If you want to be able to look after your bike yourself, you’ll need a basic set of tools to start off with.
Also called hex keys, Allen keys are an essential for bike maintenance. Everything from adjusting your brakes, to tightening your seat post, will require an Allen key. Hexagonal ones are great for easy grip, but the folding ones give you more sizes. The one I most commonly turn to is the Hexagonal one (that I got free years ago in a magazine!).
When you get a puncture, you’ll want to have a pair of tyre levers nearby. They make it far easier to remove a wheel. They generally come in a packet of three, but you’ll only ever need two.
Chain wear tool
I feel like a child being told off at school each time I head to a bike shop; the owner pops a chain wear tool in and sees that my chain needs replacing. I can forgo the embarrassment by using a chain wear tool once per month, to check the condition of my chain.
For those who’ve not used one before, fear not, as it is very simple to use. You simply pop the hook side in to the chain and then drop the 0.75 side. If it falls in to the chain link, then the chain will need replacing. The tool has two measurements. A 0.75 and 1.0. If the 1.0 side drops in, then that means you may also need to replace your cassette. In the chain shown above the 0.75 isn’t quite dropping in yet, so there is still some more mileage in my chain.
Bike chains often need replacing. If you don’t replace them, then you’ll end up wearing out other more expensive components such as the cassette. To replace a chain, you’ll need a chain tool. This is one of those tools that you shouldn’t avoid buying for too long. Also, ideally, don’t buy the cheapest one money can buy as you’ll often end up damaging sensitive chain links.
If your wheels and other components are not quick release, then you’ll probably need a spanner to undo the nuts and bolts. The Weldtite 10 in 1 Dumbbell spanner is a particularly good one and it’s very cheap.
You can also buy yourself a good multi-tool. The Topeak Hexus II is a great multi-tool with 16 tools. It includes Allen wrenches, spoke wrenches, a chain tool, screw drivers and torx. Best of all it also includes two tyre levers. In practise all of these tools are better in their own separate package but you can’t argue with the excellent price point and convenience.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.