Five of the most common bike maintenance tools you’ll need

If you want to be able to look after your bike yourself, you’ll need a basic set of tools to start off with.

Allen keys

Allen key bike maintenance tool

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!).

Tyre levers

Tyre lever bike maintenance tool

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

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.

Chain tool

chain tool

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.

Dumbbell Spanner

spanner

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.

Multi-tools

topeak-hexus-ii-multi-tool

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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12 Responses to Five of the most common bike maintenance tools you’ll need

  1. Matt 15/08/2012 at 5:25 pm #

    If you’re commuting in London over all the potholes I’d also get a spoke wrench to re-true every now and again. Better learning it early than paying up to £18 a wheel.

    • Andreas 16/08/2012 at 9:12 am #

      True – plus it’s quite fun truing a wheel as I recently found out at a bike maintenance course!

      • Andrew 17/08/2012 at 10:46 am #

        How do you work out what size spoke key you need? I understand there are at least three sizes.

        • SteveP 16/10/2012 at 11:31 pm #

          You can get keys with a variety of sizes.

    • barton 16/08/2012 at 3:17 pm #

      I use my spoke wrench frequently – not that I get my wheels completely true, but rough justice every once and a while keeps me from having to have professional truing more than a few times a year.

      Karl, my bike mechanic, has made me swear to never try to dyi my brakes again (I put the rear pads in backwards to start with – who knew! there aren’t any directions afterall). In exchange, he does small adjustments for free. A good, first-name basis, relationship with a good, trustworthy, mechanic is worth its weight in gold!

      • Agustin 16/08/2012 at 4:53 pm #

        Hmmm…. the brake pads I’ve used have arrows on them…. what type of brakes are you using?

        • Andreas 17/08/2012 at 10:37 am #

          Unfortunately, not all pads have arrows in them to indicate direction. (Indeed some can be installed both ways)

  2. sm 17/08/2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Is it easier to master wheel realigning? Good tips, although the 1.0 on the chain wear tool does not mean the cassette needs changing. 0.75 means change chain soon and 1.0 means change chain now. Three tyre leavers are also recommended if you have particularly tough tyre beading.

    • Andrew 17/08/2012 at 9:23 pm #

      There’s a good video on YouTube by Evans Cycles about true-ing wheels.

      I once suffered a buckled wheel while out on my road bike 30 miles from home, out in the sticks. It was bad enough to make the bike un-rideable. Had I not had a spoke key and known how to sort it out, it would have been a very long walk home carrying the bike. So it pays to know how to do these things up-front.

      Later when I had the bike on the stand back at home I discovered the buckled wheel was caused by a spoke nipple which had never been tightened up enough to grip the spoke, leaving that part of the wheel vulnerable to sideways load. All this from the same amateurs (Evans Cycles) who sold me a £630 road bike with 30 PSI in the tyres (labelled with min 100PSI).

      • SteveP 16/10/2012 at 11:31 pm #

        My wife picked up a new road bike from Evans Notting Hill and rode it home. When I gave it the once over I noticed one pedal was almost completely unscrewed and the other loose (among other failings). I once walked out of that Evans location after spending 15minutes trying to buy a new tube. Three staff trying to avoid doing any work and a tech failure (can’t sell anything that doesn’t scan). Fail!

  3. Phil 21/08/2012 at 12:58 pm #

    With the exception of the chain wear tool, I carry and use all those. The Hexus in particular has proven its’ worth and utility many times.

  4. SteveP 16/10/2012 at 11:33 pm #

    I’ve had situations where I used three tyre levers. And I’ve also broken the plastic ones. I like the 3-pack Specialized shops sell or the allow Lezyne levers. Some tyres and some wheels are just really a tight fit. Raleigh sells some metal levers with a plastic costing, but they are hard to find.

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