It’s often said that all good things must come to an end, and so I type this with a heavy heart as the curtains draw on my time at BikeRadar, and consequently the Home Wrench series.
Before I move on to my next adventure (in cycling), I thought long and hard about how to say goodbye to this series in an exciting manner. Readers, I drew a blank.
Instead, I leave you with a look back at the past two years of Home Wrench articles. Here, I’ve cherry picked a few of what I deem critical bike maintenance tips, the truths and other random thoughts.
If you only do one bit of bicycle maintenance, then make it your chain. Keep it clean and lubed and your whole drivetrain will thank you for it.
A simple drop-in chain gauge is all you need
It's equally important to invest in a simple chain wear gauge. Something like the Park Tool CC-3.2 is all you need. If your drivetrain is of value to you, then regularly check with the gauge and replace the chain sooner rather than latter.
If you’re running cheap stuff, then it’s up to you on whether you’d rather replace chains, or the occasional whole drivetrain.
2. Disc brakes
The most common issue with disc brakes is contamination. Keep the rotors and pads completely free of any oils and you’ll likely experience consistent performance. This includes the oil on your fingers and overspray from lubrications and frame polishes – be careful.
3. Derailleur hangers
With the number of gears forever growing out back, the correct alignment of the derailleur has never been more crucial. At the same time, frames have never been lighter and so manufacturers have purposely weakened the derailleur hanger to save potentially devastating damage.
A bent derailleur hanger is an extremely common cause of poor shifting. Thankfully, the cost of derailleur hanger alignment tools has come down. If you’re going to set up your own tool kit, then seriously consider the investment in one of these specialist tools.
A proper tool is worth the investment
For the money, the new Park Tool DAG-2.2 is a seriously good bit of kit and offers improved tolerances and greater frame compatibility over versions past and cheaper alternatives.
4. The best hex wrenches
You can't get far into fixing a bike without some hex wrenches (Allen keys). A set of basic ‘L’ shape hex wrenches with ball-ends will get through the vast majority of repairs.
These. Best value option without question
Simply put, if you’re on a budget then grab a set of Bondhus BriteGuard ‘Extra-long’ (PN#: 17099). Given the whole set can be found for about US$15, I’ve yet to find something that offers better value for money.
Got money to splash around? PB Swiss Rainbows (PB-212-LH-10) are really impressing me lately (well, anything from PB Swiss), but gosh they’re expensive and only marginally nicer than the Bondhus.
5. A torque wrench is not a failsafe
Proof that tools are just that…
Torque wrenches are an incredibly useful tool for working with lightweight components, especially when working with carbon. However, the use of a torque wrench is not a guarantee against issues and you must still be savvy to stripped bolt heads or threads, corrosion and over/under-tightening.
For example, where pinch bolts are involved, always alternate the tightening until the torque is finally reached. Torqueing one completely, and then another is sure to lead to issues.
And don’t be afraid to learn what a particular torque feels like without a torque wrench. Knowing this will help give you a heads up on when things don’t feel quite right.
6. Leverage is worth the expense
Ever compared a ‘home’ version of a tool with the ‘professional’ version from the same company? Often, one of the key differences is leverage. Whether it’s a chain breaker, pedal wrench or hex key, a longer lever will commonly make certain tasks easier.
A pedal wrench versus a standard spanner. There's a big difference (pedal wrench is thinner too for improved clearance).
This certainly applies to removing of pedals and bottom brackets – there’s no point giving yourself a hernia when purpose-built tools exist. For example, I prefer socket-type bottom bracket tools and use a long breaker bar (aka cheater bar) for fuss-free removal. The latter is something you can certainly find cheaply from automotive supply stores.
7. Quality tools can save you money
Do your tools look like this? Are you pedals, hubs and bolts equally chewed out as a result?
It’s no secret: I love quality tools (perhaps a little too much!) and am not afraid to pay for them. However, even the most casual user can benefit from knowing that quality tools can last a lifetime, perform the task better and reduce the risk of damage to the part being worked on.
Quality hex keys are the easiest example of this, where cheap options are likely to round the bolt (or themselves), or in extreme cases, dangerously snap under heavy use.
Of course there are gray areas here, and yes, a $4 cassette tool will remove the same cassette a $50 one does. But just consider that a year or two later, the $50 option probably won’t strip out the lockring you’re trying to remove. You can try to pry the Abbey Bike Tools Crombie Wrench from my greasy hands, but I'll likely bite.
8. Don’t ignore real people
Sometimes you just can't beat real hands on experience, from a real person
The internet is an amazing resource, but if you’re struggling to find a specific part or piece of advice, then don’t forget that there are real people who fix bikes for a living. A good shop mechanic can be a true resource, and save you money and time through their own knowledge and available business-to-business resources.
For an in-depth look at any of the points above and more, you’ll find them in previous Home Wrench articles. Click here to see the complete collection of Home Wrench. It’s been fun, cheers for reading!
Soon to be our former Australian editor, Dave Rome is a self-confessed tool nerd. This column exists as a shout-out to his fellow eager garage dwellers. Before turning to the media, Dave worked in numerous shops and as tech support in wholesale. With a personal cycle-focused tool collection accumulated over more than a decade, and having found other likeminded tinkerers along the way, he's got plenty of little tricks and tips to share. You can follow Dave on Twitter at @dave_rome.