Bike Maintenance Tools

With our weekly maintenance posts we have generally been using minimal tools. However, in the coming weeks we will be getting into some things in a bit more depth. To do these you may well need a few more tools. As it is the gift giving season, we thought you might have room on your list (or in your stocking) for some of these.

Bike maintenance tools can be expensive. However, even with a basic £20-£30 toolkit, you can complete the vast majority of the most common bike repairs. From there, as you learn more about bike maintenance, you can add additional tools.

This guide will take you through which tools are useful to have and what sort of repairs you can complete with them. If you are certain you want to completely maintain your bike yourself, then you may want to simply dive in at the deep end, and buy yourself an entire toolkit. This can work out less expensive than buying all the tools individually.

The basics

To start with, you’ll need an emergency maintenance toolkit. This is a kit you will carry with you at all times, so you can complete on the road repairs. The most common of which is a puncture repair. The basic toolkit I carry includes a pump, a set of Allen keys, a spanner, a spare inner tube, a glueless patch kit and a set of tyre levers. You may also wish to add a multitool.

Basic kit

You can get a compact set of Allen keys for around £4. However, you may wish to purchase an all in one tool as these are often easier to grip than small Ikea style ones. This helps for when you need to really firmly tighten an Allen bolt.

Allen keys

You’ll also need a flat head and philips screwdriver. Most households already have one lying around in a general toolkit, if not then you can purchase each for around £1.50. Screwdrivers are mainly useful for making small adjustments to the derailleur, so you can get smooth shifting gears.

Screwdriver

Beyond basics

A chain tool is useful for splitting a chain. This costs around £14. You’ll need it when you come to performance maintenance on your chain.

A spoke wrench (£7.99) is needed for straightening your wheels (called truing). There are different sizes, depending on the size of the spokes on your wheels. A local bike shop should be able to tell you what size you need.

Spoke key

A decent pair of cable cutters is a great addition to your toolkit. It will mean you can replace your cables and the cable housing. This is great for maintaining your brake and gear performance. It’s important you don’t buy a cheap pair of cable cutters, as it will cause your cables to fray.

Wire cutters

A chain wear tool (£4.99) gives you a quick way to check whether your chain needs replacing. It’s better to replace your chain in time, as leaving it can cause damage to your cassette. The cassette is more expensive to replace. This is a great little tool to have to hand.

Chain wear tool

A chain whip (£6.95) and a lockring tool (£5) are needed to replace most cassettes. You’ll generally need to replace your cassette once a year if you ride heavy milage, less for a shorter commute with no extra miles at weekends.

Chain whip

You’ll also need to invest in a set of wrenches eventually. This is useful for everything from headset repairs, to removing pedals. Ideally, you’ll want to avoid using adjustable spanners, as these don’t tend to fit as tightly and are more likely to slip, thus causing damage to you or your bike.

Consumables

You’ll need a lubricant such as Finish Line and some grease. Lubricants reduce friction between movings parts of your bike. This makes them last longer. It also helps keep components moving. During the winter you will generally need a wet lubricant. This is better at resisting the rain. Dry lubes are good for drier climates and in dusty conditions. They require more frequent application and will quickly wash away in the rain.

Chain lube

Depending on the conditions you ride in, a bike cleaning solution might be useful. Another thing that would be nice to have is frame polish. It really keeps the frame looking good and protects from minor scratches.

Cleaning wipes are a bike mechanic’s best friend. Your hands will get dirty when repairing your bike and the cleaning wipes are a quick way of getting them clean. These wipes can also be excellent for wiping down your bike and removing dirt. Check your local supermarket and you should be able to find a cheap packet.

Cleaning wipes

These are the basic tools you’ll need. With these you’ll be able to complete most repairs. As you start to complete more advanced repairs, such as bleeding disk brakes, you’ll need to purchase some additional items. It’s also good to also keep a few spare parts to hand. This includes a spare pair of brake pads, a spare inner tube and a spare set of brake cables and gear cables. Finally, zip ties (aka cable or electrical ties) are always useful to have around.

If you want to read ahead and find out what maintenance items are on the horizon for the New Year, then get our Bike Doctor App!

What tools do you find to be indispensable when doing work on your bike, and which ones are life’s little luxuries that just make everything easier?

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7 Responses to Bike Maintenance Tools

  1. MJ Ray 13/12/2015 at 7:49 pm #

    Always use fixed wrenches if you have the right size, but no matter how many you have, you’ll often want one you haven’t got, so one early purchase should be two adjustable wrenches: a small six inch forged wrench for on the road (far better than those awful cheap cast dumbbells) and a large wrench for headsets and old style lock rings in the shed. Buy the best you can, so they’re less likely to slip.

  2. MJ Ray 13/12/2015 at 7:51 pm #

    A Quarter inch and half inch ratchet socket set is also surprisingly useful in the bike shed, plus youcan get screwdriver head attachments for them.

    And Finish Line? Really? Finished chain, more like!

  3. Patrick 14/12/2015 at 3:39 pm #

    A dumbbell type spanner multi-tool will give you better grip and leverage to tighten fixings than the tool shown in the first picture.

    • MJ Ray 14/12/2015 at 11:50 pm #

      I’m no fan of either, but most stamped spanners like in the picture are far better than 99% of dumbbells.

  4. Phil 16/12/2015 at 2:07 pm #

    I’ve yet to find a better chain oil than Finish Line, having tried Green Lube, something by Pedros and a couple of others; back in the 70s all we had was 3-in-1. Dumbbell spanners are always made of poor quality metal- they’d be great if they were high-grade stainless.

    • MJ Ray 16/12/2015 at 6:53 pm #

      Finish Line might work better in your local conditions than mine. TF2 liquid seems best among the sand and silt of East Anglia. In the 80s, I used 3-in-1 lawnmower chain oil (not the household version), but back then chains were real chains and not the modern extra-bendy extra-thin bushingless stuff most people use now.

  5. Dave 28/12/2015 at 11:07 pm #

    For my Brompton I have the tool kit from the company. For my recumbent I carry a Topeak multi purpose tool. I’m looking for a decent set of workshop tools so any advice would be welcome

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