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- Park Tool
- Working on your own bike not only saves money, but it also gives you the skills to make it home if something goes wrong on a ride.
- With a few basic tools, and some instructional books and videos, you can do a lot of regular maintenance at home instead of going to a mechanic.
- Larger maintenance and repairs should still be done by a professional though, especially if you’re not sure about your abilities starting out.
- Even if you don’t want to fix things, cleaning and adjusting your bike will ensure that the bike fits you well and always performs flawlessly.
Bikes have become more and more complicated over the years.
Cables now run inside tubes, there are 12 gears where once there were five, and lightweight carbon parts can crack if over-tightened or slip if they’re assembled without the proper grip paste. The complexity makes us bring our bikes to repair shops when something doesn’t feel right, but for basic repairs and maintenance, doing them at home can be easy.
You can fix almost anything on a modern bike with a few basic tools, and at the very least, you can keep your bike clean to avoid premature wear and tear of components. Learning how to do a few basic repairs at home also not only saves you money, but it will also ensure that you can get home safely if you suffer a mechanical issue on the trail.
When I need a tool that isn’t in my tool kit such as a hacksaw for steerer tubes or a headset press, that’s when I take my bike to a skilled professional. Over time, your confidence and abilities will grow, but if you ever doubt your ability to fix something, definitely head to a mechanic to check it over when your safety is at risk.
These are a few tools that I turn to time and again, whether I’m dialing in the fit on a road bike or adjusting the shifting on a mountain bike.
A book about bike maintenance tales from the trails
“Bike Mechanic: Tales from the Road and the Workshop” by Guy Andrews, available on Amazon for $13.86
This is a beautiful book that celebrates the artistry of bike maintenance and repairs during big races like the Tour de France. Artistic photos and insider tips from the best in the business make this book the kind of thing you’ll sit down and read, not just flick through when something on your bike is broken. For more technical advice, Park Tool’s website has an amazing number of how-to guides with videos, which come in handy when you need to follow very specific instructions and want to actually see what’s being done.
A tool kit
- Park Tool
Sure, a poor craftsman blames his tools, but low-quality tools do low-quality work. To avoid rounding out bolts or rattling parts on your bike, you’ll want to invest in a decent tool kit. The Park Tool Ak 3 isn’t cheap, and it does make less expensive tool kit for beginners, but the Ak3 is well worth the investment if you can swing it.
By upgrading to the AK3, you get individual Allen wrenches for hard-to-reach areas like the saddle clamp, and a cassette tool and chain whip to change cassettes, one of the easiest ways to maintain shifting in top condition.
There’s also everything you’ll need to re-cable your bike, which is something you’ll want to eventually master even if it seems unfathomable right now, and a tool for removing disc brake rotors, which takes seconds but is necessary if you want to fly with your bike and have brakes that work when you land.
With this tool kit, you can do everything you’d ever wanted to do at home with the exception of building a bike from a frame. Some of the tools required to do that are expensive and frankly, scary, because they can hurt you or damage your bike if used incorrectly.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never personally enjoyed hacksawing carbon tubes, so I take my bike to someone I trust and get a coffee while they do it for me. Once my bike is built, then I can do everything I need to in order to keep it in tip-top condition. (There’s also a bottle opener in this kit, which is part of the reason why I’m not in such tip-top condition these days.)
- Park Tool
I used to think I could work on my bike without a workstand. I would squat down next to my bike or hang it by the saddle. But once I acquired an old stand from a friend for the price of a six-pack, I’ve never looked back and my lumbar spine has thanked me every time I work on my bike.
Having the bike securely clamped at a suitable height with my tools accessible makes working on my bike a pleasure, not a chore. It also makes cleaning areas that I always miss much easier.
I’ve had several workstands since I first started using my friend’s, and the PCS 10.2 is my current favorite. Not only is it delightfully finished in Park Tool Blue, it also provides a very sturdy base (enough to work on some electric bikes), has a reliable clamp, and a tray to hold the small parts that I’m forever dropping. When I’m not using the PCS 10.2, it folds and stores easily in my shed.
It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t apply direct clamping force to carbon tubes. If in doubt, clamp the bike by the seatpost – not the top tube. Some clamps don’t fit around aerodynamically-profiled seatposts, but I didn’t have any issues with the broad interface and smart adjustable cam design of the PCS 10.2 clamp on even the chunkiest posts.
A dummy hub and cleaning kit
The most important and basic part of bike maintenance is keeping it clean. The Park Tool AK3 kit comes with a chain cleaner and some brushes, but not chain keeper, or what I like to call, a dummy hub.
After you remove your wheels from the bike and clean the cassette, you can swap in the dummy hub to keep tension on the cables as you clean and lubricate them. With the dummy hub in place, you can just rotate the chain in order to clean without having to work around a spinning wheel.
Feedback Sports makes a Chain Keeper that I love because it fits in both quick-release and thru-axle dropouts, which means I can clean both road and gravel bikes without having to buy two different dummy hubs. In practice, I have found that using my Chain Keeper means my chains are cleaner and can last longer, and my bike shifts better.
You’ll want some cleaning fluids as well, and Muc Off’s cleaning kit has everything to clean and re-lubricate your bike all in a handy toolbox. Each of the various brushes serve a purpose and, when used with an excellent degreaser and bike cleaning spray, you’ll be able to get your bike looking new in no time at all. If you already have brushes from the Park Tool AK3 kit, Muc Off also sell its cleaning solutions separately.
A torque wrench
Perhaps the most common way that home mechanics break bikes is by overtightening them. Just an extra half turn of the Allen key is enough to crack a carbon handlebar or seatpost. It’s for this reason that I almost never tighten a bolt on a modern bike without a torque wrench. Just be aware that you should never loosen a bolt with a torque wrench as that will cause the torque setting on it to become unreliable.
Modern bikes also have adjustment bolts in all kinds of hard-to-get places – that often means I need something like a short-handle ratchet to back them out before I can make the adjustments I want. Luckily Silca’s T-Ratchet + Ti-Torque Kit covers both of these tasks with all the necessary tools in a quality leather pouch and is small enough to take out on rides as I dial in the fit on a new bike.
Silca’s kit stands out through the high-quality manufacturing and materials, there are no generic cheap bits here. The modular ratchet is high quality and can have pieces added to increase length or leverage when necessary, making it fit for just about any bolt on your bike. The Torque bar attachment measures form 2-8 Newton Meter, which will cover almost everything on your bike that you are likely to adjust on the fly.