On Bike Tools
Do I need to carry tools? If so, what tools do I need in case of an emergency? These are two of the most common questions asked by the new rider. The problem is, there is no one right answer. Are you a long distance roadie? Mountain biker? Commuting just a short distance daily for work or maybe you are getting ready for a 3 month tour through Mexico. Each of these situations has different needs, but by understanding what those needs are you can be sure to always be prepared for what ever may happen while out on the road.
Lets now talk about the 4 main types or riders and some of the tools you may want to carry based on your riding style.
Commuters:When your ride consists of short daily commutes to and from work, the most likely issue you will have on the road is a puncture. Toss a nice seat bag on your bike and load it up. At the very least you should have a spare tube, tire levers and CO2 (or a pump). If you are riding a single/fixie, and it doesn’t have quick release, you probably also need a 15mm or crescent wrench for removing your wheels. With just these few things you can easily care for a single puncture and get back on the road quickly. If you are looking for just a little added road side security I definitely recommend also adding a well rounded multi-tool, and a patch kit to your arsenal. The multi-tool is great for making seat or handlebar adjustments, tensioning your chain on that single or, if you are geared, help adjust the derailleur. Why a patch kit if I have a tube? Well that tube is only good for a single puncture. What if you lose the front and rear? What if your new tub gets a puncture? With a patch kit you can keep rolling even if you have more than one incident. Listed here are the bare essentials. You might want to also add some emergency cash, an emergency contact card, snacks, and/or your cell phone to your “preparedness kit”.
Mountain Bikers:If you are out on the trail your needs are just a little different than the average urban commuter though over all the things are mostly the same. You are still going to want a multi-tool, CO2, tire levers and at least 2 spare tubes. You ride tubeless you say? Don’t need a spare tube you say? Well let me correct you now. Not only does the sealant in your tire get either used up over time but it also will dry out and become useless over time. If you are not up on your tire maintenance you could find yourself miles form no where with a puncture and old, dried sealant. You will be thankful for that tube then. Going further there are a couple other recommendations I like to make. First is the patch kit. You can almost never have too many flat repair options. Especially when out in the brush or wilderness. You should also carry some extra “Stan’s” Notube Sealant, super glue and a few extra chain links. The chain links are obvious, and I hope your multi-tool has a chain breaker built in. If not you will need to also carry a chain breaker. You might be asking, “Why super glue?” The super glue serves a couple purposes. First is emergency tire repair. A sidewall cut or larger tear can be held together just enough to get you home in many cases. Secondary to that is first aid. Nothing will seal a cut after a fall like a bit of super glue. Last, don’t forget the emergency money and contact card.
Roadies:Roadies are usually concerned with weight. Higher end road bikes also have less options in terms of storage and space. If you are one of those roadies concerned about weight and space here is what you are going to make sure you have. Of course a tube, tire levers and CO2, and if you are a minimalist that’s it. If you want to go just one more added step you will want to also have a bit of duct tape wrapped around a card or something. This is a great way to make a tire boot in the even of a sidewall failure or larger cut in the tire. Better still than duct tape though is velox rim tape. To round out the list of course, emergency money and contact card.
Tourer:Ah the long distance tourer. Don’t think we forgot about you. Of course you lot are a special case. While the tourer will still need pretty much everything listed above, their needs extend well outside the normal range of “quick roadside repairs”. Of course the limitations of what can be carried are also much less. Tourers have a bit more space to carry the tools they may need. In addition to the usual, tube/lever/CO2/multi combo you are going to want to carry extra tires, folding of course for space, probably a few extra spokes and a spoke wrench. Since we have the added space it gives us the option to carry a few things we would otherwise avoid. First is a full Hex Set and a full sized screw driver. But I have the multi-tool!! Yes but when at camp or your hotel, the multi-tool can be awkward to use and since you likely have more time and more space, the full sized tools can be much easier and more comfortable to use. Want to really get crazy? Bring a cone wrench too. This can be perfect for aligning your brakes back to center if ever you have a small wreck or otherwise knock your brakes out of whack.
Bike Shop Tools
When does a tool kit turn into a bike workshop? A lot of people have asked themselves this very question. The longer you’re involved with bicycles, the more likely it is that you’ll end up with some kind of workshop with quite a few tools. Sometimes this comes with a dedicated bench and pegboard for your tools. But, I think it really starts to be a workshop when you have a work-stand. Once you have one of those, even if you put your tools away in a toolbox after working on your bike, you have crossed taken the path into the forest of fixing and tinkering on your bike(s). You know what the sign said, but you’re going to keep going anyway. Once you’ve selected a work-stand, it’s easy to think about more tools because stands just make it so much easier to work on your bike. I’m going to advise on three other items that don’t necessarily fall into the tool category but are essential to making your bike fixing life easier. First, good lighting. If you can’t adequately see what you’re doing, it’ll take longer and be frustrating. Second, consider a stool. Even a plastic step stool makes it easier to do sustained work and adjustment. If you don’t have a pegboard with your tools, chances are you’re fishing ’em out of the toolbox. Again, easier to grab and change tools from a sitting position. Third, get one of those magnetic bowls. This will help you keep track of small parts that have a habit of rolling away under a cabinet, into the carpet, etc. For more involved projects consider taking a hint from folks who disassemble electronics and use a board or sectional tray to lay out your pieces.
Now, what tools begin to transcend the average toolbox? You probably already have a few hex keys, torx wrenches, box/end wrenches, and maybe a chaintool. If you’re serious about fixing bikes, you’ll find that getting shop quality versions of those tools are very helpful. Hardened steel drivers and larger, easier to use chaintools can save your fingers, keep parts from stripping, and make the job easier. Good tools will last.
Here are some of the tools that may not have made it into your toolbox that are really useful to have in a workshop:
- Wheel truing jig. Sooner or later you’ll need to replace a spoke or just true your wheels. You may even find that you can learn to build wheels from scratch
- Wheel dishing tool. This goes hand in hand with the wheel truing jig. Once you’ve trued a wheel, it’s important to check that the wheel is symmetrically dished on both sides
- Spoke wrench. Maybe a couple with different sized and ways to grasp. Essential for truing and adjusting your spokes.
- Chainwhips. These work hand in hand with cassette removal tools. Swapping out worn cassettes or just giving them a thorough cleaning is much easier once they’re off the hub.
- Cassette removal tools. These are specific to the type of cassette you are working on
- Cone wrenches. Adjusting hubs with cones is almost an art of feel. Not all hubs have cones and loose or caged bearings anymore. But, for those that do, a periodic check, cleaning, and adjustment is necessary. These specialized wrenches can also be used as brake centering tools. Cone wrenches are not always sold in identical size pairs, but that is probably what you need to make the appropriate adjustments
- Rotor Truing Fork. If you have disc brakes and need to gently bend the rotors, these are just about the only way to easily do this
- Rotor Truing Guage. Used in conjunction with rotor truing fork
- Torque Wrench. Increasingly, parts manufacturers have been stamping torque specifications on their parts. And, if you want squeak free, appropriately installed parts, it’s always a good idea to torque to their specs. Bike tool companies sell great torque wrenches. If you already have a torque wrench, getting some step up/step down adapters may make yours work for you bicycle needs
- Socket and bit set. A bicycle tool version of these are really helpful. Several of the bicycle tool companies make nice sets with all the different needed sockets and drivers
- Pedal wrench. If you don’t already have one, these are indispensable. The dual sided 15mm or 9/16th ones are best. Adding an 8mm and 6mm hex handled driver for removing pedals that only have the hex fitting
- Cable cutter. Get a bicycle specific one. Essential for cutting cables
- Tire irons. If you don’t already have some, get a couple pairs of the Pedro’s plastic levers. They’re the best. But, you also need at least one good metal lever as well
- Cable Puller. This really does give you another “hand.” Great anytime you’re adjusting or replacing cables
- Air Compressor with inflation fittings. Really nice to have, especially when you’re mounting tubeless tires which require a rapid burst of pressure to seat the bead
- Floor pump. If you don’t have a compressor, and you don’t already own a floor pump, this is a necessity
The following are nice to have and may go beyond the normal workshop. Proceed at your own risk
- Ultrasonic Cleaner. These are amazing at cleaning off grime that we’ve all scrubbed, brushed and wiped endlessly. Just be sure to take into account parts that have may be grease/lubricant behind seals
- Grease gun. Great for lubing recessed parts and delivering measured amounts
- Derailler Hanger Adjustment Tool. This is really handy when you just can’t figure out why your indexed shifting can’t be dialed in. It could be a misaligned derailler hanger<
- Crank pullers and bottom bracket tools. If you’re going to remove your bottom bracket or replace it, you’ll need the appropriate tool. Additional tools may be necessary if you have to press fit a bottom bracket on you frame
- Bench Vise. The ability to secure and bend things in a good vise can be helpful, especially for bicycles and accessories of lessor quality where some “coaxing” is needed
- Rubber Mallet. See above about “coaxing”
The list can go on and on. Be forewarned: collecting bicycle tools can be addictive. If you find spoke threaders, bottom headset reamers, of dovetailed boxes full of retro tools with “Campagnolo” on them, you may need professional help – or at least a brew infused intervention with your riding buddies.
Bike Repair Stands
Putting your bicycle in a position that you can work on it comfortably and effectively is probably the best thing you can do after buying a set 4, 5, 6, and 8 mm hex wrenches. The best and easiest way to do this is with a bike repair or work stand.
Bike repair stands do several things for you that are essential for helping you keep your bikes in good working order:
- Holds the bike steady without damaging the frame or other components
- Allows for free spinning of the wheels and turning of the cranks
- Positions the bicycle so you can comfortably work on the part or area that needs work
When considering a bicycle repair/work stand, it’s good to ask yourself several questions:
- Do you have a dedicated work space or area? Can you leave the stand occupying that space or does it need to be put away after use?
- If you need a portable repair stand; will you be packing it up and taking it along or trips, to races or events?
- Do you need a beefy stand to keep heavier bicycles stable?
- Do you want a stand that can be expanded with accessories, like tool trays and wheel truing jigs?
Once you have an idea of where you’ll work on your bike, and what kind of stand you’ll want, it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll secure the bike in the stand. Stands have several kinds of clamping mechanisms to hold your bike in place. Ratcheting clamps, screw clamps, and spring loaded cam clamps will all do the job, but with different use profiles and cost. Screw clamps are probably the easiest to use and maintain, and you can pretty easily fine tune the tension for whatever part you’re securing to the rack. This is important as you’ll want to be careful not to over clamp frame tubes or carbon seatposts.
When you’ve become more skilled at tweaking and repairing your bike, you’ll note that moving around the stand is a consideration. Typically,a good lower priced stands clamp the bike in place while providing a stable construct for work. But, you’ll have to move around the bike to get at places on the opposite side. More expensive stands may have the ability to swivel the bike 360 degrees in one or more axes. This is a great feature when working or more elaborate tear downs and tune-ups.
If you’ve decided on a stand that can be accessorized, probably the best accessory you can get is a tool tray. Positioning all the tools needed for a job so they’re close at hand makes things so much less frustrating. And, they usually have a beverage holder…
With stands, the “you get what you pay for” is definitely operative. Get a stand, you’ll enjoy working on your bike that much more.
Having a bike pump at home or on your bike is a huge peace of mind, it’s also the unsung hero among your bike tools. Why is it the unsung hero? Using a bike pump will keep your tubes inflated to the recommended PSI and that means a longer life for your tires, it makes your ride easier and keeps you prepared for any emergencies. If you’re riding 1-2 miles or 40 to 60 miles a week, a pump can be the hidden gem because there is nothing worse than walking out to a bike with flat tires. If your riding to and from work, long distance touring or your average weekend warrior then mostly likely you will need pump.
On Bike PumpsOn Bike Pumps are the best tool for Commuters and Touring riders that ride great distances to work or to across the wide and vast distances of the Earth. On Bikes Pumps attach to your frame and can be easily taken off to help you pump up your flat tube or help another cyclist in need. On Bike Pumps won’t bog you down on your bike because most On Bike Pumps only weight 0.49 lbs and they usually have a max pressure of 160psi which keeps whatever tires your rolling inflated.
Floor PumpsFloor Pumps are the at home, at office pump or the hero who keeps it in their car come race day or when you go on a big ride. Floor pumps have been around since 1887 and are the most common style of pumps. Most Floor pumps have built in gauges that are digital or dial styles. Most floor pumps have a universal Presta and Schrader Valve heads to support a lot of different bikes valves and have a supported base that keeps you pump stable. Pumps have changed from 1887 and these days pumps range from cosmetically stunning (aka you’ll keep it in your living room) or the basic everyday style. Prices on floor pumps will also range from high to low. The one thing we recommend is somewhere in the middle, you want a pump that will last for years and be your new trusty best friend.