As the days get shorter, I find myself spending less time in the saddle and more time in the garage. After all, as the season winds down, there are many repairs to catch up on!
While I’ve amassed a large collection of tools over the years of wrenching on my own bikes, there are only a few tools I use on a regular basis. Here’s a quick list of what I always have within arm’s reach. Keep in mind these are garage tools, not tools I would carry with me on a ride.
As much time as I spend pumping up tires, I’m surprised my upper body isn’t in better shape. If you’re riding regularly, or have multiple bikes, you may find yourself pumping up tires on a weekly basis. Most pumps out there are rebuildable, meaning you can replace parts as they wear out over the years. And if you’re a mountain biker, fat biker, or bikepacker, there are a number of high-volume floor pumps on the market that will fill up your giant knobbies with considerably less effort.
Nearly every bolt on your bike is going to take either a 4mm, 5mm, or 6mm hex key — and reaching for a different wrench every time you move to a different bolt is tedious. These handy tools let you work faster and provide excellent leverage and comfort. You can grab these for Torx wrenches as well.
Okay, these are two different tools. No tool kit should be without a chain breaker and master link pliers (especially now that Shimano has joined the other chain makers in using master links instead of pins). Don’t rely on the chain breaker that came with your little multitool. It’s worth shelling out $25 or so for the real deal.
If you’re swapping out a chain, you may also want to consider changing your cassette. You’ll want a chain whip for this job, and bonus points if the handle pulls double duty as a pedal wrench.
That chain whip of yours isn’t all that useful if it isn’t complemented by a cassette lockring tool. You can pick these up for as little as $5, and they’ll last forever.
To help prevent broken knuckles, don’t use a little adjustable wrench for pedal removal. Find a pedal wrench that offers good grip and lots of leverage. It’s also helpful to remember that your left pedal is reverse threaded.
It cuts cables, housing, and zip ties, and crimps cable tips. This is an amazing tool that you’re sure to enjoy.
Montana roads are not known for being smooth, and I’m not known for picking good lines. Hopefully you don’t have to use a spoke wrench too often, but if you do, I’m a fan of ones that will work on an assortment of nipple sizes.
These are a bit spendy but totally worth it if you’re going to wrench on your bike at home. Your back will appreciate it, and you’ll have a much easier time making your way around the bike.
Sometimes there are jobs that are better left to the professionals, which is why it’s always smart to have a good relationship with your local bike mechanics. Don’t be afraid to tip them with a six-pack of their favorite beverage!