Working on your own bike can be satisfying, plus it can save you a bunch of money and trips to the bike shop. Having the essential bike tools for the job is necessary on both accounts. Seeing as you are the one who rides your bike all the time, only you really know what’s going on with it. If it’s making a certain noise, or feeling weird in a way, it can be tough to describe those smaller issues to a bike mechanic. With the right tools and general know-how, you can diagnose and fix the problems– and even have fun doing it!
That being said, botching a quick repair or making it worse because you’re trying to get through it with some multi-tools you had lying around can make for an embarrassing trip to the bike shop. Make sure the tools you have are up to the task, and ensure your also know how to use them. Seek out someone to teach you, watch videos online, read articles and practice on an old beater in a low-stakes repair before moving on to your top bike.
7 Essential Bike Tools
1. Floor Pump
While a floor pump is not the most exciting bike tool, proper and regular use can avoid the most common bicycle repair: a flat tire. Correct inflation pressure for the rider/tire/rim/surface condition combination can lead to fewer flats, along with better handling for your bike. Pressure that is too low risks pinch flats and pressure that is too high can lead to more puncture flats. Finding the right pressure will keep your bike rolling, keep you more comfortable on the bike, and more confident in your bike handling.
2. Tire Levers
Bad tire levers are really frustrating. If you’re out on a ride and get a flat, struggling to get your tire off with your bare hands can be tough, so you reach for your tire levers. If they proceed to break, then you’ll most likely be ready to pull your hair out. Good tire levers are the difference between a simple fix and the above situation. It is not a huge investment, so get the good ones and they will last you.
3. Hex Keys/Torx Keys
Most bolts on bicycles have metric hex bolts, so a good set of hex keys with ball-end drivers will make repairs a breeze. They will fit in your bolts securely, minimizing the chance of stripping the bolts. The ball end allows you to tighten and loosen hard to reach bolts at angles other then perpendicular. The set should have a full range of sizes to accommodate all of the bolts you will work on. Again, this is not a huge investment.
More and more bike parts have Torx bolts, six pointed star heads that give their wrenches more surface area, reducing the chance of stripping them. The same rules that apply to hex keys apply to Torx keys, except that they cannot accommodate ball-ends.
4. Cable Cutters
Replacing cables is not a complicated job with the right cable cutters. And there is only really one right cable cutter, which is often copied. With the wrong cable cutter, you risk fraying the cable or housing you are working with. A frayed cable is useless as the frayed section can spread and will not go cleaning through the housing, compromising its function.
5. Chain Tool
Cutting your a new chain to the correct length and installing it is one of the most satisfying repairs to do. It increases the longevity of your drivetrain if done at the correct intervals and makes it more efficient with crisper shifting. The only way to push the pins through a chain is with a chain tool.
There are a few adjustment screws on bikes, usually for derailleur limits (although some have moved to small hex heads) and usually number two Philips heads. But not all screwdrivers are equal, a good fit goes a long way to preserving your screws. Additionally, you should have a flat head screwdriver around, but this is mostly for scraping clean derailleur pulleys and other hard to reach places.
7. Torque Wrench
The last tool, the torque wrench, is a recent necessity. With the explosion of lightweight parts that require a certain torque to both hold fast and not fatigue prematurely, a torque wrench is the only tool for the job. Fortunately, most bike parts that require a certain torque have it printed right on them. Make sure you get the right bits for your bikes. Lots of people say they can do it by feel, but that has been proven wrong time and again.
Your own work is always more satisfying than relying on someone else’s, and it can also give you a sense of ownership of your bike. These bike tools should get you on your way to mastering most basic repairs. Remember to learn how to use a tool properly before attempting any repairs.