Having the knowledge and the tools to service and repair your own bike will save you time and money, it will make your rides more enjoyable, and it will reward you with a tremendous sense of satisfaction
Read our guide to the best mountain bike tool kits in 2019. Arm yourself with a bike tool kit for that fresh-out-of-the-box feeling on every ride.
The best mountain bike tool kits for 2020
- Birzman Studio Tool Box, £369.99, 10/10
- Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit, £300, 9/10
- Topeak Prepbox 18, £349.99, 9/10
- Unior Pro Home Set 1600 CN, £349.99, 8/10
- B’Twin 900 Bike Tool Box, £59.99, 7/10
- Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit, £349.99, 7/10
Certain jobs are quite tricky and require specialist tools – servicing some suspension components, for example – but beneath all the shims and hydraulics, the modern mountain bike is still a relatively simple vehicle to work on. And with so many video tutorials readily available, it’s never been easier to DIY.
To get started you’ll need a workstand and a tool kit. For the latter, it’s possible to build up all the tools you need on a piecemeal basis, buying whatever you need to complete a specific task as and when necessary. But this tends to be an expensive way to do things. The alternative is to buy a complete tool kit; these tend to be better value for money, come with tools that you may not have considered buying, and all packaged neatly in a case that keeps them neat and clean and easy to transport, so you can sling it in the car for trips away.
For a modern mountain bike, these tool kits need to include the following: Allen keys from 2mm to 10mm; Torx keys, including T10, T25, T30; Chain breaker; Cassette tool (ideally compatible with RockShox forks); Chain whip; BB tool; Split link pliers; tyre levers; screwdrivers; Spoke key; Cable cutters.
Of course there are many other tools that it would be nice to have, but these are the basics required to start a home workshop.
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B’Twin 900 Bike Tool Box
Specification: weight: 2.45kg • 16 tools • Size: 350x240x73mm • Contact: decathlon.co.uk
Significantly more affordable than all of the other tool kits here, we included the B’Twin 900 to see whether spending a fraction of the cash still gets you a decent, durable product.
The answer is, to a certain degree, yes. You still get all of your tools packed neatly in a plastic case, and all the usual basics are present, along with a few items that are nice to have, such as the chainring bolt spanner and a socket set. There’s a chain whip and cassette tool (which can also be used on RockShox air caps) complete with thick, comfortable rubber handles, a chain splitter and a useful set of plug-in driver and socket bits. These include Torx bits, so should be useful for removing disc rotors, but they only fit the long end of a L-handle, so it’s difficult to get enough leverage to loosen the bolts.
There are further compromises elsewhere. The Allen keys are short and not the same quality found in the more expensive tool kits. The cone spanners are basically redundant on modern mountain bikes, there are no cable cutters and the tyre levers were too thick to get under the bead of our stubborn tubeless tyre – the only set that didn’t work.
At £60 the 900 Bike Tool Box gives you a decent selection of tools at a bargain price, but it is aimed at the recreational cyclist with a road bike or an entry-level hardtail in the shed. As such it would make a good starter kit, but it doesn’t have enough specific mountain bike tools to be particularly useful if you own a modern trail bike.
Birzman Studio Tool Box
Specification: weight: 7.91kg • 37 tools • Size: 470x370x130mm • Contact: silverfish-uk.com
The Birzman Studio Tool Box houses its contents in a briefcase, but unlike most of its competition there’s an extra layer of tools thanks to a removable tray that doubles as a work surface when you’re away from home. This means it boasts a hefty 37 tools, more than any other here, and more importantly for mountain bikers, it’s packed full of useful items.
Take for example the Disc Brake Gap Indicator. This is a tool that will literally change your life. It’s a thin butterfly of aluminium that inserts between your brake pads and rotor to ensure the perfect caliper position and drag-free rolling. No more squinting and nudging to align your brakes anymore.
There’s also a pad spreader tool and rotor truing fork, meaning that all your disc brake needs (barring a bleed kit) are covered.
On top of that there’s a saw guide for cutting fork steerer tubes, a headset star nut installation tool and a dead blow hammer.
The cutters are excellent, producing clean, crisp ends in cable inner and outer, and there’s also a needle nose plier with end cap crimping tool and diagonal pliers that are ideal for snipping zip ties.
The split link pliers make removing your chain a doddle and there’s even a valve core remover, tape measure and half round file.
There are some weak points – the tyre levers feel flimsy, the centre pin on the Shimano HG tool means you can’t use it to remove RockShox top caps, but overall we were really impressed with the Birzman Studio Box. It’s a comprehensive tool kit with a strong mountain bike slant, making it our test winner.
Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit
Specification: weight: 3.43kg • 19 tools • Size: 330x270x57mm • Contact: 2pure.co.uk
With its fold-out soft binder case, the Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit resembles the kind of set-up a pro team mechanic would use at a race. What’s really cool is that, once folded out, it can be strapped to a workstand (such as the Feedback Sports Recreational), keeping all the tools neatly to hand.
Once unzipped, the Team Edition continues to impress. This is a high quality tool kit that any tool fetishist would drool over. Details like the dual sided pick make it stand out from the crowd – perfect for opening up the ends of gear housing and removing seals from cartridge bearings. There’s also a superb little valve core remover and the long, sturdy tyre levers are the best on test.
All the tools have either a comfortable, rubberised grip or a beautiful polished chrome finish with rounded edges that make using them a joy.
The cable cutters worked well and include an integrated end cap crimp, while the chain tool has a neat, sprung-loaded cradle.
On the end of the BB spanner is the cassette lockring tool. It’s open ended, so it can be used to remove RockShox air caps, but the extra length and weight does mean you have to be more careful not to mark the crown.
With only Y-handle Allen and Torx keys (it’s also missing a T10 Torx), you’d still need to buy an Allen key and Torx key block, as well as split link pliers and a torque wrench, but the Feedback Sports Team Edition is a beautiful, functional and portable tool kit from which to expand your home workshop. We’ve also seen it online for a lot less than the suggested retail price, making it something of a bargain.
Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit
Specification: weight: 5.52kg • 29 tools • Size: 440x260x240mm • Contact: freewheel.co.uk
It’s fair to say that Park Tool is the biggest name in bike tools, and its products are ubiquitous in workshops throughout the world – including ours.
The Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit comes in a traditional tool box, rather than a more modern briefcase. The benefit of this is that there’s plenty of room to expand the kit with tools you already own, or end up buying later. On the flipside, everything ends up getting chucked in on top of each other, making it more difficult to find specific tools than the well-organised briefcase options, and there’s more chance of items getting damaged. Park claims there are 40 tools in the box, but because several are multi-purpose, there are actually only 29 individual items. And of those, several feel a bit like stocking fillers – the chain cleaner, washing brush and bottle opener, for example.
However, there are some really useful tools as well. The chain pliers work well and the chain tool is a favourite with pro mechanics and you’ll see in used in bike shops everywhere.
The cable cutters didn’t leave as crisp a finish on cable housing as the Feedback Sports, but they didn’t fray the inner wire.
With basic plastic coatings on the handles, some of the Park tools didn’t look or feel as high quality as the Topeak or Feedback Sports, but it was nice to have the adjustable spanner and the tape measure.
With an open end, the cassette removal tool can be used to add or remove volume spacers on your RockShox fork, and the adjustable spanner can be used to true a bent rotor, but the Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit doesn’t really feel that advanced, or particularly good value for money, and could do with more specific mountain bike tools to make it relevant to today’s riders.
Topeak Prepbox 18
Specification: weight: 4.41kg • 18 tools • Size: 405x320x115mm • Contact: extrauk.co.uk
Inside Topeak’s sturdy briefcase is a well-organised selection of tools held securely by dual-density foam. There are 18 individual tools included and only the cassette brush could be considered filler. Separating the two sides of the case is a foam sleeve that also doubles as a clean workspace, or kneeling pad, when you’re prepping your bike in the field.
As it’s increasingly important not to overtighten bolts, it’s great to see Topeak includes a torque wrench in the Prepbox. It’s pretty basic compared to a ratchet model, but it works well. There’s also a full set of long-handle Allen and Torx keys as well as dual ended flat head and Phillips screwdrivers that plug into a separate handle. The chain checker can be used to hold two cut ends together while joining, but there are no split link pliers. We liked the fact that the chain tool comes with a spare driver pin stored in the handle.
BB and cassette tools fit into a sturdy 1/2in drive breaker bar, while the latter can be used on RockShox air caps.
Finally, the cable cutters are pressed steel, rather than forged, but they work fine, include a crimping tool for end caps and a really neat recessed pin on the handle that can be used like a pick to open up freshly cut cable housing.
The Topeak Prepbox features a stack of really useful tools, the quality is good and there are some neat extras that show its designers have really thought about what’s useful to the roving mechanic. Its only weakness is that it’s not particularly focussed on modern mountain bikes, and lacks quite a few items compared to the similarly priced Birzman.
Unior Pro Home Set 1600 CN
Specification: weight: 3.23kg • 19 tools • Size: 400x335x100mm • Contact: 2pure.co.uk
With its bright blue briefcase, the Unior Pro Home Set is certainly distinctive. Open up the box and the contents are impressive – all the tools are neatly held in a custom foam insert. Unfortunately a few tools seemed to fall out every time we opened the case and the insert itself wasn’t that well fixed to the shell.
That said, the quality of the tools themselves are difficult to criticise. Staples like the cable cutters and split link pliers worked well and it is pleasing to see MTB-specific tools such as the rotor truing fork and pad separator included.
Also included are some unique tools that make the Unior kit stand out from the crowd. A strap-on gauge turns your frame into a wheel truing jig. It’s a clever idea, but nothing you can’t do with a simple zip tie, or tyre lever secured with an elastic band around the seatstays.
To remove the cassette, there’s a three-pin tool that locates between the teeth of the sprockets. Again it’s clever, but doesn’t really offer any advantage over a traditional chain whip, and the cassette tool isn’t compatible with RockShox air caps. But we did like the Shimano crank cap tool that clings magnetically to the BB spanner. And the tyre levers worked well.
Less impressive was the chain tool – the driver pin was slightly bent in our unit, and breaking a chain seemed to require more force than the other models on test.
Good quality though they are, the Y-handle Allen and Torx keys will need supplementing with separate tools to really cater for most maintenance jobs. The Unior Pro Home Set is great quality, but a few omissions and the fit of the case means it’s not perfect.
Best mountain bike tool kits conclusion
Of these toolkits, the least impressive is the Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Kit. While you get a lot of items, some feel like they are there to pad out the contents, and there’s a lack of specific mountain bike tools. You can’t argue with the price of B’Twin’s 900 Tool Box, but the quality isn’t that great and it’s missing essential items such as cable cutters.
Initially we were really impressed with the Unior Pro Home Set 1600 CN, and certainly the quality of the tools is very good, but a few of them didn’t quite live up to our expectations and the fact that several tools fell out every time we opened the case became really annoying.
The top three tool kits were really hard to split, and any of them would make a fine foundation to any home workshop. With its foldout binder, the Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit looks and feels like a pro spec item. We love how you can attach it to a workstand in the field and it comes with a really useful selection of quality tools. The Topeak Prepbox 18 also comes with a well thought out array of tools, including a handy torque wrench, and a sturdy case that can be expanded with external pouches as you add items.
Which leaves the comprehensive Birzman Studio Tool Kit as our test winner. It packs in an impressive array of tools for the price, along with some really clever extras that you won’t find anywhere else.
Know your tool kits
Absolutely vital, the Allen key, or hex key, usually comes in either L-shape form or on a three-way Y tool. The L-shape with a ball-end is the most useful, as it lets you access awkward areas and exert enough torque to remove stubborn fasteners. 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm and 10mm are needed.
Increasingly present on modern bikes, the Torx key uses a star-shape interface that engages with a larger surface area and is less likely to slip. On a bike, the most used sizes are T10, T25 and T30.
Used to shorten new chains and remove bent links, the chain tool drives the rivet out of the link. The driver pin should be replaceable, the tool should hold the chain securely and adjust to different widths, and there should be a cradle that lets you remove stiff links.
Use these to cut gear wires and housing to length. They need to make a clean cut, without fraying, and have a section designed to crimp an end cap in place.
Split link pliers
Most chains now fasten using a split link. This makes installation really easy, but you’ll need these special pliers to compress the chain and remove the link when it’s time for a new one.
Chain Whip (or pliers)
Use the chain whip to stop the sprockets rotating backwards on the freehub body when removing the cassette.
Valve core remover
Use this to unscrew the valve core from Presta valves – means you can pour tubeless sealant through the valve and allow better airflow when seating the tyre.
Chain wear indicator
Tells you when your chain has worn out and needs replacing. Sometimes the reverse has a pair of hooks that hold the split ends in place during joining.