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You get attached to bicycle tools after awhile. Take my Schwinn Approved combination wrenches (you can see them on the bottom of my toolbard). I purchased this set of metric wrenches in 1973 at my second bike shop job, using the bicycle mechanic’s installment plan (the boss takes money out of your weekly paychecks). It took me months to pay for them.

Years later, while working in another shop, I lost the 10-millimeter wrench and was crushed that the set was now incomplete. That 10mm had turned thousands of brake bolts. It was polished bright from years of use. In spots the chrome plating had worn thin. I could pick it off the workbench by feel alone.

I called the wrench company and purchased a replacement. But it wasn’t the same; the design had changed. It depressed me. I lost hope. My wrench set would forever be short.

Then an amazing thing happened. I was working on a story about Steve Gravenites, a professional bicycle mechanic and master wheelbuilder. When it came time for me to leave, Gravy said he had a gift for me, something he “just had a feeling that I needed.” He handed me a Schwinn Approved 10-mm— identical to the one I’d lost!

I can’t guarantee that you’ll become as attached to your bicycle tools as I have to mine. But these are ten of the handiest hand tools in my toolbox and, save for Shimano's one-off chain tool at the start, I've provided a source for finding out more, and purchasing them for your workshop.

For more on bike tools, here are my bicycle tool lists for setting up your home bike shop. And, here’s a list of tools to take along on rides so you can fix common bike breakdowns and get home. And, if you’re interested in setting up a great home bicycle workshop, you need my $19.95 eBook, Your Home Bicycle Workshop by Jim Langley.

1. Shimano Pro chain tool (click for more details)
A good chain tool is essential for removing, installing and repairing chains. You can get one for less than the cost of a decent lunch that’ll do the job just fine. But Shimano's Pro chain tool actually looks as nice on the kitchen table as on my workbench, thanks to its rosewood handles. I received mine as a gift for working as a volunteer for Shimano at the 1994 Mountain Bike World Championships in Vail, Colorado. Shortly after, Shimano offered the tool to the public for about $150, but it seems to be discontinued now. It's a nice tool that includes a small carrying case. Replacement pins are stored in the bottom of the handle. Park Tool's CT-5 Mini Chain Brute Chain Tool is a nice alternative that can be tucked in your seat bag for use on rides and at home.

Shimano Pro chain tool
2. Bondhus ball-head allen wrench screwdrivers
These allen wrenches have a screwdriver handle and a ball end, which make it easy to drive allen screws home, even hard-to-reach ones. A great use is installing water bottle-cage screws. The cage blocks the use of conventional allens without repeatedly removing and reinstalling the wrench. With a Bondhus, you simply spin the shaft and thread in the screw in seconds. To get a set of the right sizes for bicycle use, you need to buy them individually so you may want to only purchase the sizes you use the most often in the screwdriver style. Here's a Bondhus L set at a good value that has all the right sizes.
Bondhus ball-head drivers
3. Tapered hand reamer
This handy metalworking tool saves time and trouble for bicycle repair as well as household jobs. Push this reamer into an undersize hole (such as a brake-bolt hole in a fork) and turn it a few times to enlarge the hole—no drilling required. It’s a great gizmo for any toolbox and is much quicker than breaking out the drill and selecting the right size bit. The General Tools 130 T Handle Reamer is a nice one.
Tapered reamer
4. Small Vise Grip
When you need to hold something securely, such as a bolt with a rounded head or a brake pad that needs shaping, there’s no tool like a locking plier. Vise Grip makes the best. When you adjust the jaws and close the handles, the tool grabs fast, allowing you to work on the part with no slipping. Other uses for Vise Grips include bending, squeezing and cutting things like spokes (most models have jaws for this built in). This tool is a wonderful help when you're fixing an old bike with rusted or worn parts and also when metalworking. Every mechanic should have several. Start with Irwin's 5WR-3 small Vise Grip and purchase the larger model when needed.
Vise Grip
5. Park Tool 3-way hex wrench
Infinitely useful on today’s bikes, Park’s Y-shaped hex wrench has a 4-, 5- and 6-mm allen at each end of the Y. With one tool, you can work on almost every bolt on the bike. This saves guessing which wrench to grab. Plus, the Y shape provides plenty of leverage for tightening bolts that need some oomph, such as some stem bolts. Here's Park Tools' latest Y allen.
Park Y Allen
6. Handlebar stem and seat tube spreader
When you’re trying to get a handlebar in a one-piece stem or seatpost in a frame, this tool is the ticket. Push the jaws into the gap, squeeze the handles and voila: The stem or seat lug spreads, allowing the part to slide into place. This prevents scratching the part and avoids frustration. My spreader is made by Proto and it is now available on Amazon and called the Stanley Proto J250G Pliers
7. Park Tool column cutting guides
Whether you’re cutting a seatpost, fork steerer tube or handlebar, there’s nothing worse than hacking the end off crooked and having to re-cut, or cutting it in the wrong place. End all the hassles with a Park Tool saw guide. This device fits in a bench vise. You place the tube through the tool and clamp the tube in place by hand-threading a small knob. The knob presses a nylon block onto the tube to hold the tube in place. To get a straight cut every time, the tool has hardened guides for the hacksaw blade to ride in. As long as you align the tube where you want to cut, you’ll get a perfect cut every time with this precision tool.
Park Tool tube cutter
8. Park PW3 pedal wrench
Everyone needs a good pedal wrench. It’s the only safe way to securely tighten pedals and remove them. (Because the right pedal is close to the chainring and its sharp teeth, it’s unwise to use and push hard on flimsy wrenches.) Park's sturdy pedal wrench has great jaws in 15mm and 9/16-inch sizes (the most common), and a comfortable long handle that provides ample leverage. A good safety tip is to always shift onto the large chainring before attempting to unscrew the right pedal. With the teeth covered, you’ll be less likely to cut yourself should the pedal wrench slip.
Park pedal wrench
9. Dualco Lubrigun
It's always best to clean and regrease used and abused components. But on some bikes, parts may only need regreasing. With this Dualco Grease Gun with needle nozzle, you can squeeze grease in without disassembling or cleaning the part, which saves time. It also means the part can be lubed more often, so you don’t have to overhaul it as frequently. The gun is also mandatory for components with grease fittings.
Dualco Lubrigun
10. Ring spoke wrench
It’s true you can damage wheels by incorrectly using this round tool with multiple slots. You must match the proper slot to the spoke nipple you plan to turn to true the wheel. But it just takes patience to get this right every time. Plus, this versatile tool fits 8 different spoke-nipple sizes, so you don’t need to buy a bunch of one-slot spoke wrenches to always have the one you need.
Ring spoke wrench


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