Inside a professional toolbox

By Matt Pacocha, US editor | Thursday, April 29, 2010 9.00am

There are certain things professional bike mechanics must love: driving, living out of suitcases, dealing with adversity and working on bikes. As for personal effects, they must have a pimped out toolbox.

BikeRadar caught up with Joe Staub, the Giant Factory Off-Road Team’s head wrench, and received a first-hand rundown of the most used items in his toolbox.

Like almost all professional mechanics Staub owns his tools, and carries them in a suitcase-style case. Looking into his clamshell toolbox, one finds an eclectic mix of implements from a diverse array of suppliers, including Craftsman, Snap-on, Park Tool and Shimano’s PRO brand. Highlights include his Snap-on Speedy Ratchet, which works like a screwdriver or a ratchet due to its articulated head, Craftsman GearWrench articulated Allen keys and PRO torque wrench.

Staub counts the speedy ratchet as one of his most used items:

Snap-on's Speedy Ratchet works like a screwdriver or a ratchet due to its articulated head

The coolest tool in Staub’s collection is unbranded, however, and completely custom — an ultra-precise tyre pressure gauge with resolution down to ½psi. Staub and Justin Morse, who serves as the team’s downhill wrench and holds a mechanical engineering degree, prototyped the one-off piece using a precision industrial pressure gauge, some homemade machined components and a Mavic brass valve stem adaptor.

Both mechanics have been using the prototypes, which have a range from 0psi to 35psi, since last year’s Sea Otter Classic. Besides offering ultra precise and repeatable readings, the gauge features some super-slick features including a removable strainer to prevent tyre sealant from clogging the device, custom bleed valve, removable air hose and a calibration reset.

The liquid in the gauge serves to dampen vibrations in industrial situations. it serves no purpose for the bike, except maybe if you drop it:

Joe Staub and Justin Morse's custom tyre pressure gauge

Since the device is so precise, changes in altitude will skew readings. The calibration button allows the mechanics to compensate for this and reset the gauge to zero at the different venues. “The gauge doesn’t change the way the racers want their tyres to feel, but it allows them to make ½ to 1psi changes,” said Staub. “It really gives us a lot of confidence that we can make the exact changes they want.”

Morse and Staub hope to bring their gauge to market, though it will only be for the most serious mechanic or racer as the cost of the raw, unmodified gauge is roughly US$65. Staub estimated retail cost at somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100-120.

Craftsman's gear wrench hex driver:

Related links

Craftsman's GearWrench Allen keys are articulated for access to tight spots

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