16 Bike Tools Every Cyclist Should Have
1. Chain Checker
As cassettes have gone from eight speeds to nine, 10 and 11, chains and cogsets have become increasingly expensive. So improperly judging wear on these parts carries painful financial consequences. With the likes of Park Tool’s CC-2 ($27), you can accurately gauge your chain’s life in real terms so you don’t toss one that still has miles to go—and you don’t keep using one so worn that it starts eating your cassette cogs alive.
2. Torx Keys
Someday, every piece of hex hardware on every bike is going to be a Torx bolt. There: That’s my prediction. Disc-brake-rotor hardware is nearly all Torx already, and Campagnolo uses Torx on many of its newest components, as does SRAM throughout its XX group and FSA for chainring bolts. Three sizes will cover everything you need (at least until the takeover is complete): T-10, T-25 and T-30. Park Tool makes a folding set (the TWS-2, $19) that has these sizes and more.
3. Floor Pump
This is obvious—but which one to get? No one on earth pumps more tires in any given season than SRAM Neutral Race Support’s Jose Alcala. The man is present at more than 100 race days a year with no less than 36 wheels—and usually more. And every tire is topped off every morning before the first racers arrive to sign in. Alcala uses an SKS Airbase Pro pump ($80). End of story.
As minipumps go, you can’t get bigger dependability than the Crank Brothers Power Pump Alloy ($38). It’s not the most expensive model, nor the lightest available. But its durable, CNC-machined barrel and accurate dial gauge make it ideal for the roadside or trail. Set it to high volume to fill tires quickly to about 80 psi; when the pumping gets tough, twist a knob to switch into high-pressure mode and inflate up to 130 psi.
5. Chain Tool
These come in many varieties, from compact, budget models that simply get the job done to gorgeous, lust-worthy pieces of art that make every chain replacement feel like a sacred ritual. For a 10-speed drivetrain, the Shimano TL-CN32 ($155), with its stunning wood handles, might be the finest tool on the market. And your 11-speed drivetrain calls for the elegant precision and function of Campagnolo’s UN-CT300 (not shown).
6. Eight-, 9- and 10mm Combination Wrenches
Accessories such as racks and fenders are often fitted with small nuts and hex bolts. Snap-On wrenches ($22 each) are legendary for their quality, and in these sizes they aren’t much more expensive than those at your local megamart. Get the best and be done with it.
7. Tire Levers
If you have Mavic wheels, it’s best to change tires with Mavic levers ($10). Even if you don’t, the broad, flat blade and rigid plastic build make them kind to tires and rims and just as effective on stubborn ones.
8. Cable Cutter
The Felco C-7 cutter ($67) was the first bicycle-specific tool I purchased for my toolbox more than 20 years ago, and I still use that same one to this day. And I know mechanics who have had theirs for even longer. Sure, it’s expensive, but you just can’t argue with longevity like that.
9. Compact Scissors
Many pros love Fiskars 5-inch Micro-Tip scissors ($17). They’re handy for trimming handlebar wrap and snipping vinyl tape. And you’ll know right where they are next time you have to liberate a new toy from an irritating blister pack.
10. Hex Keys
Of the hand tools that are a necessity for every cyclist, first and most obvious are these. (Many people call them by the brand name, Allen.) Bicycle-specific toolmakers make sets, but quality metric keys from a hardware store work fine. Bondhus ($20) is a popular brand, known for its often-copied ball-shaped tip, which allows you to easily spin bolts from an angle, where access is limited. Get the following sizes: 1.5-, 2-, 2.5-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 8- and 10mm. These will work with tiny setscrews on suspension-fork adjuster knobs, crankarm fixing bolts and everything else.
11 & 12. Vise-Whip and Cassette Lockring Tool With Guide Pins and Handle
When it’s time to change your cogset, you’ll need a combination of tools. You can get by with an old-fashioned chain whip and cassette lockring tool, but Pedro’s cool, high-tech Vise-Whip ($70) locks into place on your cog, eliminating the chances of a knuckle-busting slip of a traditional whip. Pair it with the Cyclus cassette lockring tool ($25) that has both Shimano/ SRAM and Campagnolo lockring compatibility built into a single two-sided tool.
A good multitool can mean the difference between making a swift, easy midride adjustment and hobbling home with a scowl. Always carry a palm-sized workshop like the Lezyne RAP 13 ($25), which boasts eight sizes of hex and Torx keys, a Phillips screwdriver, a chain tool, two sizes of standard square spoke wrenches and a third spoke wrench for Mavic splined nipples.
14. Four-Way Screwdriver
Those who appreciate space efficiency and multitasking will dig this tool. Choose a version with quality steel tips that won’t round off or strip hardware. The four sizes will fit nearly every flat or Phillips screw on your bike.
15. Spoke Wrenches
With so many wheel manufacturers using unique spoke-nipple designs, it’s impossible to recommend any one model. If you have conventional square spoke nipples on your wheels, you can’t go wrong with Park Tool’s SW-0, SW-1 or SW-2 ($8 each). The design has hardly changed since the 1960s—and that’s because it doesn’t need changing.
16. Sharpened Spoke
A sharp pick has many uses, from opening the liner on a freshly cut piece of cable housing to poking leaves out of a cogset. You can sharpen the end of a broken spoke with a hand file to make your own. Bend a loop at the other end so you can hang it on a peg board.