Mechanical Monday: What Amateur Mechanics Should Have in Their Toolboxes

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Don't skimp on Allen and Torx wrench sets. © Chandler Snyder

Don’t skimp on Allen and Torx wrench sets. © Capture Colorado

by Chandler Snyder

Being a mechanic, I’ve been asked many times over the years, “What tools should I get?”  Usually this is asked by someone new to cycling once they’ve realized it’s not just as simple as putting on shoes and rolling out the door down the road. But regardless of cycling or mechanic expertise, having a full toolbox is key to cycling success and sanity.There are some basics that I believe everyone should have in their personal tool box at home.  This isn’t counting the standard multi-tool that you put in your seat-bag, or the tire levers and patch kit sold to you when you bought your bike. We’re talking about the tools people ask about when the bike is at home and in need of a bolt-tightening, wash down, minor adjustment or simply a sprucing up.

One thing I’ve learned as a wrench is that you don’t have to buy the tool made by a bicycle tool maker.  Sometimes I can find the same tool, made by a national manufacturer (Snap On, Craftsman, etc.) that is exactly what I’m looking for and isn’t the price of what you’ll pay at the shop. Of course, supporting your local bike shop and bike companies is great too!

But I digress …

The tools listed below are those I believe are a good start for anyone at home on a budget and new to cycling.  One thing to remember to is to keep a running “grocery list” of the tools you want, and keep it around.  Mark off items as you procure them.

Pedal wrench: oft-overlooked, but timesaving! © Capture Colorado

Pedal wrench: oft-overlooked, but timesaving! © Capture Colorado

  • Floor Pump: One of the most overlooked of tools out there. There’s no substitute for a good pump. You’ll work less and your tires will fill in half the time compared to using a hand/frame pump.
  • Metric Allen Wrenches: Get a full size range, from 1mm-10mm. For basic use, the standard “L-bend” wrenches are great.  You can buy as a set, which will save you money compared to buying individually.
  • Torx Wrenches:  The new “standard” of the bolt. These are what a lot of manufacturers are using instead of Allen/Hex head bolts. You may know them as the star-shaped heads: it’s harder to round out the bolt head on a Torx bolt than a standard Allen head. A good folding set of Torx wrenches goes everywhere with me.
  • Pedal Wrench: That’s right. Next to changing your own tube, I think everyone should know how to take their pedals on and off the bike. After all, we usually buy a new bike and forget the new pedals to go with. I’d go with the nicer pedal wrench that comes with a solid handle and padded grip. They won’t round out your pedal spindles like the super inexpensive ones will.
  • Work Stand:  Yes, this is probably not as inexpensive as the rest of the list, but it’s definitely a necessity. I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve had clients say, “If I just had a way to work on my bike so it didn’t move all over the place.” A work stand makes all the difference in the world.  Feedback Sports makes a wide range of stands at amazing price points. Find an LBS who deals in them and check them out.
  • Brushes: Yep, brushes. They make cleaning so much easier than trying to use rags or a giant sponge. Try finding a set at your LBS, or check out your local auto parts stores. They usually sell brush sets for car washing. You want to get a mix of soft hair for washing frames and general parts, and harder bristled brushes for scrubbing those super dirty parts. As long as it’s not blowing snow sideways, you’ll save rag usage/money using your new work stand to wash your bikes with your brushes and save your rags for polishing and fine cleaning.
A nice, organized workstand. © Capture Colorado

A nice, organized workstand. © Capture Colorado

Once you get past those basics, you’re usually looking for frame specific tools to do bigger, more involved jobs.  I’d recommend getting trained on how to use the more specific tools, as the likelihood of doing serious damage to a component, or bike, is greater.

The list of tools above will help you keep little things tight and checked up, as well as make your life a little easier than turning your bike upside down on the sidewalk outside while trying to adjust your gears or wash down your drivetrain.

Remember, if you’ve trained like a mad person all year, hired a coach, watched what you ate, how you slept … shouldn’t your bike get the same amount of love and attention?! Treat it right and your next race will be your best!

Are you and your tubulars heading to Worlds or Nationals? Pro Bike Express, a Colorado-based bike transport company, and Snyder Cycling Services, a Colorado-based service company, have teamed up to offer the Pro treatment at Cyclocross Nationals and Worlds. Find out more here.

 

 

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1 comments
topfunky
topfunky

Good list!

 

I bought a pedal wrench years ago and have used it a total of one time. Most pedals can now be removed with an 8mm Allen wrench from the back of the crank.

 

I would add the Ritchey Torque Key. It fits most bar/stem bolts and keeps them at the right torque (approx $15).

 

Next is a chainwhip and cassette tool for removing and cleaning a cassette. Important after muddy races!

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