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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?