Best tool kits for cyclists

By BikeRadar UK | Thursday, January 10, 2013 2.11pm

In lean times it pays to do your own wrenching, but to maintain and repair your bike with any success you'll need a decent quality tool kit. Here's our pick of the best cycling-specific offerings we've tested to date.

How we rated them

To judge the latest bike tool kits we put together a list of the most common jobs riders would carry out themselves and came up with a shortlist of 10 important items:

  • Allen keys – ideally long, T-shaped (as these give the best leverage and are easier on the hands) and ball-ended (for use in tight spaces). Our next preferred option is Y-shaped, followed by the standard L-shaped type
  • Bottom bracket tool – with solid engagement and good leverage
  • Chain tool  – with smooth action
  • Cassette removal tools
  • Chainring bolt tool
  • Cable cutters – for changing gear cables, which can be a chore if you ride regularly through winter. Look for rounded blades as these clip the whole way round the cable, giving a clean snip
  • Pedal spanner
  • Tyre levers
  • Screwdrivers – for front and rear mech limit screws, plus a tiny screwdriver is always useful
  • Torx drivers – for brake/rotor adjustment

We set any extras we considered valuable alongside this range and balanced it against the quality of the tools and value for money that each set represented.

Best tool kits for cyclists

Pedro's Bench in a Box

£749.99 / US$880

5:

Pedro's bench in a box:

Pedro’s have stuffed the contents of a home workshop into a cardboard box. Finish and functionality are excellent, so just get yourself a chest for a fully equipped workspace. 

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Pedro’s Bench in a Box tool kit.

  • Tools: Hex keys (L-shaped, T-shaped, Y-shaped), Torx keys (T-shaped, Y-shaped), chain tool, 8, 9 & 10mm spanners (combination), cable cutters, tyre levers, screwdrivers, spoke keys, vice whip, cassette lockring tool, torque wrench, pedal spanner, cone spanners, external cup BB tool, Shimano cartridge BB tool, crank extractor, socket/tool drive, tape measure, parts bowl, threadless nut setter, BMX freewheel remover, BB tools (6-pin, 8-pin, Campagnolo SKS), headset spanners, cable wrench, bottle opener
  • From: Pedro's / 2Pure (UK) 

Cyclo Tool Shadow Board & Tools

£750.99 / US$N/A

5:

Cyclo tool shadow board & tools: cyclo tool shadow board & tools

If you value order in your workshop, the Shadow Board displays 80 high quality tools for removing and adjusting just about everything: files, screwdrivers, spanners, chain whip, crank extractors, pliers and a 3/8in drive torque wrench with 4-8mm hex drives, 25 and 32mm sockets plus a ½in drive convertor. The hex keys are ball-ended and L-shaped, but they’re fine quality, as are all the tools. 

The forged extra long, angled pedal spanner has plastic guards to protect cranks, there’s a great inner wire puller to help when tightening pinch bolts, a Vernier gauge and a ruler for measuring spokes and nipples. There are no Torx keys or chainring bolt tool, but these are easily added.

  • Tools: Hex keys (L-shaped), chain checker, chain tool, 8, 9 & 10mm spanners (combination and socket), cable cutters, screwdrivers, spoke keys, chain whip, cassette lockring tool, torque wrench, pedal spanner, cone spanners, external cup BB tool, Shimano cartridge BB tool, crank extractor, drive bits, pliers (conventional, narrow, circlip, slip joint), scissors, files, hammers (metal, rubber/plastic), freewheel remover (singlespeed, Shimano UG, Suntour, BMX), BB tools (fixed cup, lockring, 2-pin), headset spanners, cable wrench, spoke ruler, Vernier gauge
  • From: Weldtite  

Park Tool EK-1

£550 / US$650

4.5:

Park tool ek-1: park tool ek-1

Just opening the Park Tool box is impressive – it has a clear layout and easy-access design, and there are spaces for you to add extra tools, meaning you really can pack your entire workshop in. 

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Park Tool EK-1 tool kit.

  • Tools: Hex wrench sets, cassette lockring tools (Campagnolo & Shimano), BB tools, bottle opener, chain wear indicator, crank wrench, chainring nut wrench, cable cutter, chain lube, crank puller, folding chain tool, hammer, combination wrenches, adjustable wrench, pedal spanner, tape measure, cone wrench set, screwdrivers, spoke wrenches, sprocket removal tool, tyre levers, pliers, star driver, knife, brush 
  • From: Park Tool / Madison (UK) 

Unior 1600E1N Bike Toolbox 

£439.52 / US$N/A

4: 4

Unior 1600e1n bike toolbox: unior 1600e1n bike toolbox

Unior’s cantilevered steel toolbox is satisfyingly rugged, as are its 37 tools. The package includes a tough Unior apron, and there’s still spare space in the toolbox.

Click here to read BikeRadar’s full review of the Unior 1600E1N Bike Toolbox.

  • Tools: Hex keys (T-shaped), Torx keys (T-shaped), chain checker, chain tool, cable cutters, screwdrivers, spoke keys, chain whip, cassette lockring tool, adjustable spanner, pedal spanner, cone spanners, external cup BB tool, Shimano cartridge BB tool, crank extractor, bottle opener, ball race remover, crown race setter, headset cup remover, apron, toolbox/case
  • From: Unior

Birzman TravelSpirit Tool Box with Toolkit

£315 / US$N/A

4:

Birzman travel spirit tool box: birzman travel spirit tool box

The Birzman tools are the ones we found ourselves sighing over and finding excuses to pick up, just to think about what we might do on the bike. The quality is superb, right down to the ergonomic design of the handles, which sit perfectly in your hands. 

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Birzman TravelSpirit Tool Box with Toolkit.

  • Tools: Wrench set, long-arm ball-point hex key set, combination wrench, BB tool, deadblow hammer, cable cutter, ratchet set, chain rivet extractor, tyre levers, disc brake gap measurer, oil bottle
  • From: Birzman / Birzman UK 

Pedro's Master Tool Kit 3.0

£900 / US$670

3.5:

Pedro's master toolkit 3.0: pedro's master toolkit 3.0

No, you didn’t read that price wrong, but for your (really quite stupendous) outlay you do get 63 separate items. There’s also no compromise in the specification of the case, which is solidly built and has a waterproof seal.

Click here to read BikeRadar's full review of the Pedro's Master Tool Kit 3.0.

  • Tools: Y Torx wrench, Y wrenches, cable cutter, chain tool, pedal wrench, cone wrenches, tyre levers, screwdrivers, hex drivers, chain lube, ISIS & external bearing BB tools, HG socket, lockring/cassette tool, crank puller, tape measure, T/L hex set, bottle opener, vice whip, Shimano BB tool, BB socket holder
  • From: Pedro's / 2Pure (UK) 

Low budget choices 

Rose Xtreme All2gether XL

£93.46 / US$N/A

4: 4

Rose xtreme all2gether xl: rose xtreme all2gether xl

Supplied in a sturdy box with lift out top compartment and removable steel tray, this has a selection of well-considered tools. Long L-shaped ball-ended hex keys from 1.5-10mm and a single T25 Torx key will deal with most bike tasks, the chain tool is adjustable with a spare pin, there’s a chain whip, lockring and bottom bracket tools, cable cutters and three good spoke keys. 

A pair of open spanners fit 8/10 and 12/14mm, but we’d prefer some combi spanners including 9mm and better screwdrivers. Extras include a chain-cleaner, disc pad separators and headset spanners. Tool quality is decent, especially the hex keys and chain tool, and the box has room for your kit to grow.

  • Tools: Hex keys (L-shaped), Torx keys (L-shaped), chain tool, 8, 9 & 10mm spanners (combination), cable cutters, tyre levers, screwdrivers, spoke keys, chain whip, cassette lockring tool, pedal spanner, cone spanners, chainring bolt wrench, external cup BB tool, Shimano cartridge BB tool, crank extractor, puncture repair kit, cleaning brush, BB tools (8-pin), headset spanners, chain cleaner, disc pad separators, toolbox/case
  • From: Rose Bikes  

X-Tools Bike Tool Kit

£60 / US$102

3: 3

X-Tools bike toolkit: x-tools bike toolkit

This is a neat and, with the exception of cable cutters, comprehensive set. There are some economies of scale to get everything into such a small package, like the screwdriver, which is double ended. But on another scale completely, this kit has the largest tyre levers we’ve ever seen – even the most stubborn rubber must yield to them. There’s a puncture repair set included, and the best extra is a cassette tool with an engaging pin.

The only element that jars is the storage of the basic Allen keys and small screwdriver. These are stashed in recesses below the larger tools, which makes them look like late additions. But that’s a very small quibble when you get such a lot of functional content for your money. And because the Allen keys don’t have their own custom slots you can upgrade them as and when you can afford to.

  • Tools: Tyre levers, chain whip, Shimano compatible BB tool, pedal spanner, Hollowtech 2 tensioning tool, Allen keys, screwdrivers, cone spanners, chainring bolt tool, puncture repair kit, spoke key, crank remover, cassette tool, splined BB tool, Torx L wrench, chain breaker
  • From: Hotlines (UK)

Mid budget choices 

PRO Professional Hardcase

£189.99 / US$261.24

4: 4

PRO professional hardcase: pro professional hardcase

PRO’s Professional Hardcase comes laid out in a clamshell plastic case with snap-in slots. Pro doesn’t supply conventional spanners and screwdrivers, assuming you have these already, but the bike tools are great to use. The bottom bracket, cassette lockring and crank removal tools all have comfy rubber handles, as do the chain whip, cable cutters, pedal and cone spanners. 

The ball-ended hex keys are functionally excellent but their circular holder is quite tight. A Y-tool has T25, T30 and T40 Torx keys, and the double-ended spoke wrench with five interchangeable tips splits in half for easier use. Good chain and chainring bolt tools round off a high quality kit.

  • Tools: Hex keys (L-shaped), Torx keys (Y-shaped), cable cutters, tyre levers, spoke keys, chain whip, cassette lockring tool, pedal spanner, cone spanners, chainring bolt wrench, external cup BB tool, Shimano cartridge BB tool, crank extractor, toolbox/case
  • From: PRO / Madison (UK)

PRO Toolbox

£190 / US$300

3: 3

PRO toolbox: pro toolbox

This hard case tool kit from Shimano offshoot PRO doesn’t have the same quantity of tools as the highest scoring sets in this round-up, but those that it does have are of a high quality – as reflected in the price. It hits nine out of 10 on our wishlist, with the missing screwdriver set being an add-on that isn’t too painful on the wallet. The beefy handles make it easy to get a good grip, and we also like the little graphic that shows exactly what each item does. 

There are both internal and external bottom bracket tools, as well as spoke key extras – a useful addition, although truing wheels is a specialist skill that won’t be part of every home mechanic’s skill set. All in all, this is a well-designed and well considered buy. It’s concise in the selection of tools but hits almost all your likely mechanical needs.

  • Tools: Hex wrenches, tyre levers, Torx Y-wrench, chain tool, cable cutters, bottom bracket wrenches, sprocket wrench set, crank removal tool, cone wrenches, spoke key, pedal wrench 
  • From: PRO / Madison (UK)

Travel choice: Lezyne Port-A-Shop

£90 / US$130

3: 3

Lezyne port-a-shop:

The Port-A-Shop isn’t really a home tool kit but rather, as the name would suggest, a portable travel set. The neat case, which is organisational heaven, houses three multi-tools containing Allen keys and Torx wrenches, plus a screwdriver/pedal hex mix. With the right tools to complete just five of our nominated tasks, on its own it wouldn’t be enough for a complete home workshop. But the mix of key tools plus chain tool and tyre levers is enough to complete the majority of fettling jobs.

The multi-tools go beyond what we’d expect in terms of functionality because of the quality of the manufacturing. The one-piece machined bodies provide rock solid stability, and the amount of torque you can apply is fantastic. This is workshop quality in multi-tool form. One especially good extra is a wedge for separating brake pads; it’s a feature that defines this set for us. For definitive home workshop use we can’t score the Port-A-Shop as highly as we’d like, but it’s perhaps the ultimate travel companion.

  • Tools: Metric Allen key set, Torx key set, Phillips and flat head screwdrivers, chain breaker, spoke wrenches, tyre levers, 15mm wrench, bottle opener, patch kit, brake pad wedge
  • From: Lezyne / Upgrade (UK)

Tool kit top tips

Be realistic about what jobs you’re going to carry out at home yourself – there’s no point in buying the most extensive kit if you’re a part-time fettler who only needs a decent set of Allen keys. 

Once you’ve worked out what you need, buy the best you can afford. Cheap tools round off more quickly and too much play can damage your bike. And as Allen keys account for most of your bike work, buy the best – T-shaped with ball-ends. 

Related links

Any tool that’s a slight fiddle to operate now will become a major irritation by the third time you use it. Replace or upgrade to avoid unpleasant maintenance meltdowns. 

4 If you can’t see a kit that’s right for you, buy your own box and start a collection from scratch. Keep to points two and three above and you’ll have something that lasts for years. 

5 And finally, add a box of latex gloves to your workshop shopping list. Once you get over the slightly pervy feeling you’ll appreciate not having to (unsuccessfully) scrub oil from under your nails before that important work meeting.

This article is based on group tests originally published in What Mountain Bike and Cycling Plus magazines, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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