These are the 12 Tools you need to own and why. Over the years I’ve had to maintain my own bikes and I’ve enjoyed doing so but, it dawned on me, what tools does a cyclist need? Which ones could you not live without? These are the big 12 I couldn’t do without. The 12 that will get any home mechanic out of trouble. Sure there are plenty of other tools that a home mechanic will have or get. This is just the bare basic set. The set I would need no matter what.
A good quality track pump [pictured] is vital. A pocket pump is great on the road but, at home you need one of these. They are now relatively cheap so everyone should be able to afford one. Having a pressure gauge is a must and it allows you to know and change your tyre pressures depending on the weather or terrain. A good pump will save you time and effort and I find that most punctures occur when you get back from a ride and the bike is left overnight and your in a hurry in the next day!
2. Tyre levers
These should be carried all the time. I keep various types in the tool box. Some wheels can be stubborn with tyres so I use a mixture of plastic and metal to deal with the job. My favourite are the metal ones as they don’t snap. There are plenty to choose from and you can also get long heavy-duty ones for fat tyres.
3. Hex (Allen) Keys
The daddy of all tools! An absolute must have. Think about how many hex bolts are on your bike. Plenty. So without these your screwed (pun intended). Most bikes are fitted with metric hex bolts so get a good metric set. These can be bought very cheap. My advice is not to buy these cheap as if you ruin a hex bolt using cheap hex keys, then it might, be as bad as having to get a new frame! No one wants that. My choice is ball ended hex keys that come as a neat set.
At a bare minimum you can get away with one flat head screwdriver and these are great tools to have in general. You don’t need to buy a cycling specific one. Any hardware store variety will do. I find it best to have two; a flat head and a phillips.
5. Pedal Spanner
It might not seem like a necessary tool – it is. As part of a regular maintenance programme taking your pedals off and re-greasing is important. It doesn’t take long for pedals to seize into the crank arm with wet weather riding and if they don’t come off, you can’t really work on the bottom bracket or chainset. I use a fairly plain cheap version, so no need to buy anything too fancy, it just needs leverage and a comfy handle (or just wrap a towel over the handle).
6. Chain Tool
Well worth spending money on a chain tool and get a heavy duty one. It’s an easy thing to do – change a chain – and will save you money doing it yourself. I don’t know why but, I find this tool a very nice object. When buying it’s worth checking what chains it can ‘break’ as some won’t work on modern 10 speed chains or at the other end 1/8th chains (BMX or Track chains).
7. Adjustable Spanner
The only reason for this tool is to operate certain bottom bracket tools and a cassette cracker. You can pick these up at any hardware store and need not cost too much. This is a dangerous tool to take to a bike! Only use it for big heavy grunt work and nothing else.
8. Cassette Cracker
This little beauty is well worth the money (and they don’t cost much). Great for just making sure your cassette is on tight but, great when used to it’a full extent for changing gear set-ups or cleaning up the cassette and checking wear properly. Shimano and SRAM use the same tooth pattern and Campagnolo uses another so depending on your set-up you will need on or the other.
9. Chain Whip
You will need this is you want to get the cassette off, also useful on some fixed gear set ups. A fantastic looking object with a lethal sounding name! Worth getting a decent one but, not that important as it only does one job.
10. Cone Spanners
Rarely used but when you need them they are priceless. These really can be the cheapest you can find as they are never used with any ‘strength’ you will need a minimum of two.
11. Bottom Bracket Tool
The tool pictured is for a fairly modern style BB [bottom bracket] with ‘outboard bearings’ there are so many different styles of bottom brackets from new to old. So check your BB type before buying this tool. However, once you have the right one you can keep that area greased and clean – something that should be done every few months or sooner if used in wet conditions.
12. Spoke Key
Probably the deadliest tool on the list if used badly (yes I have, more than once). Also one of the handiest tools you can have. A loose spoke or two can easily be tightened enough to take it to a bike shop for repair. If you spend the time to learn how to true wheels your well on you way to becoming a good home mechanic.