Our dirty dozen of essential tools for the home bike mechanic. Save money and get the satisfaction of repairing your own bike by yourself. Having the right tools is a great feeling.
There’s only so far you can get with a multitool. Getting separate tools, each with its own specific job, makes life so easier when it comes to maintaining or repairing your bike.
Assembling a decent toolkit will save you money. No more bike shop repair bills.
No more waiting for bike shop repairs either. Having the correct tools and learning how to use them is your ticket to maintenance independence.
The internet is a fabulous resource for any cyclist wishing to learn how to repair stuff. YouTube is full of how-to guides.
This here Merlin Cycles blog has its own How To Guides section too.
What tools do you need in a decent home workshop?
You can go OTT if you’re not careful. Buying every single tool available for every single job is not really desirable. There are some jobs that are best left to your local bike shop to do.
The following list is our choice of stuff that would make a great home workshop. Tools that are used often enough to warrant a regular cyclist buying them.
The Dirty Dozen
1. Track pump
There is no one in the history of the world who has ever regretted buying a track pump. Pump your tyres up fast. Pump your tyres up easier. Pump your tyres up to a specific pressure. You’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.
If you find yourself working on your bikes a lot, then a workstand will become your new best friend. For jobs involving gears or brakes in particular it’s great to have the bike held securely off the ground.
3. Bottom bracket tool
Modern bottom bracket are so much easier to work on than they used to be. You need a tool to remove/install external cups and a tool for ‘nipping up’ the bearing preload. Happily there are tools that combine both tools in one.
4. Spoke key
Essential for truing wonky wheels. Also useful for keeping an eye on your spoke tension regularly. Spokes come in different gauges so a spoke key that has slots for multiple gauges is the best bet.
5. Cassette lockring tool
Replacing a cassette is one of the more frequent tasks that are often given to a bike shop to carry out. It’s a relatively simple task however and one that you should do yourself.
6. Chain whip
To take a cassette off you’ll also need a chain whip. This vicious looking thing looks like a street fighting weapon but it’s actually just a simple but effective workshop essential.
7. Decent Allen key set
Multitools aren’t designed to be used mega frequently. They’re for use when you can’t use a proper Allen key. Multitools are usually made of relatively softer metal, so they wear out with use. They can also damage bolts when Allen keys get worn out. Proper Allen keys are separates and much longer than multitool Allens. Easier and more effective to use.
8. Chain wear checker
A real money-saving tool. If you keep an eye on how your chain is doing you can get away without having to replace your cassette at the same time as you replace your chain. If chains are allowed to get too worn out they “take the cassette with them”. By monitoring chain wear and replacing chains when required, you’ll be able to get a few chains’ usage out of one cassette.
9. Chain tool
If you’re replacing your chain as often as you should be (see chain wear checker above) then you’ll want a good tool for the job. Again, multitools struggle here. Nothing is as easy or accurate as using a proper chain tool.
10. Torx key set
More and more Torx head bolts are finding their way on to bikes, particularly mountain bikes. Due to their current relative rarity you don’t need a costly set of separates. A folding set of Torx keys will be alright.
11. Cable cutters
Stop using pliers or – heaven forbid! – scissors. Cable cutters do a safer, neater and more effective job. You’ll be surprised at how much crisper your gears work with properly trimmed cabling.
12. Use the correct grease
Not all grease is the same. Stop bunging ultra-thick gunk in your bike’s bits. Modern grease is amazing stuff. You don’t need to just buy the thickest stuff you can find. If you own any carbon components (eg. carbon seat post) then DO NOT use regular grease. Regular grease will be absorbed into the carbon and create loads of problems, some of them very dangerous. There is such a thing as carbon specific grease. Get some.