Buying a bike can be a big commitment. Generally when you spend a decent amount of cash on a bike, you want it to last you a longer time, and to run smoother. By having the right tools on hand, this can be achieved. The following will look at what tools every bike rider should own, in order to keep their bike well running, and smooth, in order to get the most out of each ride. Keeping in mind, a good mechanic should always have good tools. Buying cheap tools can cause premature wear on component, and generally wont last nearly as long. Brands such as Park Tool, BBB, and BikeHand are some of my go-to ‘bike specific’ tools, who offer extremely high quality tools! Note: all pictures show the brands of each tool that ‘Bike Shack’ use in the workshop.
10) Chain Gauge
A chain gauge is a cheap and “easy-to-carry” tool, which is extremely useful for saving you money in the long run. It simply is placed on top of the chain, and will fall between the links if your chain is stretched, and needs replacing. By knowing when to replace your chain, you can do so before the old chain begins wearing out other components such as the cassette, and the front chain rings. For around AU $8-$15, you can purchase one in a bike shop, or online.
9) Torx Key Set
A torx key set isn’t as commonly used for bikes, but is essential to a few vital bike components on modern bikes. Most brake rotors are held on with torx bolts, and need checking regularly. Also, bleed screws on hydraulic brakes, and sometimes other mounting bolts on components require various sized torx keys. By having a multi-tool with a few sized torx keys (generally T-10, and T-25 are found on bikes), you will be pretty safe! A good torx set (multi-tool style) generally retails for around AU $20-$35.
8) Needle-Nosed and Slip-Joint Tools
Needle nosed pliers are not an essential, but are very handy for pulling tension on gear/brake cables, squeezing on and off crimp-caps, opening gear/brake cable housing, bending brake pad pins, or just generally picking up small pieces. They aren’t a specific ‘bike tool”, but are an extremely handy tool to have. Also quiet small – if you wanted to take them on a ride with you. A good pair can be purchased for around AU $20-$40.
These are a less commonly found item in most work-shops. However, in my experience, they have saved me dozens of times. They offer massive grip force on seized parts, can loosen stripped components, and are virtually indestructible. These are on the lower end of the spectrum however, as they aren’t an essential. While being very handy, a cyclist can get away with other tools! A down-side to these is that they are generally very heavy, and take up more space than most other tools. A good quality pair can retail anywhere from AU $35-$75.
7) Rubber Mallet
The good old, trust mallet (rubber hammer), I own a cheap one, and it does the job fine. This is one tool that you don’t really need a high quality one. The rubber mallet can be used for any job; from removing seized parts, removing old bearings, removing cranks, and tones more. The beauty with the mallet is that the sky is the limit! It wont mark or chip your components, and it offers massive amounts of force. Generally these retail anywhere from AU $10-$35.
6) Chain Breaker
The chain breaker is also not an ‘every-day tool’, however cannot really be replaced or “bodgied”. A chain breaker is very precise, and if done right, should last forever! I own a Park-tool chain breaker, which is smaller for carrying with me, as well as a BikeHand chain breaker, with bigger handles and grips for added force. Both of these are high quality and strong, offering replaceable pins (in case one snaps). When buying a chain breaker, try getting one with replaceable pins, and get a good brand! I started off with a cheapie, and after 2 uses, the ‘non-replaceable pin’ snapped… and the tool was no longer useable. A good chain breaker generally retails for around AU $40-$70.
5) Cable Cutters
Cable cutters are just about on every ‘top 10’ list of bike tools. I went a long time without them, and got along okay, but never got a completely clean cut. Along with a BikeHand tool kit I bought, came a good pair of cable cutters, which I use just about daily. They deliver a faster, cleaner, and more even cut. Leaving no stray fibres on a cable, these also should be purchased from a quality brand. A cheap pair will often become blunt fast, and wont always cut evenly. Generally retailing for around AU $50-$90, these are a little more expensive. However, they are definitely worth it, if you plan on cutting cables!
4) Adjustable Wrench/Spanner
The adjustable wrench is perhaps my go-to ‘rescue tool’. If a bolt wont loosen, the leverage and strength of this tool will break free anything! With the adjustability to fit nearly anything its given, it is an essential to any riders tool collection. Another great use for this tool is rotor straightening! I have done this many times, and works just as well as any specific rotor tool! Also coming in a much smaller version (around 2.5 inches long) is a great second mini tool, for taking on rides with you! This little one is a handy little tool for cable clamps too! Thirdly, I own a 2mm thick one too, which comes in handy for forks and cone nuts! Retailing for between $15-$40, it is best to grab a decent quality one, as the cheaper ones can tend to have a little play. This can make it easy to strip bolts and other components.
3) Screw Driver
The trusty screw-driver, making an appearance at number 2. Useful for cock-pit components, and an essential for good gears! I own 2 screw drivers. One long thin cheapy, and a Stanley adjustable ratchet screw-driver. Both come in handy in different cases, however the long one would be my first go-to screw driver, as it is more universal. Easy to get into tight, hidden places! Retailing for anywhere between AU $10-$70, depending on style you go for.
2) Bike Work-Stand
A bike work stand! Another essential for any bike work, repair, or maintenance. When working on a bike, a stand makes all the difference. You don’t have to balance the bike at the same time, you can get under it, spin the wheels, use the gears, test the brakes, and anything else you want! A good work stand is one of just about any bike mechanics favourite tool! Owning a cheap one still does the job, however the more you pay, the easier and better it will hold. Cheap ones can tend to not lock in place as well as a good stand, but will still allow you to do the same work! Retailing for AU $80-$400, you can spend as much as you want! The more you spend, the stronger and more user-friendly the stand. Brands such as Park Tool, BikeHand, BBB, all do higher end stands, which are all great quality! Then brands such as Nitro offer decent quality stands, for more budget styled stands! But as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”.
1) Allen-Key Tool Set
Coming in, at the top of the list… ALLEN KEYS!!! If I could only have one tool, it would be a set of Allen keys! You can use them for tightening/loosening components, adjusting headsets, removing cranks, installing new parts, unclamping cables, and stacks, stacks more! I would use them on at least 99% of bikes I work on. You can buy cheap sets for around AU $15, however a good set will last you heaps longer, and shouldn’t strip any bolts if used correctly. I have 3 sets, which are all ball point hex keys. The ball point allows you to get into the bolt, on an angle. This is extremely handy for bike work, and is an essential to any riders tool box! I would always go for a Metric set, as most components are made using metric sizing. However, I do own a slightly cheaper set of imperial keys too, just in-case! A better set can cost between $40-$200! There are sliding head keys, ball point, rubber coated, T-handle, and more. A lot of workshops tend to go for sliding head, or T handle, however a smaller set can come on a ride with you.
All in all, these are the most used and useful tools, used in the official “Bike Shack” workshop. Remember to keep your tools dry, and clean; to prolong the life of them! For more great tips on keeping your bike well maintained, click here for “how to wash your bike”.