Looking to save some cash on bike maintenance? A few essential tools and some guidance and advice will see you right
Fettling with your bikes is sometimes half the fun. Here’s the ultimate workshop toolkit to ensure you can fix, upgrade and modify your pride and joy. If you scrimp where you can but spend where you have to you can quickly build the ultimate workshop toolkit without too much expense.
Of course, if you have the cash to hand you can splurge on one of the best mountain bike tool kits which comes ready-stocked with all those essential bits you’ll need. And don’t forget, whatever you home workshop set up, you’ll need a really good multitool for on-trail repairs and tweaks. You could also try bodging workshop tools that you’ll only need every so often.
1. Allen keys
Allen keys adjust most things on your bike, you’ll need sizes 3, 4, 5 and 6mm. It’s also worth having a 2mm and a 2.5mm for things like brake lever reach adjustment and a 8mm for crank bolts.
Ideally go for a separate set rather than just the ones you get on a multi-tool. The longer handles will give you easier access and better control, and you can get a set that includes all the sizes you need usually in a handy holster or holder.
2. Torx keys
A star-shaped Allen key, the most common is the T25 used on your disc rotors — buy an individual tool and replace it as it wears out. We highly recommend choosing an L-Shaped or T-Bar design from Park Tools.
If you want to increase your options, for example if your bike has more torx bolts than just the rotors, then it’s worth considering a set or cluster block, such as the one Lezyne produces.
3. Cable cutters
You’ll need these for trimming hoses and brake cables, and quality is important as they need to be sharp to get through outer gear cable cleanly.
We like Shimano’s SIS cable cutters which come with a section for pinching cable ferrules tight without cutting through them.
4. Needle nose pliers (and side cutters)
For gripping thing, tightening things, holding things, a good set of pliers is essential. Needle nose ones – which have, as the name suggest, a long narrow nose – really are better suited to bike stuff.
You might also want to consider getting some side cutters, as they’re great for trimming down zip ties accurately and without leaving too much dangerously sharp protrusions post-snip.
5. Chain tool
You literally won’t be able to replace or install a chain properly without a chain tool. Even with Powerlinks which snap into place, you’ll still need to adjust new chains for length to fit your bike properly. This is an essential piece of kit.
6. Flat and cross screwdrivers
You won’t use a screwdriver much, except to adjust the high and low limit screws on derailleurs, and possibly the shifter cable access covers. You need a Phillips head screwdriver.
The fact is, if you only have a mini-pump you’ll never stay on top of your tyre pressure status. With a track pump it’s quick and easy to check and top-up your tyres before a ride, and the pressure gauge means you can be consistent and accurate with your tyre status.
We suggest going for a sturdy one with a pressure gauge that’s easy to see, a long hose, and comfortable handle; while track pumps are easier to use, you’ll still be pumping it for a few minutes so the more efficient and comfortable it is to use, the better.
8. Tyre levers
This is another essential piece of kit. You’ll be using tyre levers a lot – for removing or reseating tyres after changing them, setting up a tubeless system, or changing to a tube-system.
You want one that hooks under the tyre bead and one end, then potentially hooks around a spoke at the other end, and is easy to use. Most tyre levers are plastic, though you can get metal ones which are strong, but a little extra care is needed so they don’t damage wheel rims.
Topeak makes one of the best tyre levers, the Shuttle 1.2, made from stainless steel and plastic. It won’t break easily and is provides plenty of leverage, too.
If you find it hard to grip tyre levers or are looking for a little protection for your fingers, then we suggest either the Crankbrothers Speedier Lever or a tyre seating tool which has a scissor-like action and is great for reseating difficult tyres.
To get the best out of your mountain bike, you’ll need a shock pump. It’s not just for that initial set up; you’ll want to tinker with suspension pressure to adapt to different loads – if you’re riding with a heavy bag, for example – terrain, temperatures, and also because pressure will naturally drop over time.
We recommend a pump with a visible gauge, preferably digital. One of the best shock pumps we’ve tested is the Lezyne Shock Drive.
10. Chain whip and cassette lock-ring tool
Essential to remove your cassette. Go for a socket wrench type. This tool also fits Shimano Centre-Lock rotors. SRAM and Shimano both use the same pattern and size. Try Park Tools or Shimano.
Without a chain whip, the cassette lock-ring tool will just spin as you try to loosen it.
Look for a whip with the chain bolted on, not just moulded in, as it’ll last longer and shouldn’t split. Park Tools makes the best.
Six more suggestions…
Keeps the water out of your bike’s innards and helps things slide together easily. Any grease will do. We recommend buying a Weldtite grease gun for precise application.
2. BB tool
The newer external bottom bracket design uses a big socket tool or spanner type BB tool to adjust it. Superstar’s Hollowtech 2 fits all HT2 BBs except Shimano.
3. Spoke key
Wheel spokes need tightening; use a little spoke key wrench. Keys are available in different sizes (or gauges) and different shapes (Mavic wheels use a star drive). We like the M-Part Buddy Spokey — it fits standard Euro spokes.
4. Torque wrench
An adjustable socket wrench allows you to tighten a fastener to a preset amount — essential for bar and stem clamps, as they need to be tight but not overly so. Topeak’s Torque 5 is preset to 5Nm so there’s no faff and it’s cheaper than a proper wrench.
Getting the bike off the ground is vital to work on things like gears, and it’ll save your back from pain. Buy the best you can as it’ll last longer — Feedback Sports’ (formerly Ultimate) Pro Elite is stable and easy to use.
6. Pedal spanner
If you ride flat pedals you’ll need a proper pedal spanner to remove them. It’s thinner than a regular spanner to get into the tight space. Go for a long-handle one to save you effort and grazed knuckles; Park Tools’ is a handy 11.5 inches long.
Mountain bike maintenance tips and advice
You’ve got the tools, now you need to know what to do with them. Check out our How To section for advice on how to keep your bike in great condition and running sweetly.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, working on your bike can be rewarding and mindful.