Bike Tool Essentials

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There are a couple different ways to go about purchasing bike tools:

1.     You can buy a pre-made kit from Park Tool or Pedro's.

2.     You can piece together the right tools for the job as they become necessary.

Buying a large tool kit is nice because it comes with everything you need, and probably more, but it’s hard to drop several hundred dollars at once.

Because of the price, and because you might be paying for tools that you will never use, sometimes buying a few tools at a time is the better option. You only purchase what you need, and it spreads the cost out over a longer period of time.

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Bike Repair Stand

If you’re planning on doing even the most basic bike repair maintenance, don’t underestimate the importance of a quality repair stand. Yes, they can be a little expensive and yes, they take up a little room in the garage. That said, a quality stand will save you from a lifetime of turning your bike upside down and bending over to make repairs and adjustments.

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Bike Tools for Routine Maintenance

Routine maintenance can include cleaning and lubing your chain, replacing brake pads, and changing and fixing a flat tire. For these more simple tasks, we recommend the following tools as a good starting point:

For how-to tips, see our articles on Basic Bike Maintenance, How to Clean a Bike and How to Fix a Flat Bike Tire.

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Bike Tools for Brakes

Working on your brakes can be as simple as replacing your pads, or as complex as bleeding your hydraulic disc brakes. The following tools are useful for performing common brake tasks:

  • Allen wrench set (ranging from 2-5mm in size)
  • Open end wrenches (6-12mm)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Bleed kit and oil (make sure you check your brake owner’s manual for proper fluid type and brake fittings)
  • Rotor truing tool
  • Torx® T25 wrench
  • Latex gloves
  • Clean rags
  • Denatured alcohol (or some type of cleaner)

See our article on How to Fix Bike Creaks and Squeaks.

Bike Tools for Drivetrains

Working on your bike’s drivetrain can include adjusting your derailleurs, changing shift or brake cables, or replacing a worn-out chain.

Removing a cassette, replacing your bottom bracket or removing your pedals are also common drivetrain tasks.

Again, the following list is a good starting point for your drivetrain-tool arsenal.

  • Screwdrivers (multiple sizes of flat-head and Phillips)
  • Allen wrench set (ranging from 2-12mm in size)
  • Torx wrench set (T25 being the most important)
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Cable cutters
  • Dental pick
  • Chain pin removal tool
  • Chain pliers
  • Chain wear indicator gauge
  • Cassette lockring remover
  • Chain whip
  • 12 in. adjustable wrench
  • Crank arm puller (make sure you have the right one for the job, there are many different types and styles)
  • Bottom bracket tool (make sure you have the right one for the job, there are many different types and styles)
  • Pedal wrench

For how-to tips, see our articles:

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Bike Tools for Wheels

Wheels may seem like they need little work or maintenance, but a properly trued and tuned wheelset is extremely important for maximum efficiency. The following tools are very specific for wheels and have little crossover to other areas of the bike, nonetheless they are important.

  • Truing stand (just like a bike repair stand, the truing stand will make life much easier)
  • Cone wrenches (13, 15, and 17mm will get you started)
  • Spoke wrench (these come in different sizes, make sure to use the correct one)
  • Spoke tension gauge
  • Dish tool (this is used to center the hub in the wheel)

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Other Useful Bike Tools

Here are a few other tools that are nice to have, although not as common. They probably won’t be used as regularly as the other listed above, but they can be equally important, especially if you’re trying to be a true home mechanic.

  • Air compressor (this is especially nice when setting up tubeless tires)
  • Hacksaw (used to cut steerer tubes, seatposts and handlebars)
  • Derailleur alignment gauge (used to straighten derailleur hangers after a crash)
  • Shock pump
  • Metal file
  • High quality waterproof grease
  • Small parts like:
    -Brake and shift cables
    -Brake and shift housing
    -Cable ferrules
    -Cable ends

Take a Bike Maintenance Class

Want to learn more about bike maintenance and bike handling? See if there’s an REI bike class near you.


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