Bike Tools Breakdown: What Do You Need for Home Repairs?

Bike Tools Breakdown: What Do You Need for Home Repairs?

TJ Parsons |

Your home shop doesn’t have to look this good to be effective. Image by Jónas Björnsson on Pixabay

Bike Tools Breakdown: What Do You Need for Home Repairs?

In our last bike tools breakdown, we covered the tools you should be bringing on your mountain bike rides to be ready for common trailside repairs. But what about routine maintenance at home? While the occasional field repair is just a part of the sport, the vast majority of your bike maintenance should be happening between rides. Regular maintenance helps your bike and components perform better and last longer. It’s also a big help in maintaining resale value when you’re ready to sell your bike. When putting together your own home repair shop, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the specialized bike tools out there. And while the self-contained repair kits from companies like Park Tool are great, they can also be pretty pricey. To help you prioritize and save some cash, we’ve pulled together a list of the essentials for the most common maintenance tasks you’ll perform at home. These items will give you a great start on creating your own repair shop that can handle the basics. And of course, you can always add to this list as you build your mechanic skills and encounter the need for additional tools. A solid repair stand is an essential tool for every level of home mechanic. Image by Pexels on Pixabay

Home bike maintenance essentials

Repair stand - This is one of the most important investments for any home mechanic. Bending over to work on your bike upside-down is a pain in the back—literally—and can also scratch up your bars, shifters, and brake levers. And hanging your bike from the saddle isn’t particularly stable, and can also damage your dropper post. A quality work stand will save you a ton of time and frustration, and allow you to do a much better job of working on your own bike. Allen wrenches - Keeping all your various bolts nice and snug can prevent a lot of other issues, and you’ll need these to tighten and loosen the majority of them all over your bike. A good-quality set of metric-size hex wrenches ranging from 2-10mm should cover most situations. #2 Phillips and flathead screwdrivers - The Phillips screwdriver is important for derailleur adjustments, while the flathead screwdriver can be useful for replacing and aligning your disc brake pads. Torx wrenches - Speaking of disc brakes, these star-shaped wrenches are important for removing and replacing brake rotors. While it may seem silly to have a separate type of bolt, it’s because Torx bolt heads can be made shallower to provide enough clearance for frames and forks. Tire levers - It’s totally fine to use the same set you keep in your trailside repair kit, but unless you’ve got the grip strength of a pro climber, tire levers are a huge help for removing and remounting bike tires. Pedal wrench - Some pedals can be attached with hex wrenches, though pedal wrenches aren’t too expensive and are nice to have around so you can easily swap out any set on your own. (Just remember, the pedal threads on your left crankarm are reversed!) Floor pump with gauge - Finding the right air pressure for your riding style can make a huge difference in your ride, and it’s something you should be checking regularly—especially if you ride tubeless tires. A quality floor pump is a great investment for any type of rider. Valve core remover - For tubeless riders, the air valves on your wheels get gummed up with sealant over time and need to be replaced. This handy tool makes it a breeze to pull out your valves to replace them or top off your sealant. (To slow down the process of valve-gunkage, rotate your wheels when storing your bike so the valves are toward the top and sealant doesn’t pool around them.) Shock pump - If you're constantly bottoming out your suspension, feel it “packing down” in rough sections, or your bike feels like a pogo stick when taking off the lip of a jump—your air pressures may not be set properly. A shock pump is critical for finding that just-right PSI in your fork and rear suspension that matches your weight and riding style. Chain tool & checker - Bike chains need to be replaced every couple of thousand miles—and trust us when we say it’s much better to replace a worn chain than to have it snap on you right as you’re pedaling into a jump. Doing it yourself is easy with the right tool. A chain checker is also a nice add-on because it shows you how much life your chain has left. Drivetrain degreaser - This stuff is amazing for cleaning your chain and other drivetrain components, though you should be careful not to get any into your hubs, bottom bracket, pivots, or other enclosed bearings. And definitely keep it far away from your brake pads and rotors. Cleaning brushes - A clean bike is a happy bike. We recommend having at least one brush specifically for your chain, cassette, and derailleurs (to be used with degreaser) and then another that you use only with soapy water for the rest of your bike. Chain lube - For the best shifting performance, your chain and cassette need to be cleaned and lubricated regularly. This is one of the easiest maintenance tasks to perform on your own, and also one of the most important! Shop rags - Clean cotton rags are a staple of any bike shop. They’re useful for wiping away excess chain lube and many other tasks. You can buy a pack from an auto-supply store, or just cut up an old t-shirt for maximum street cred. Torque wrench - It’s possible to get by without one of these, but it’s also easy to misjudge the correct tightness of your bolts without one. Most of the components on your bike have recommended torque settings to ensure they stay secure without crushing what’s beneath them. Whether it’s a “click” style or a gauge style, torque wrenches show you when you’ve applied the correct amount of force. They’re useful for any home mechanic, but non-optional if you have carbon handlebars or any other carbon components. A clean, well-maintained bike lasts longer and holds its value better—and it’s just more fun to ride.

Extra credit: Tools for slightly more advanced repairs

Brake bleed kit - Once in a while, hydraulic disc brakes need to be bled to remove any air bubbles in the system and keep them running at peak performance. You’ll need a bleed kit designed to work with your brake manufacturer. This process is a little intimidating, but not as tricky as it looks at first. Chain whip & cassette lockring tool - Removing your cassette is the best way to give it a true deep-clean, and required to perform routine maintenance on your freehub body. These specialized tools give you the grip you need to take off your cassette and replace it at the proper torque—just watch those knuckles around your cassette cogs. Cable cutters - Over time, your shifter cable(s) will stretch out and the housing will clog up with gunk. Fortunately, installing a new cable isn’t too hard to do once you understand how derailleurs work. To get a clean cut through a shift cable and housing, you’ll want to use dedicated cable cutters instead of pliers, which can bend the cable and cause it to fray. Needle-nose pliers - You may have a set of these lying around already. They’re super useful for replacing brake pads, and for installing a cable cap on a freshly cut shifter cable. (Seriously, you don’t want to get stabbed by one of those things.) Air compressor - This is more of a luxury than an essential item, but an air compressor can be a huge help in getting stubborn tubeless tires to properly seat on the rim. Air compressors are also great for other tasks like removing non-locking grips without having to cut them off, or just blasting dirt and grit out of hard-to-clean places. These essentials make a great starting point for any aspiring home mechanic. Even if you’re not the handiest person in the world, you can still learn to perform many common maintenance tasks on your own. After all, part of the beauty of bikes is their simplicity! Building some mechanical knowledge of your bike also helps you identify larger issues before they become catastrophic failures, and makes you more confident in tackling emergency field repairs. Take your time and don’t rush things, and you’ll likely find wrenching on your own ride to be a rewarding and meditative experience. Crack a beverage, put on some of your favorite tunes, and enjoy the process of getting closer than ever to your two-wheeled companion. TJ Parsons is a semi-reformed snowboard bum who now has a semi-adult career as a professional writer and creative. He's a self-proclaimed perpetual intermediate who thinks the outdoors are for everyone, and who wants to help dismantle gatekeeping and elitism in outdoor sports. When he's not squeezing brain juice into a keyboard, you'll find him riding boards or bikes throughout the Intermountain West. Follow us on Instagram + Facebook: Tag us @geartrade with the hashtag #unnewoutdoor #wearitout on your post or story for a chance to be featured on our page.

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