As a kid, I loved shopping the bike catalogs. There were always so many cool tools to look at buying. Of course, on my paper route income, I was in no position to buy any of them.
As a bike shop employee, I often had customers come in and ask what tools they should buy for their home shop. Often, they’ve just gotten some “fun money” and want to drop a few hundred dollars to outfit their shop properly.
Many of the manufacturers offer bike tool kits. You can purchase these pre-made collections of tools, and hopefully have one of everything you need.
A more economical solution is to build a kit around YOUR bicycle and YOUR style of riding. There is little reason to have one of everything if that means buying tools your bike will never use.
Here are the tools I find myself using on a daily basis.
Bike Shop Essentials
Do I even need to put this on the list?
If you don’t have a floor pump or air compressor, then you are definitely riding a bike with under-inflated tires.
Because bike tires hold less air volume, they tend to run out of air sooner.
My road bike gets aired up two to three times per week depending on how much I ride. You definitely need one of these in your shop, and a portable one (or CO2 canister) attached to your bike.
Remember flipping your bike upside down to work on it? That was cool when you were working with a single-speed. It gets a lot harder when you are dealing with a multi-speed road bike.
A proper bike stand protects your bike and makes it easier to work on it. They also make an excellent place to store your bike between rides.
The biggest advantage of a stand is that maintenance becomes much easier. The end result is that you find yourself riding a better-maintained bicycle.
These hex keys are the heart of every shop. You need a high-end pair that aren’t going to twist or misshape. The last thing you want to do is start stripping out your Allen heads. Bikes use Metric sizing, so just buy a nice set that is dedicated to your sport. This keeps you from chains all over the house every time you need a wrench.
Another one that seems like a no-brainer.
Our shop tried the ratcheting box end wrenches. And those are nice to have because there are cases when you can use them. However, most of our uses for these wrenches require tight spaces. It’s best to buy the non-ratcheting type so you can fit in all of the low-clearance areas.
Is my chain worn out? Everyone wonders that.
A worn chain wears down the rear cassette and the front chainring, causing costly repairs.
We’ll do a full write up on chain wear, soon, but in the meantime, this simple tool tells you if your chain needs to be replaced without having to run by the shop.
Chain worn out? You’ll need to replace it.
A Chain break tool is not fool-proof. You have to use it carefully to avoid creating any “binds” in the chain or from pushing the chain pin too far in.
So watch a few Youtube videos before use.
There are a lot of reasons why you might need to swap pedals. Maybe you have one pair of pedals that you move from bike to bike. Or maybe your buddy is coming over to ride one of your bikes, and you need to install his pedals. (Or maybe you are going to visit your buddy and need to take you pedals with you. )
Having a pedal wrench gives you options. Just remember that the left pedal is a lefty-tighten system.
Most of us already have wire cutters lying around the shop. The downside with wire cutterss is that they smash the wires they are cutting.
Bike cables are made up of a group of small individual wires. Using a standard cutter on these can mishappen them making them un-usable.
If you plan on replacing your own cables when they break, then you will want to keep one of these handy.
Cassette Remover/Flywheel holder
The rear cassette doesn’t often need to be removed, but it takes a special tool to remove it.
If you plan on using more than one set of wheels and need to switch the cassette back and forth, then you will definitely need to have a set of these.
However, if you are keeping your chain maintained, then you hopefully won’t need to replace the cassette too often.
All of the bearings on a bike are held in by these cones. And they take super-thin wrenches to get in there and dial those babies in.
Adjusting cones takes a delicate touch and some practice to get it right. You want your bearings to move smoothly, but you don’t want them so loose that you end up with extra play. It’s definitely something that you want to practice on with your trusty Youtube guide.
That said, it is a pretty easy repair, and for your mountain bikers and high mileage athletes, it is something that you will find yourself adjusting more often than you’d like.
For The Destructive Rider
Accidents happen. But some of us are harder on our bikes.
If you are one of those who loves pushing yourself and your machines to the limit, then you might consider adding these two, pricier, options to your shop.
However, most local mechanics can perform these repairs at super-affordable prices, so if you don’t mind the inconvenience of driving to the shop, that will be the cheaper option.
That is until you find yourself coming into the shop on a weekly basis…
Derailleur Hanger Alignment Tool
There are those moments when you simply can’t get the rear derailleur to come into adjustment.
It’s then that I start to suspect the rear derailleur hanger.
If this hanger gets tweaked, it can make it impossible to get the chain to ride properly on the cassette. These alignment tools will both measure the amount of misalignment there is, and also work as a lever to bend the derailleur hanger back into alignment.
Wheel Truing Stand And Spoke Wrench
You have to be a certain sort of sadistic to take on your own wheel truing. I personally enjoy truing wheels. However, a stand it a must
If you ever plan on building your own wheels, or you find that you frequently need to fix a slightly bent wheel, you’ll need one of these. On the upside, every wheel you true, is going to save you about $15. And, you are more likely to fix these out-of-shape wheels early instead of cruising around on warped wheels.