There are very few bike-fixing tasks that you can't do at home,
provided you've got the right knowledge - and the right tool for the
job. We've rounded up our pick of some of the most important things that
should be living in your toolbox, but might not be.
For fans of lists, here's the executive summary of our recommendations:
- 1. Quality, ball-ended Allen keys: Bondhus,
- 2. Mini torque wrench: Topeak Nano
TorqBar DX, £44.99
- 3. Chain link pliers: Super B, £7.64
- 4. Cable cutters: Pedro's, £27.39
- 5. Derailleur hanger alignment tool: Park
Tool DAG2.2, £61
- 6. Headset press: Lifeline X-Tools, £39.99
- 7. Strap wrench: Machine Mart Baby Boa
- 8. Tubeless tyre inflator: Airshot, £44.99
- 9. Quality brake bleed kit: Epic Bleed Kit,
- 10. Tyre pressure gauge: Topeak Smarthead
Digital Gauge D2, £21.99
- 11. Quality adjustable spanner or (bonus
points) Knipex pliers, £48.4
We'll kick our list off with arguably the most obvious, but probably the
most important. Getting a decent set of Allen keys will make your life so
much easier, especially if you get a set with that are ball ended to ease
access to tricky bolts.
Paying a bit more money means you get more precisely machined keys made
from higher quality steel, so you're less likely to round out bolts and
they won't wear out as quickly as cheapy items. Okay, so this
boxed set from Silca
is a little expensive at £125, but you can get some decent items like this
set from Bondhus for a fraction of that.
It's pretty easy to overtighten components, especially carbon bars and
posts, so even if you're not from the school of
'tighten-til-it-makes-a-noise' a torque wrench of some description is a
fine idea. You can buy a proper, adjustable torque wrench that works with
square drive bits like
this reasonably priced item from X-Tools, but we really like these
Nano Torqbits as they're easily portable and come preset with the
most common 4, 5 and 6Nm settings.
As they use a clutch style mechanism, they just slip when the correct
torque is reached, meaning it's virtually impossible to overtighten bolts.
You can also stick one in an electric driver/drill and whizz disc rotor
bolts up really quickly without worrying about overdoing it, but you
didn't hear that from us, right?
A chain splitting tool is an essential bit of kit, but seeing as most
chains now use some kind of quick-split-link, a really useful tool is a
set of link pliers. These let you undo quick links quickly, with an
absolute minimum of split knuckles and blood - which is what results if
you try and do it any other way. Some, such as this
pair from Super B, also allow you to seat a quick link correctly as
well as undoing it, which makes fitting a new chain simple.
Being able to snip through gear cable inners and outers with ease is a
pleasure that never dies once you've tried to battle your way through one
with a conventional set of wire cutters. A decent set of snips will power
through any outer and leave a lovely square edge, which makes for
long-lasting, smoothly functioning shifting — and braking, of you have a
retro bike with cable brakes.
A decent set such
as these from Pedros, aren't that cheap but they will last a
Modern gearing systems are hugely sensitive to alignment and a bent mech
hanger is often the root cause of poor shifting. Although a seriously bent
hanger is destined straight for the bin, it's possible to tweak a slightly
bent one back into line with an alignment tool.
Basically, the tool is just a big lever with a thread that screws into
the hole where your derailleur fits into the hanger. Using the sliding
guide on the arm, you then tweak it using your wheel as reference point
until it's square.
grade ones like this one from Park are fairly pricey, you can get
cheaper versions such as this £39.99
Fitting a press-fit headset or bottom bracket is often a job that has
even pretty experienced home mechanics turned to their local shop, but
it's possible to get an inexpensive press that still does the job, such as
model. We would suggest that you study the instructions carefully
and make sure you know what you're doing and go steady when using it,
otherwise you can do some serious, incurable damage to a frame by pushing
in headset cups at an angle.
As well as being really useful for undoing lids, a strap wrench makes
getting the air can off a shock much easier, without risking doing any
damage to the can itself. If you intend to do basic shock servicing at
home or try to tweak your suspension with volume spacers, this is a tool
that'll save you a lot of time and effort. They're really cheap as well, with
this one from Machine Mart costing under seven quid.
Unless you're lucky enough to have a proper compressor or a perfect
tubeless setup, some kind of inflator to help seat tubeless tyres is
essential if you don't want to end up sweaty, pissed off and covered in
latex sealant. They work as a reservoir that you charge with air - usually
to around 180psi - before dumping it all in one go to help pop the tyre
onto the bead.
as this one from Airshot, are charged using a separate track pump,
while others, such
as the Topeak Joe Blow Booster, are integrated into a track pump and
you simply flick a switch to move from using it as a normal pump to using
the inflator. The former is a fair bit cheaper, so make sense if you
already have a decent track pump, while the latter is a bit neater and
don't require you to switch stuff around as much.
If you're really brave, it's possible to create a homemade version using
a pop bottle reinforced with tape, but at the pressures involved, it's
worth laying out a bit of cash if you value your safety.
Poorly bled, squishy brakes have the ability to ruin a ride and can be
downright dangerous should they fail. Making sure your brakes are properly
bled is the best way to avoid this fate and using a decent quality kit
makes a fiddly job an awful lot easier.
You'll need to get a kit to work with your specific brake setup, as they
all differ slightly. SRAM's
Pro Bleed Kit is fairly expensive, but has high-quality syringes and
connectors and is the one to go for if you run Avid or SRAM stoppers.
If you're running Shimano brakes, which use mineral rather than DOT oil,
you'll need a kit specific to those brakes, such
as Epic Bleed Solutions kit.
To be honest, if you want to get the most from your tyres, just giving
them a squidge with your hand probably isn't the best way to check your
pressures. Even track pump gauges are frequently miles out of whack and
have vaguely indicated gauges, nevermind the fact 1-2psi either way can
make a big difference, especially with Plus tyres.
That means a quality pressure gauge is a must.We like the Topeak
Smarthead Digital Gauge D2 as it's easy to use and small enough to
pop in your pack when out riding. Analogue fans might be interested in the
Accubar gauge, which can be used on its own or attached to a track
Okay, this one will have the purists raging and they might have a bit of
a point. Cheap, low-quality adjustable spanners are the calling card of a
bodge artist, but spending some money on a decent set with precisely
machined jaws is a different matter. Used carefully, they're excellent for
removing the low profile top caps on your forks, without having to have
specially machined down sockets for each size.
However, the pros use the Rolls Royce of adjustable spanners, the Knipex
mini plier wrench. This beauty is a cross between a pump wrench and
a spanner, allowing a firm, accurate grip on a wide range of nut sizes.
Look in a World Cup mechanic's toolbox and odds on, you'll see a set of
these in there. The downside? They're really rather expensive...
You might also like: