5 workshop items every home bike mechanic should have

Looking after your bike doesn’t have to be tricky and carrying out your own day to day maintenance can be satisfying.

Here’s a look at the top 5 tools and workshop provisions that will help you on your journey to self-sufficiency:

Track pump

Tyres don’t stay pumped up to the recommended PSI by themselves – ideally, you should be checking them and pumping them up every week if you’re riding daily. Cycling on tyres with a lower than recommended PSI puts you more at risk of punctures, and also increases rolling resistance, basically making your journey more difficult.

There is the option of trundling down to your LBS every week to ask to ‘borrow’ a pump, but this does become a tad excessive after a while, and a good track pump will only set you back £20 or so.

Spend a little extra, and you’ll get durability, and a pump you don’t have to sit on to get to 120PSI (if you have weak arms, you’ll understand). The Topeak Joe Blow Sport II costs just over £30 and has served me well for many years.


Tyre levers

If you’re going to be changing your tyres and replacing punctured tubes, tyre levers will help. Early in my cycling career, I used a pair of aluminium tea spoons – this is not advised – you will damage your rim tape, can damage your wheel rims, and you’ll probably bend the spoons, too.

Metal tyre levers look cool, and will last forever – but unless you’re an expert they aren’t recommended, as it is easy to pinch the tube. Park Tool make a very popular plastic set that is used by mechanics throughout the industry.

 park-tyre-lever-set-3-Allen key set

Changing saddle height, changing handlebar position, replacing brake pads, replacing cables, removing derailleur for travel, tightening headset – all of these jobs require an allen key on the majority of bikes (a few exceptions for quick release saddles and disc brakes..). Whatever sort of bike you’ve got, an allen key will be useful for something.

Multitools are allen keys for taking with you on the ride. Multitools give very little leverage, so it’s easy to round off bolts, therefore when you’re working on the bike at home you are much better off using a set of ball ended allen keys, like these from X-tools.

prod10193_IMGSETDegreaser & Brushes

Built up grease and grime will clog up your bike if you don’t remove it. The good news is that doing so is very easy.

For areas like the chain and cassette, good old GT85 will have you sorted. Spray this onto the grubbiest parts of your bike (EXCLUDING braking surfaces), leave it to work it’s magic for a couple of minutes, then scrub it off – remembering to rinse, dry and lubricate afterwards.


And what to scrub with? Something like the Park GSC1 Gear Cleaning brush will have you sorted. The stiff bristles are ideal for cleaning a chain, and the hard end with the strange triangle cut outs is for running between the cogs of the cassette. A brush like this will genuinely make your job easier.


For a guide to how to clean your bike – check out our London Cyclist post here.

Lube & Grease

Is your chain crying at you with a raspy voice as you pedal? Have you noticed a light dusting of orange rust settling on the surface? Your chain needs lubing. Bike lube keeps everything running smoothly. In wet weather, use wet lube, and in dry weather, use dry lube. You only need to apply a very thin layer, otherwise it will attract and collect dirt.


If you’ve ever come to remove pedals, and found you simply were not able – it was probably because they had no grease on them when last replaced. You should always grease pedals, headsets, bottom brackets and seatposts when replacing them. Again, only spread on a very thin layer.



See also: Bike lube – what’s all the fuss?

Are there any workshop items you couldn’t live without?  

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16 Responses to 5 workshop items every home bike mechanic should have

  1. Gareth 01/05/2014 at 2:17 pm #

    There seem to be pumps turning up all over London at the moment (mile end climbing wall off regents canal) so you don’t need one until they get vandalised

  2. John Somers 01/05/2014 at 9:56 pm #

    The one thing that you have forgotten though and they are really cheap in comparison to the possible repair bill later on…is a chain wear indicator/checker – http://weldtite.co.uk/reviews/view/cyclo-chain-wear-indicator4

    This is my review for the Cyclo chain wear indicator (yup I am now one of their review team!) but in reality this little tool can save you potentially a couple hundred pounds in repair bills, just by changing the chain before it is too worn (and then wears the rest of your drive train out, rear cassette, chain rings and possibly even jockey wheels).

    I change the chains on the multi-geared bikes at about the 0.75% wear point and manage to get 2 or even 3 chains through a rear cassette, saving me oodles of pounds, instead of having to change the rear cassette every time a chain is replaced at >0.8% wear….also keeps you gear changes that much smoother too!

    It really is one of the few “bike” specific tools I always recommend that all cyclists should invest in and have in their tool kit!

  3. carpo 02/05/2014 at 10:14 am #

    I second the views of John Somers.

    the most important tool i have is the chain wear indicator. this one is my favourite http://www.parktool.com/product/chain-checker-cc-2

    It tells you when you need the assistance of the bike shop – and when you don’t.

    And you will notice the first thing any repair shop does when you take a bike in for service is check the chain wear

    • Huey 03/05/2014 at 1:24 pm #

      There’s only one true chain checker and that’s Shimano’s. It the only one that takes account of roller and pin wear, whereas the others all only measure some of the wear. There’s an article somewhere on the internet that’s explains all.

  4. crudgie 02/05/2014 at 10:22 am #

    this is basic stuff
    you insult theintelligence and abillity of dedicated cyclists

    • carpo 02/05/2014 at 10:27 am #

      I don’t think it’s aimed at dedicated cyclist.
      And I am always amazed by how little most cyclists know about maintenance.
      most can’t change a puncture

      • Jhno 02/05/2014 at 2:31 pm #

        I don’t know how to change a puncture: I usually fix them 🙂

        • carpo 02/05/2014 at 2:38 pm #


  5. Nicky Dey 02/05/2014 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Michelle,

    A good little list. May I throw in a pedal spanner (if needed) and chain wear indicator? The latter can save a fortune over time. I think I’m right in saying that if your chain ‘stretch’ is upto 0.77% then you only need to replace the chain, however if it reaches 1% then the cassette and chain need to be replaced.

    What do people think would make for the most realistic and affordable home mechanic tool set up? All the above + bike stand for starters?



  6. Peter May 02/05/2014 at 10:51 am #

    Basic or not, there is always something someone can learn, after all the basis of a good speech/ lesson is to tell ’em what you are going to say, tell ’em, then tell ’em what you have told ’em. The message then is more likely to be remembered.

  7. Andrew Wilcox 02/05/2014 at 11:33 am #

    I’d add a spoke tensioner. Keeping your wheels true is crucial for efficiency, braking and safety. It doesn’t take too much gumption or insulted intelligence to detect a loose spoke or a wobbly wheel or to realise which side to tension to bring it back in to shape and give it the same “ding” as the other spokes. Get rid of the gross distortions by eying the wheel rim up against the brake blocks or the frame for discers.

    • Cafewanda 02/05/2014 at 1:08 pm #

      Whilst I have a chain checker (rarely used, admittedly), I’ve never thought of of getting a spoke tensioner. I’ll have to look into that.

      • carpo 02/05/2014 at 2:15 pm #

        yes – but be very careful. It’s very easy to get carried away with them – and you can completely trash the wheel if you overdo it

  8. John Somers 02/05/2014 at 11:59 am #

    Mmmm….while I would agree with you Andrew Wilcox, having the correct size spoke wrench to pinch up loose spokes is always a good thing to have and be able to do….with one caveat though if you have greater than about 5-8mm of lateral distortion in the wheel, without putting the wheel in a wheel jig or wheel trueing stand of one kind or another you are likely to cause a radial distortion in the wheel…which is difficult even for experts to get rid of 100%.

    Yes do check your wheels for distortions and being out of true on a regular basis…but leave wheel truing to those with the correct trueing stands…because it is all too easy to “egg” the wheels with aluminium rims nowadays.

    Here is a great site for wheel building that I recommend that you have a look at – http://www.yogarup.com/wheels/index.php and this is a great wheel building publication to purchase, with even designs for a home made cost effective trueing stand in it – http://www.wheelpro.co.uk/wheelbuilding/book.php

  9. Huey 03/05/2014 at 1:29 pm #

    Age with most of that bar GT85 (use citrus degreaser which you can just wash off with water, GT85 causes all sorts of issues and tempts people to lubricate with it) and that you recommend ball ended Allen keys (agreed) but do not explain why the ball end is useful (get at bolts from all angles) but don’t caveat their use (never do the final tighten up of a bolt with the ball end).
    Hope this post helps prevent someone from having a bad day.

    • Huey 03/05/2014 at 1:30 pm #

      Age = Agree
      Damn spillchocker!

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