Let’s say you’ve learned to make basic adjustments on your family’s bikes, and then assembled a basic bike-specific tool kit to keep things running smoothly and avoid labor costs and long turnaround times at the bike shop. Let’s say you actually enjoy it, and have learned to appreciate the zen and simplicity of keeping things running smoothly. Let’s say you’re actually good at it.
If that’s the case, then it’s time to really upgrade your collection of tools to tackle almost any problem your bike might have.
Before we move on, let’s dwell on that “your bike” part a bit. There are lots of different styles of bikes, different manufacturers of component sets, and different eras of technology. The goal here is not to get a tool to tackle every problem any bike can have – that’s the goal of an actual bike shop. So we’re not recommending a headset bearing cup press, fork crown race setter, derailleur hanger alignment gauge, or a specialized tool for every style of bottom bracket out there. Instead, get what you need to adjust the parts of your and your family’s bike that you feel like you can handle. Here’s a basic set that will work for a wide variety of bikes, but not all. Use them as springboards to figure out what you need. If you don’t know what size of something you need, take your bike into your local shop and ask a mechanic. They’ll be happy to help you learn the craft they love.
1. Tools for working on cranks and bottom brackets: Find out what it takes to work on your pedals, crankset, and bottom bracket. These parts see lots of abuse, and rotate thousands of times every ride. Crank pullers are as satisfying to use as any bike tool can be, but you need to know which style you have – or get one that works with square and round spindles, ISIS, Octalink, etc, like the CWP-7. Bottom bracket tools vary widely, but if you have common component set, this is a good place to start.
- Park Tool CWP-7 Compact Crank Puller
- Park Tool BBT-32C Bottom Bracket Key
- Park Tool HCW-5 Lock Ring Spanner
- Park Tool BBT-9 Bottom Bracket Tool – Hollowtech II
- Park Tool SPA-2 Cluster Cone Pin Spanner
2. Chainring Nut Wrench: A simple device to hold back the nut when loosening or tightening chainring bolts.
ManMade Recommended: Park Tool CNW-2 Chainring Nut Wrench – $5.24
3. Spoke, Bearing, and Cotter Gauge: Measures spoke length, bearing diameter, cotter diameter, and is actually my favorite ruler when I work in the garage. Sturdy, easy to read, and a simple pleasure to use.
ManMade Recommended: Park Tool SBC-1 – $9.95
4. Disc rotor truing fork: Have disc brakes? Get one of these to adjust bent or damaged rotors. An extra adjustable wrench can also help. Might work on the teeth of your front chainrings as well, and probably for pulling out a kiddo’s loose front tooth also (if you’re into that).
ManMade Recommended: Park Tool DT-2C – $17.00
5. Tools for working on wheel hubs, cassettes, and freewheels: In addition to cone wrenches, these guys help with hub overhauls, removing cassettes, installing cogs, etc. There are a wide variety of cassette lockring removers, so be sure to check your size. But you can probably start with the 12-spline FR-5. Plus, nothing looks cooler hanging on your pegboard than a chain whip.
- Park Tool AV-5 Axle/Pedal Vice
- Park Tool SR-1 Sprocket Remover and Chain Whip
- Park Tool Cassette/Rotor FR-5 Lockring Removal Tool
6. Dedicated shop chain tool: A smaller, lightweight tool is great for long rides and tools, but at home, a cast steel, precision screw type tool reigns supreme. Its adjustable guides fit single speed and 5-11 speed chains, and features a loosening shelf to free stiff links after assembly.
ManMade Recommended: Park Tool CT3.2 – $34.00
7. Headset Wrenches: For loosening and tightening the large hex nuts that secure threaded headsets. This are thin, but extremely strong, and take up hardly any space.
8. Full set of 3-way wrenches: Addresses hex keys, sockets, and Torx bolts on newer bikes. You’ll reach for these first, trust us.
9. Dedicated Shop Cone Wrenches: These will supplement the double-ended wrench set from our intermediate kit for those occasions when you need two matching wrenches, or just a little more torque. They’re heavier-duty, and more comfortable to use. Start with the odds – 13, 15, 17, and 19mm – and add the evens as needed.
ManMade Recommended: Park Tool PT-09 Shop Cone Wrench Series