Doing your own bike maintenance and repairs can be rewarding and save you money. But which tools will make looking after your bike easier and more practical?
We’ve spent years tinkering in the depths of workshops. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t, so we’ve compiled a list of our 10 favourite bike workshop hand tools that make our lives easier and the outcome better.
Of course, this list doesn’t cover everything we use and love in the workshop and some of these items may be unnecessary for your needs. If we missed something that you feel is essential, why not tell us which hand tools make your time spent fettling your bike better?
Custom spoke tool
A simple spoke can be made into many useful tools – our favourite is a sharpened poking tool: a simple spoke can be made into many useful tools – our favourite is a sharpened poking tool David Rome / Future Publishing
It’s a simple tool that probably every bike shop has. Spokes can be used for many things, from catching hooks while internally wiring a frame or as a simple chain holder for connecting a new chain.
Our favourite thing is using a spoke as a poking tool – it’s great for cleaning freshly cut gear housing, removing bearings seals or just scraping dirt from delicate places. We use a normal steel spoke, cut the thread off and grind it down to a sharp point. Extra style points for bending the elbow end into a handle (we earn no style point for ours).
Flush cut side cutters
Flush cutters for cutting zip-ties smooth is cheap and all about safety – available in most hardware or hobby stores : David Rome / Future Publishing
Cutting your zipties with scissors or diagonal side-cutters will leave a sharp edge, which can be dangerous – we’ve seen sharp-edged zipties slice through skin before.
Flush cutters have no bevel on the cutting blade, so they leave no such edge – cutting zipties has never been neater!
Quality Allen keys
Allen keys would be the most commonly used tools on a modern bicycle – a quality set is a must: David Rome / Future Publishing
Cheap Allen keys can easily do more harm than good, rounding out bolts or just not offering enough leverage for basic tasks.
Every mechanic will have their favourite style of Allen key – T-handle, P-handle, Y-style or L-style. Find a style that works for you and invest in a quality set. Sizes from 1.5mm to 10mm are the most commonly used.
A mini bit ratchet can make the fiddly jobs a breeze: David Rome / Future Publishing
It took us sometime to appreciate this, but it’s amazing how much a small ratchet with interchangeable bits can speed up certain tasks. Our favourite uses for this tool are seatpost cradle clamps, bidon cage bolts and anywhere else tool clearance and space is limited.
There’s plenty of options on the market, but we’re fond of PrestaCycle’s offering.
Torx bolts are growing in popularity – see the size difference between the key that comes free with brakes and the one’s many bike shops use : David Rome / Future Publishing
Torx head bolts are growing in popularity on higher-end bikes and components, and trying to undo them with a little T25/T10 tool that came with your disc brake rotors is a frustrating experience.
Just like Allen keys, you need to invest in a good quality set of Torx keys – T10, T20, T25 and T30 are the sizes to own.
Cable housing cutters
Quality cable housing cutters save plenty of time and frustration with clean cuts: David Rome / Future Publishing
If you’re planning on replacing your gear cables, do it right. A good pair of side-cutters will work but they also crimp the housing and fray the cable end, so you should really invest in a good housing cutter (aka wire rope cutter).
This will make cleaner cuts and give better braking and shifting performance.
One-piece cassette tool
Cassette tool with a handle, so much better than an adjustable wrench: David Rome / Future Publishing
Giving your cassette tool a permanent handle will save time and do away with the nuisance of having to wrestle a chainwhip, cassette tool and an adjustable spanner all at once.
The best one-piece cassette tool available is the Abbey Bike Works Crombie cassette tool, which has a thin hollow design that allows it to be used without removing the quick-release skewer.
Pre-set torque wrench
Torqkey’s are simple pre-set torque wrenches designed for parts that commonly need a particular torque : David Rome / Future Publishing
Preset torque wrenches are cheaper than adjustable versions – these simple wrenches are preset to commonly-used torques. The Snap-on CDI Torque Preset T-Handle torque wrench or Ritchey Multi-Torqkey are good examples – they’re quick and simple to use.
A double sided hammer is sometimes just the perfect tool…: David Rome / Future Publishing
Even on a delicate bike, a hammer is a useful tool – it can help with removing a crankset or knocking out bearings.
We favour a double-sided hammer, with a non-marring plastic face on one side and standard steel face on the other.
Long pedal wrenches
Removing pedals is all about leverage – see a standard size 15mm spanner against a professional pedal wrench. a pedal wrench is also narrower to fit the often tight space between pedal and crank arm : David Rome / Future Publishing
We move plenty of pedals between test bikes. Whether your pedals have wrench flats or need an Allen key, good leverage is the key. Our go-to pedal wrench is the Professional Pedal wrench from Park Tool, it’s durable and affords plenty of leverage.