Home » Bike Maintenance » Basic tools and repairs » Tools and equipment – part 1

Tools and equipment – part 1

Tools and equipment (1)

Of course, everyone starts off with very basic equipment. Then gradually, as you get more confident fixing your bike, you find you need various other pieces of kit. Your toolkit grows and grows, until it reaches the happy point where you can tackle complicated tasks without investing in any more tools.

The evolving toolkit

Some tools are universal, like screwdrivers. Others are highly specific and only do one task, or even just one task on one particular make and model of component. For example, you might buy a socket to change the oil on your car. When you sell the car, the socket might stay in your toolbox until you don’t notice it any more. Later, when you clear out your toolbox you realise you haven’t used it in 15 years – instead it can make a nice candlestick. You can always find a new task for old tools, so hang on to them.

The tools on the first list are good for starters and should allow you to carry out all the simple repairs. Tools for the specialist jobs appear under the comprehensive toolkit, pages 15-17 – buy these as you tackle the job. Same goes for your stock of oils and cleaning fluids – start with the essential list, and add to it over time as you take on major repairs.

As your toolkit grows, a clear separation will develop between your trail tools and your workshop tools. Trail tools need to be small and light and, preferably, foldable so they don’t stab you from inside a pocket when you fall off your bike. With workshop tools, the bigger and chunkier the better, first for proper leverage, and second so they last longer without wearing out. Neat and lightweight gadget tools will wear out quickly if they get used frequently.

Manuals and instructions are tools too

All new bikes and parts come with manuals or instructions. For some reason, it’s traditional to throw them away without reading them. We don’t know why. Don’t do it. Keep all instructions and manuals together, they’re part of your toolkit. It is particularly important to keep the original manual for suspension parts as fitting and setting-up instructions vary between make, model and years. Once you find yourself using the manuals, feel free to scribble your own notes and diagrams on them as your knowledge grows.

The simple toolkit

When we started working on this section, we wrote and rewrote for the best part of a morning, adding and deleting items until, finally, we were happy with the result. Then a friend came round, and we calculated that the total cost of all the tools came out to more than a bike! So we started again. The result is two lists: one of indispensable tools and a second for when you get more confident. The second list is broken down to match the chapters of the book, so you can buy items as you go along. Some tools are bikespecific. Some are obtainable from hardware or tool shops. Good tools last for years, and are an investment. Cheap tools let you down when you least need it and can damage the component you’re trying to fix. A plastic toolbox costs very little, and both keeps tools together and protects them from damage. Don’t lend your tools to anyone. This sounds harsh, but if you like someone enough to lend them a spanner, fix their bike for them instead. For some specialist tools it may be worth clubbing together with friends to start a “tool library”. There are some items, like headset presses, specific bottom bracket tools and bearing replacement sets, which are prohibitively expensive for a home mechanic’s infrequent use but are nonetheless invaluable. Spreading the cost between you means that you can all benefit although you’ll all be reliant on the members’ honesty to make sure that the tools from the library don’t vanish indefinitely into someone’s shed.