Over the years, I have accumulated a good set of tools for working on my bicycles. Most of these tools are relatively common tools that everyone should have, such as a good set of regular and Phillips screwdrivers, open and box end wrenches, socket sets and drivers (English and metric), and other common tools. However, bicycles require some tools which are specific to bicycle components, but (mostly) generic from one bicycle to the next. Below are a few of the additional tools I use often enough to have purchased.
The first, and perhaps the most useful tool, is a good bike stand. This keeps your bike up at a comfortable working height and stable. Especially if you are removing the rear wheel, using a good bike stand prevents getting the chain tangled in the derailleur, which will occur if you flip the bike upside down on the seat and handlebars (as well as potentially breaking electronics mounted on the handlebars).
A wheel truing stand is my biggest acquisition in this area. Spoked wheels will eventually go out of true, just from the normal vibrations and impact that occurs while riding. Rather than having to take my wheels back to the shop and have them adjust the spokes, a good truing stand makes the effort much easier. Before I got the stand, I tried adjusting the spokes on the bike, judging trueness relative to the brakes and other bike components, which was difficult.
Below are the individual tools I have gathered. A short description of the numbered tool will be found below each picture.
1: Peddle Wrench – Heavy and narrow, fits between peddle and crank arm to easily remove peddles.
2: Chain Gauge – Used to check amount of stretch and distortion in the chain, and determine when it should be replaced.
3: Bottom Bracket Tools – This pair of tools is used to remove the bottom bracket, for simple cleaning/lube of the bearings to complete replacement. These are somewhat specialized, and may not work on other units.
4: Freewheel/Freehub and Derailleur Cleaner – Used to clean the grit out of the rear gear cluster and from the derailleur idler wheels.
5: Brake Clamp – Used to hold the brake shoes together during adjustment of the brake cable position and tension.
6: Cone Wrenches (2) – These very thin wrenches are used to hold and turn the bearing cones on the axles, for removal and adjustment.
7: Cable Tips – Not really a tool, but useful to clamp over the ends of the cables to prevent fraying. Pick your favorite color.
8: Spoke Adjustment Tool – Nearly universal, has slots for different sized spoke nipples.
9: Crank Arm Puller – Used to pull the crank arms off the crank axle. DO NOT try to use a hammer to do the same job.
10: Chain Rest – Used to hold the chain while the rear wheel is removed, preventing tangling.
11: Brake Wrench (behind Chain Rest) – 10 mm open and 8 mm box end wrench for adjusting brake components.
12: Freewheel Removal Tools (3) – These are very specialized, with one manufacturer often requiring a specific tool for a specific freewheel. These are also different than a freehub cluster tools.
13: Chain Breaker – Used to remove one of the little pins holding links together on the chain. Also used to put it back together.
14: Bearing grease – Polyurea thickened grease, resists water wash-out better than lithium soap greases (IMHO).
Chain cleaner – This is my third one. Useful for quickly cleaning road dirt and grit off the chain, without having to remove the chain from the bicycle. Typically used with water-based cleaners, good drying and relube of the chain immediately after is required.
In addition to the specialized tools, above is a set of chemicals I’ve found useful in bicycle maintenance. You can buy small volumes of the same or similar compounds from bike shops and outlets (with fancy and obscure labeling), or pick these up at your local grocery, drug store, hardware store or automotive shop. From the top left we have:
Isopropyl alcohol: Avoid ‘rubbing alcohol’, which often has other compounds. Look for the highest percentage, as (in this case) the other 9% is water. Useful for removing oil and grease, and for quickly drying wet components.
Brake Cleaner: This is little more than pentane / hexane in a spray can. These compounds are very light hydrocarbon solvents, evaporates quickly, useful for dissolving grease and oil. VERY flammable, use only in a well ventilated environment and away from open flames or electrical equipment.
Carb Cleaner: Similar to the brake cleaner, this is light hydrocarbons along with some aromatic compounds (benzene, toluene, xylenes) in a pressurized can. Useful for removing grease and oil not touched by the brake cleaner, however, it will damage paint and plastic components. Not recommended around carbon fiber/epoxy components.
“Tube-O-Lube”: Small squeeze tube of dry graphite lubricant, available from the hardware store. Useful for lubricating cables in the housing, or brake jaws, or other components you don’t want oils to attract grit.
Talcum Powder: Added to the inside of the tire before mounting and adding the inner tube. Allows the inner tube to easily slip, when necessary, while the tire is mounted and adjusted, and during normal riding. Helps prevent failures due to pinching or folding.
Paraffin Wax: Dry lube for chain and components which may rub. One old trick is to take a well cleaned chain, and soak it in a melted paraffin bath. After removal and cooling, the paraffin wax soaked into the chain results in well lubed chain which will not attract and hold onto sand and grit.