Anyone who owns a bicycle knows that a basic bike tool kit is essential for occasional adjustments and minor repairs. Even less experienced mechanics can easily manage some of the more frequent bike maintenance tasks with a small collection of the most used bike tools. So, what would a kit of the most used bike tools look like?
Our list of the most commonly used bicycle tools includes the following, which we’ll discuss one by one:
- Allen (hex head) wrenches, sized from 2mm to 8mm
- Tire levers
- Chain installation/removal tool
- Tire lever
- Torque wrench
- Torx head wrenches
- Screwdriver set
By far, one of the most used bike tools are metric Allen wrenches. Nearly every bolt on a bicycle, including the handlebar, controls, stem, seatpost, saddle, and drivetrain fixing bolts, is a version of a metric sized Allen hex head bolt. So, begin your kit of essential bike tools with an Allen wrench set that includes the following sizes: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, and 8mm.
Hex head wrenches, also known as Allen wrenches, are available in many formats. We like the “Y” or 3-way Allen wrenches, because the one tool includes 3 commonly used sizes and the tool fits well in the hand for quick repairs. Another popular format are individual sizes of the T-handle Allen wrench. These are usually available both individually and sold in sets. Lastly, the L-handle allen wrench is common for larger sizes when more force needs to be applied to tighten or loosen the part.
Easily one of the most used bike tools, tire levers make quick work of removal and installation of bike tires. Whether you’re repairing a tire, replacing an innertube, or installing a brand new tire, a good set of tire levers make the job quick and easy.
Tire levers should be comfortable to grip, strong enough to manage tight fitting tires, yet made from material that won’t damage the bicycle rim when force is applied. Most tire levers are made from plastic, which is lightweight and soft enough that it won’t scratch the wheels. However, plastic can be flexible and not strong. It can also become brittle in the cold. Try a hybrid, such as our Steel Core Tire Levers.
Chain installation tool
Removing worn a worn-out bike chain and installing a new one should be high on your list of DIY bike repairs. When should you replace a bicycle chain? Most mechanics will say that 2000 miles is a good rule of thumb. Chains wear out by elongating over time so that they don’t engage properly on the teeth of the cogs. As this happens, the cogs can also wear out as they essentially “erode” to match the stretched-out chain. Replacing your bike chain prevents much more expensive repairs.
Many modern bicycle chains have master links or “quick links” that allow the chain to be removed via one link that is designed to be easily removed with special pliers. These Master Link Pliers make for slick and easy removal of a bike chain.
If your bike chain does not have a master link, you’ll need to partially push out one of the pins to remove the chain. A high quality chain pin press will make this job much easier
No matter which style of bike chain you have, learning how to properly remove and install a chain can save you a lot of money in the long run. Next to tires, handlebar grips, and brake pads, the chain is the most common wear item that needs to be monitored and replaced.
A torque wrench is important for safely securing bolts on high end bikes and components. As bikes have become increasingly specialized, paying attention to proper torque of bolts is important. Not enough torque and your bike parts will not stay in place. Too much torque can strip out the threads, damage delicate parts or even break bolts.
Until you learn a balance of “tight enough” without being “too tight,” use a torque wrench and tighten bike parts to the specified torque setting. There are many types of torque wrenches, but we like the compact, lightweight, and portable Range Torque Wrench.
Torx Head Wrenches
Not to be confused with “torque,” a Torx head wrench fits a very specific bolt style. Quoting the website Fastenerengineering.com, “A Torx screw is a type of screw characterized by a six-lobed, star-patterned screw drive. Torx drive is a trademark commonly referred to as star drive or, simply, a six-lobe.” There are different sizes of Torx head bolts and wrenches to fit them, usually referred to as “T-25” or “T30,” and such. The “T” means Torx and the number indicates the size. Larger numbers indicate larger sizes.
Just like Allen or hex head wrenches, Torx wrenches come in a variety of formats. Feedback Sports produces a Y- or 3-way style Torx wrench that includes the commonly used sizes T25, T27, and T30.
Even an old fashioned Phillips or flat-head screwdriver comes in handy from time to time. Certain bolts, such a derailleur limit screws, brake lever reach adjustment screws, and brake pad retaining screws, depend on flat or Phillips style heads to be secured.
Low quality tools use softer metal that deforms over time. Look for high quality tool steel in your screwdriver set to ensure long life and no damage to your delicate bike parts.
There are many more specialized bike tools for specific tasks such as removing or installing bottom brackets, brake rotors, cassette cogs and chainrings, truing wheels, or installing/removing other specialty parts. As you expand your experience with DIY bicycle maintenance, incorporating these tools into your kit will be a natural progression.