Working on your own bike can be a daunting task at first.
So many moving parts and fancy components must need a workshop full of specialized tools, right!?
Admittedly, there are a lot of jobs that aren’t suited to doing at home unless you have the skills, experience and the tools (not to mention the time!).
But there is a LOT you can do yourself, at home, and without spending a fortune.
Arm yourself with a few basic tools and a little bit of know-how and you can become a competent home mechanic!
Start with the basics…and build from there
Good quality tools are important, but it’s unlikely you will ever have every bike tool you want/need. Even our expert mechanics don’t have all the fancy tools at home.
But they will have the basics. And you should too.
Our suggestion would be to get a few absolute essentials and then simply buy as you go. e.g. Next time you need to change your chain, buy a chain breaker and learn how to use it.
Pretty soon you will have a decent toolbox, with a wide range of bike tools and general maintenance tools. And with that, you will have an ever-increasing knowledge of bikes and components.
Essential Tools (bike-related)
So we’ve compiled a list of tools that we think would be a good place to start.
I created this list based on my home toolbox, which I have (very slowly) added to over the years.
It’s in no way an exhaustive list, but it is a good starting point for the home mechanic and will hopefully illustrate my point about not needing a lot of fancy gear.
These will make life easier, jobs quicker and will save you time and money in the long run…
Top of the list! Every toolbox needs a set of good quality Allen keys. The most common sizes are 4, 5 & 6mm. If you don’t want to splash out on a whole set, you can grab a Y-Tool (see pic) with just these sizes.
WARNING: Cheap Allen keys will round off easily and many are not quite the size they claim to be!
Get some good ones.
Chains wear out over time.
If you continue to ride with a worn chain, you risk wearing down all your more expensive parts and you will pay the price. Literally.
Replacing your chain is a lot cheaper and easier than replacing your chainrings, cassette, jockey wheels etc. Chain checkers are cheap and will save you big repair bills in the long run.
Changing your chain at home is quick & easy. And very satisfying!
All you’ll need is a chain-breaker. Break your old one, use it to measure your new one.
Chop it to size and and away you go!
Most pedals require a 15mm wrench to get them on and off. Some require an Allen Key, but you already have a set of those, right!?
Because of the tight gap between pedal and crank, you’ll need a thin wrench for the job. A pedal wrench is really handy and once you have one you can start experimenting with different pedals for your bike.
TOP TIP: Just remember to check which way the threads go!
Each pedal will be marked L or R. The left pedal/crank is reverse threaded! An easy way to remember is to ALWAYS tighten each pedal towards the front wheel of the bike and loosen towards the back.
Brake & gear cables wear and fray. If your cable housing is damaged, you will need some cutters. Replacing a cable/bit of housing is dead easy and we can show you how!
A bit of a luxury item you might think because you can get away with wire snips (can you really?). Using blunt wire cutters is 100% NOT FUN!
Once you have used proper cable cutters, you will see why I have included them and you’ll never look back!
Spend a little on some decent cutters. You will thank me later…
If you cycle at all, you need a pump. A good pump!
Riding tyres at the wrong pressure is asking for punctures and and/or an uncomfortable ride. And nobody wants that!
If you are buying a pump to get you out of trouble on the road, something portable is essential. If you are buying a pump for home, please, please, please get a track pump.
Something with a pressure gauge that will give you the PSI you need without feeling like you’ve just completed 10 laps of the swimming pool…
Grease & Lubricant
Moving parts need grease or lubricant to keep them moving freely and smoothly or to stop parts seizing up.
Buy the bike specific stuff as it is Teflon based to repel water, will prevent corrosion & water ingress and will improve the performance of any moving parts.
We would suggest the following for starters;
A general maintenance spray/cleaner/lubricant (GT85/TF2), a bike chain lubricant and some general bike grease.
If you’ve ever changed an inner tube you will know why these are so essential. Anyone that claims a pair of old spoons work just as well has never used a tyre lever!
Even good tyre levers are cheap but make sure you get decent ones as the poor quality ones tend to snap easily.
We stock Pedros. Not just because they come in a variety of funky colours (but it helps!)
Ok, so this almost didn’t make the list. In the end I just couldn’t leave it out.
Not strictly essential, but as you start doing more work on your bike, you will massively benefit from a work stand.
It will make each job easier, quicker and it will allow you to work on your bike at a height that will reduce your chance of back/neck pain.
Once you have one you will wonder how you ever managed before!
General Tools (Non Bike Specific)
Here is a list of some other tools in my box that I find myself using fairly regularly.
- Philips head screwdriver
- Flathead screwdriver
- Stanley blade
- Large adjustable spanner
- A bunch of spanners (8,9,10,13 & 15mm is in my box)
- Cable ties