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
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
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. Some are commonly available and some are now almost impossible
to find so you may have to check eBay or flea-markets to find the same
tools that I've collected.
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.
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 when you’re ready
for a truly fine chain tool—one that looks as nice on the
kitchen table as on your workbench—go for Shimano’s
Pro chain tool (made for use with Shimano Hyperglide chains).
I got mine as a gift for working as a volunteer for Shimano at
Mountain Bike World Championships in Vail, Colorado. Shortly
after, Shimano began offering the tool to the public. It’s
expensive at about $150, but it’s also beautiful to look
at and use thanks to the rosewood handles. It also comes with
a small carrying case. Replacement pins are stored in the bottom
of the handle.
Bondhus ball-head allen wrench screwdrivers
These allen wrenches (about $5 each) 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 waterbottle-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.
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.
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 (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 a small one and purchase
the larger model when needed.
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. Get two and put one in your car; they’re cheap.
Please note that the photo shows my older-model
Park wrench with ball-end allens. Ball-ends arent that useful on
this type of wrench so Park has discontinued this model. Click
to see Park's newest wrench.
Handlebar stem and seat tube spreader
When you’re trying to a get a handlebar in a one-piece
stem or seatpost in a frame, this very rare 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 tool was
made by Proto Tools, and acquired long ago. Unfortunately I have
not been able to find a source today. If you do, please let me know.
Park 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 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.
Park PW3 pedal wrench
needs a good pedal wrench. It’s the only safe way to securely
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 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
always best to clean and regrease used and abused components. But
on some bikes, parts may only need regreasing. With handy tool,
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.
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 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.
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