year.


In an age of carbon galore, it’s both a stark and refreshing contrast to see a bit of good ole stainless bolted to the bikes of many a pro’s bike. These riders use them for the same reasons that we do — steel cages don’t go out of style and they just work. As for its saddle bags, Arundel keeps things simple, durable, and out of the way. Only the essential components will fit inside, and that’s exactly how the folks at Arundel designed them to be.

Effetto Mariposa

As a materials engineer at Polytechnic University in Turin, Italy, Alberto De Gioannini started Effetto Mariposa as a side project, while also working as product manager for Vittoria and Geax tires. It’s safe to say Mr. De Gioannini knows a thing or two about bicycle technical and material innovations, and his brand’s tire sealant, inflation, and maintenance products clearly reflect that. Some of our favorites include the Carbogrip and Carbomove, as these composite-friendly sprays work to safely secure and remove expensive carbon components. Both are a must for the cyclists and home mechanics who take pride in maintaining their machines through seasonal overhauls and rebuilds.

Morgan Blue

Another brand that commonly flies under the stateside radar is that of Morgan Blue. We can’t figure out if the nondescript blue-and-white packaging system was an afterthought, or just a no-nonsense Belgian way of doing things, but there’s absolutely no mystery once you get beyond the label.


These guys know their stuff, as is evidenced by the many professional mechanics and soigneurs who swear by its huge range of massage and maintenance products. From a total body care line to an extensive bike cleaning and maintenance collection, Morgan Blue delivers high-end, straightforward products that work really well. In short, Morgan Blue is the official smell of any Belgian start line come springtime.

Tate Labs

Similar to several of the other brands in this collection, Tate Labs began by developing an answer for a product that was frequently requested, but wasn’t readily available. For Tate, this was a simple, out-in-front Garmin computer mount — called the Bar Fly — that replaced the fragile stock version.


The positive engagement system, also known as its 1/8th turn technology, as well as the durable USA-made thermoplastic build, won over many professional cycling teams with its clean and secure design. Tate Labs has since developed several versions of the Bar Fly, including a mount for GoPro cameras and the iPhone 5. If nothing else, it’ll give you some peace of mind knowing that your expensive electronics will remain secure and easily accessible from the saddle.