Starter toolbox: Bike maintenance tools all cyclists should own

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Bike maintenance is an important part of cycling that many of us overlook, outsource or put off until it’s too late. Staying safe on the road should be our number one goal, and a properly functioning bike is the key to making this happen.

However, visiting a bike shop or mechanic for every small repair and adjustment can get quite costly. If you spend some time learning a few basic maintenance checks and repairs that you can do at home, you’ll save both time and money.

But before you can dive in and start learning about repairs, you’ll need some basic tools to get these jobs done. Most minor adjustments can actually be taken care of with the tools and equipment you carry in your saddlebag. However, more convenient tools and more advanced equipment are useful for your at-home bike work.

So stock up your toolbox with these basic tools and supplies and you’ll be wrenching on your own bikes in no time!

Basic tools

  • Floor pump with gage – Invest in a quality floor pump that doesn’t leak air when you pump. Pumps with low-pressure gages (under 30psi) are great for cross bike and mountain bike tyres.
  • Allen keys – While the multi-tool you carry in your saddlebag is compact and convenient for fixing issues while out on the road, individual Allen keys are easier to work with at home. If you don’t want to buy an entire set, a few different sizes including the 4mm and 5mm keys will take care of just about any basic repair or adjustment.
  • Screwdrivers – Flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers are useful for adjusting your drivetrain and an assortment of small fixes across the bike.

Important supplies

  • Chain lube We reviewed chain maintenance last week.
  • Chain lube is essential to keep your bike’s drivetrain running smoothly by regularly wiping down and apply lube to the chain.

  • Rags – Old rags are useful for cleaning off your chain, wiping down tyres, and cleaning up small messes from working on your bike. (Tip: Don’t buy rags. Simply cut old t-shirts up into squares)
  • Electrical tape – Use a small piece of electrical tape to mark your seat height or use it to secure your handlebar tape after wrapping your bars.

Advanced tools and supplies

  • Grease – Bike grease (not to be confused with chain lube) is handy for most of the bolts and screws on your bike. If you change your handlebar position or replace your pedals, add a little grease to the bolt threads before tightening them all the way.
  • Chain checker tool – Use this to check the wear and tear on your chain. As you ride, your chain slowly stretches over time and will cause shifting issues if not replaced when worn out.
  • Cog lockring tool and chain whip – If you need to replace or change your rear wheel’s cassette, a cog lockring and chain whip will help you get the job done.

Pro tip

  • Music – Listening to music while working on bikes is essential. Music keeps your energy up, your mind relaxed, and it will keep you motivated if you get frustrated. It doesn’t matter if you have loud speakers or headphones; music is a must!

Kristen Legan is an athlete, writer and coach. She raced triathlon professionally from 2009-2013, but has since switched her focus to exclusively racing bikes. In 2012, she was one of six women to complete the entire Tour de France route as part of the Reve Tour. Living, training and working in Boulder, Colorado, Kristen coaches for APEX coaching and has a degree in Molecular Biology & Neurology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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