Tool Story Part One

Cycling Illustrated

As a kid getting tools of your own is a rite-of-passage. My father gave me my own small collection of tools as part of the father-to-son tradition. Amongst some of those tools I inherited were; metal tyre levers and one of those multi-head spanners with different sizes on each side.

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From that moment I couldn’t stop fiddling and fettling with my bike and being fascinated with these tools. Over the years I’ve amassed the tools I need, lusted over [illustrated here, Campagnolo ones] those I want, continued to fiddle and fettle with my bikes. There is no feeling better than a clean well maintained bike – and for me fettling with the bike until it’s perfect is so much fun – and gives me confidence when riding, knowing that my bike is in good order. This stops a lot of worrying!

The thing about tools and knowing how to use them, is that it brings a self-sufficiency which appeals to the cavemen in all of us. It’s one of the parts that fascinate me with cycling, that sense of freedom it brings, that moment you realise your miles from home and if you break down you are going to have to fix your own way out of it. When the bike does has a mechanical issue – and it does – it’s one of those life defining moments that we seem to search for. The first time it happened to me I had a fairly long walk home at the age of 11. My crank arm fell off. I didn’t know how to fix it and it frustrated me immensely that not knowing. I guess that was the point where the bike either ended up leaning against the wall never to be used again, or maybe a new hobby found, or… I got on and fixed it. I fixed it (with some help). To me it was; I maintained my bike and therefore my freedom. I chose freedom. It was one of the good decisions I made in my life.

The understanding of what could be described as esoteric tools, cycling tools, came about when I bought a 20 piece bike tool set, on the cheap, from the back of Cycling Weekly magazine (aka The Comic). Some of the tools included were for parts from a by-gone era, when bottom brackets were taken apart and serviced rather than replaced. It took me years to figure out what and how to use those tools! Some tools I’ve waited far too long to get, one such tool is a chain checker now I can’t fettle without it. I probably check my chain-wear far too often now but, where is the harm in that?

Once you start fixing your bike there is no going back and once you’ve spent time on the roadside repairing a neglected bike in the cold – You start paying attention. This is where the practical meets the obsessive. Where only Park Tools will do. Where ball ended allen keys are better than, well normal allen keys. For me there are two different tool kits; the one you carry on the bike and the other that lives at home/workshop/garage/shed. Both have to be thought out but, the one you carry on the bike is the most important in terms of being thought out. I think it’s the tool kit we often neglect too. Whether you are a roadie or an off-roader, you need to carry the right things and no more – to ensure no extra weight is being carried. A perfect lesson in minimalism perhaps.

One of the reasons this website is called Headset Press is because of our love for the bike and the tools needed to maintain a bike and every little thing that makes cyclists what they are. We hope to cover interesting events, tell stories, report on bike builders, bike users, cultures and generally give a good view of cycling from many angles.

Headset Press is about cycling not just about fixing bikes. We want to cover all types of cycling from all types of people, no matter what level that cycling might be. To all of us [at Headset Press] cycling is relevant, there is no snobbery, just a yearning for learning and a passion to share our knowledge. Talking of which, Part 2 is here.

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