The kit you need to do your own basic bike maintenance

Save money and keep your bike running better by doing your own maintenance; here’s what you need.

You don’t need a vast array of specialist tools to work on your bike. Most essential jobs can be done with a few good quality standard tools and a handful of bike-specific ones.

If there’s an area where the adage ‘buy quality, buy once’ applies, it’s tools. Good tools work better, last longer and are less likely to damage the parts you’re working on. Think of them as an investment, not a cost.

Each bike’s different, but there are many tools common to almost all bikes. Here’s what you need for straightforward jobs such as changing cables, adjusting brakes and gears, tweaking saddle position and angle, setting up handlebars, changing and inflating tyres and changing your chain and sprockets.

Bonhus allen keys.jpg

Ball-end Allen keys. Don’t skimp on these; you’ll be using them a lot. Ball-end keys allow you to turn a bolt from an angle, which speeds up many jobs. As well as being harder and more accurately made, and therefore less likely to mash the bolts you tighten with them, high-quality keys have a narrower neck for the ball, and therefore work at steeper angles, making them more versatile.

Recommended: Bondhus 1.5 - 10mm Hex Key Set — £15.50 | Park Tool PH1 P Handled Hex Wrench Set — £55

Stanley screwdriver set.jpg

Screwdrivers. You want a couple of flat-blade screwdrivers and Phillips (cross-head) No 1 and 2, and possibly a size 0 too. A more extensive set will include sizes that are useful round the house too.

Recommended: Stanley Cushion Grip 8-piece Screwdriver Set — £18.29 | Draper 43571 16-Piece Screwdriver Set — £40.98

Combination spanners.jpg

Combination spanners. I almost hesitate to include these because bolts with spanner flats are now rare on good quality bikes. You will almost certainly never need more than 8, 9 and 10mm, plus a 13mm if you have bolt-up hubs. If you need spanners for other jobs, then the sets we've suggested have everything you need for the bike too, but if bike fettling is your only need, then it'll be cheaper to buy individual spanners.

Recommended: Draper Expert 64605 11-Piece Metric Combination Spanner Set — £21.99 | Bahco 12-piece Metric Combination Spanner Set of 12 — £36.00

Pliers set.jpg

Pliers. A set of combination pliers has lots of uses, from generally holding and pulling parts to crimping cable ends.You'll also find lots of uses for long-nose pliers, so a set of three with side cutters is good value.

Recommended: Draper 09405 160mm DIY Plier Set — £9.97 | Stanley Tools FatMax Compound Action Plier Set of 3 — £33.49

Wera Torx keys

Torx keys. Torx fittings are becoming increasingly common. Like Allen keys, you can get them with plain or ball ends.

Recommended: X-Tools Torx Star Key Set — £8.99 | Wera Multicolour Tamper-proof/Ballend Torx Key Set — £22.81

Bike-specific tools

Lezyne Power Lever XL - open

Tyre levers. You need a couple of sets, one for your home toolbox and one for your on-bike toolbag.

Recommended: Lezyne Power Tyre Lever — £3.20/pr | Park Tool TL-5 Heavy Duty Steel Tyre Levers — £22.61

Birzman Maha Apogee Ⅲ floor pump

Floor pump. It’s much easier to keep your tyre pressures up to snuff with a floor pump (aka a track pump) than any portable pump.

Recommended: Topeak Joe Blow Sport III — £27.86 | Birzman Maha Push and Twist II — £74.99

For more options see our Buyer's Guide to track pumps

Lezyne Classic Pedal Spanner

Pedal spanner. If your pedals have 15mm flats, then you'll need a 15mm spanner to take them on and off. A standard 15mm spanner will fit some pedals, but others need the thinner jaws of a specific pedal spanner.

Recommended: Lezyne Classic Pedal Spanner — £15.49 | X-Tools 15mm Pedal Spanner — £3.99

Park Tool cable puller.jpg

Cable puller. Owners of hydraulic-braked bikes with electronic shifting can ignore this. The rest of us will find fitting and adjusting brake and gear cables a lot easier with a tool that pulls the cable snug and holds it in place while you tighten the clamp bolt.

Recommended: Draper 31043 Cable Tensioner — £10.78 | Park Tool BT-2 cable puller — £36.99

20416_shimano_sis_cable_cutters.jpg

Cable cutter. Do not try and cut cables with pliers, sidecutters, tin snips or any other vaguely sharp snippity-chop tool you have kicking around; you’ll just make a mess of them. Get yourself a proper set of cable cutters with blades shaped to keep the cable strands together.

Recommended: Draper Expert 57768 Cutters — £9.73 | Shimano TL-CT12 — £30.14

Park Tool CC-3.2_001.jpg

Chain wear gauge. You can keep an eye on the wear of your chain by measuring its length over 12 full links with a good quality ruler. If it’s 12 1/16in long, then it’s time to replace it and if it’s reached 12 1/8in you will probably have to replace the sprockets too. A wear gauge makes this easier by telling you when your chain needs ditching.

Recommended: Park Tool Chain Wear Indicator CC3.2 — £8.00 | Park Tool CC-2 chain checker — £17.99

Park CT-4.3_003.jpg

Chain tool. Essential if you want to replace your own chain. If you've a Campagnolo 11-speed transmission you'll need a tool with a peening anvil like Campagnolo's, which has a wallet-clenching £153 RRP. Fortunately, Park Tool and Lezyne, among others, have cheaper alternatives that will tackle other chains too.

Recommended: Lezyne Chain Drive Tool - 11 Speed — £20.99 | Park Tool Master Chain Tool — £54.00

shimano tl-cn10 quick-link pliers

Chain joining link pliers. Almost all chains now come with a joining link. SRAM calls it a Powerlink, KMC a Missing Link and Shimano a Quick-Link, but they're all basically the same thing: a pair of outer link plates with a permanently mounted pin in each that fits into a slot in the other. Once upon a time, joining links like this could be opened by hand, but for 10-speed and 11-speed chains there's just not enough room to leave slack for hand operation, and they have to connect tightly enough that you need these pliers to separate them. Shimano's 11-speed master links are an extremely tight fit and need force to join them too, which is why these pliers have an extra set of jaws.

Recommended: Shimano TL-CN10 Master Link Pliers — £24.46 | SuperB_ToBe 2 in 1 Master Link Pliers — £7.46

Feedback Ultralight.jpg

Workstand. On the one hand, this is a bit of a luxury; on the other being able to hold your bike steady and well clear of the floor makes any job easier. Your back will thank you for not leaning over a bike for hours on end too.

Recommended: Bike Tools Workstand — £69.99 | Feedback Sports Pro Ultralight — £154.49

Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza torque wrench

Torque wrench. Expensive, but essential to prevent damage if you're wrenching carbon fibre or other super-light components.

Recommended: Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza — £149.99

lifeline-professional-cassette-tool-bundle.jpg

Sprocket tools. To change your sprockets you’ll need a chain whip — to hold the sprockets in place — and a lockring tool to undo the nut that holds them in place.

X-Tools Pro Chain Whip BTL11 — £12.49 | Acor Cassette Lockring Remover — £10.75

Find stockists

Lezyne
Park Tool
Birzman
Shimano
BBB

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The aim of road.cc buyer's guides is to give you the most, authoritative, objective and up-to-date buying advice. We continuously update and republish our guides, checking prices, availability and looking for the best deals.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

43 comments

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PaulBox [681 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

I thought this was going to be a series of photos of beardy people wearing Rapha... 

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Grahamd [982 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Would add a brake pad alignment tool, which you're likely to use more frequently than a chain tool IMHO.

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earth [417 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I have all of these tools and a tool for straightening derailleur hangers.  Does that mean I am no longer a beginner?

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Nixster [406 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Good list.

I'd question the need to spend £120 on a low capacity torque wrench though.  I have a Ritchey torque key which is great and does the job on stems, seat post clamps etc. and I don't think my small torque wrench has come out of its box in anger as a consequence.

I have a bigger torque wrench which sees plenty of use on cassette lock rings and cranks though - I think that was about £30.

Not sure what a pad alignment tool is (something to do with discs?) but a chain tool is pretty useful, albeit I use the cheaper Park Tool (chain brute?) versoion which is portable too.

Third hand tool seems like a luxury item to me; I don't think a workstand is.

Can you add a wheel truing stand to the list?  I haven't got one and some added justification for getting one would be great!

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Grahamd [982 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Nixster wrote:

Good list.

I'd question the need to spend £120 on a low capacity torque wrench though.  I have a Ritchey torque key which is great and does the job on stems, seat post clamps etc. and I don't think my small torque wrench has come out of its box in anger as a consequence.

Not sure what a pad alignment tool is (something to do with discs?) 

No, is for rim brakes, gets to toe in setting spot on. 

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Toast [60 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I didn't even know a brake pad alignment tool was a thing you could get!! May be handy but you can align the pads without a tool, you can't bodge chains off & on so readily.

How much of a difference do cable pullers make? They're something I've been aware of for a while, but not invested in a set yet. I'm getting fairly close to new shifter cable time  7

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srchar [1034 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

If you're going to work on your own bike, a workstand isn't a luxury, it's an essential.

Working on your bike on the floor is miserable compared with spannering away at a good working height.

I'd say a front mech alignment tool is much more useful than a brake pad alignment tool.

For anything that's not a specific bike tool, like a torque wrench, screwdrivers, spanners and hex keys, go for Halfords Advanced Professional - always on offer, nicely made and a lifetime guarantee.

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LastBoyScout [486 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
srchar wrote:

If you're going to work on your own bike, a workstand isn't a luxury, it's an essential.

Working on your bike on the floor is miserable compared with spannering away at a good working height.

I'd say a front mech alignment tool is much more useful than a brake pad alignment tool.

For anything that's not a specific bike tool, like a torque wrench, screwdrivers, spanners and hex keys, go for Halfords Advanced Professional - always on offer, nicely made and a lifetime guarantee.

Avoided a work stand for many years, by putting bike on workbench in garage - I disagree it's essential, but it DOES make it a lot easier. When I finally gave in and bought one, I got a nearly new ToPeak one from a certain auction site for a fraction of it's new cost.

I'll agree with you on the Halfords Advanced tools, though - what isn't (mainly) Park or IceToolz in my box is Halfords.

 

What they missed in the article is a decent Torx wrench set - you'll probably need T25 for disk brakes and T20 can be useful for brake/shifter clamps.

Avatar
. . [192 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Toast wrote:

How much of a difference do cable pullers make?

I'm sure they're a "nice to have", but I've successfully replaced plenty of gear cables without.  I just push against the derailleur spring slightly when tightening the pinch bolt to add a bit of extra tension to the cable.

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handlebarcam [1151 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

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hawkinspeter [2515 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

That torque wrench is expensive.

I'd have thought an IceToolz Ocarina for around £20 would be much better for a newbie and it's light enough to carry with you if you want to adjust seat height etc.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_sacat=0&_nkw=ocarina+ice+toolz&_sop=15

It might not be as accurate, but it is portable.

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dafyddp [464 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Master link remover pliers are ace, too - save lots of faff when removing a chain.

I found tinkering with older bikes really useful for learning on - you don't have to be so precious when it's made of steel and worth less than £50. I'd therefore sugest also adding cone spanners, a crank puller and a basic set of Imperial sized spanners if you're messing with anything British.

Finally, go on ebay and buy loads of those little aluminium caps that you insert on the end of a cut brake or gear cable. Not strictly speaking a tool, but very satisfying to snap on in the knowledge that the cable you've painstakingly threaded along the length of your bike isn't going to fray like a mare's tale by tomorrow morning.

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StraelGuy [1547 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

If you want accurate and reasonably priced, check out Norbar. They do a 1-20 nm torque wrench for about £75. Designed and built in England.

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Yorkshire wallet [2268 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Torque wrench? Hand tight and bit more will work for most things. That said, don't listen to me as I stripped my MTB disc mounts......

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Nick T [1164 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Torx keys should be on the list, essential for anyone working on campag or wanting 3T finishing kit etc

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srchar [1034 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

Finally, go on ebay and buy loads of those little aluminium caps that you insert on the end of a cut brake or gear cable.

What do you use to crimp them onto the cable?  I never managed to get a neat crimp with anything and, after admitting defeat, run some solder into the end of the cut cable to stop it fraying.  Also means you can easily remove it from the inner and reinsert if you need to, for example to clean and lube.

But the anodised ones do look pretty and I would like to be able to fit them in a way that doesn't make them look like the work of a bodger.

Avatar
Canyon48 [1080 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
srchar wrote:
dafyddp wrote:

Finally, go on ebay and buy loads of those little aluminium caps that you insert on the end of a cut brake or gear cable.

What do you use to crimp them onto the cable?  I never managed to get a neat crimp with anything and, after admitting defeat, run some solder into the end of the cut cable to stop it fraying.  Also means you can easily remove it from the inner and reinsert if you need to, for example to clean and lube.

But the anodised ones do look pretty and I would like to be able to fit them in a way that doesn't make them look like the work of a bodger.

The cable cap crimper on the cable cutter.

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SingleSpeed [429 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
Yorkshire wallet wrote:

Torque wrench? Hand tight and bit more will work for most things. That said, don't listen to me as I stripped my MTB disc mounts......

One Knuckle White 5nm

Two Knuckle White 7nm

Four knuckles White 12nm

Campag ultra torque...hang off it like a chimp on a climbing frame

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BehindTheBikesheds [2414 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
srchar wrote:

If you're going to work on your own bike, a workstand isn't a luxury, it's an essential.

Working on your bike on the floor is miserable compared with spannering away at a good working height.

I'd say a front mech alignment tool is much more useful than a brake pad alignment tool.

For anything that's not a specific bike tool, like a torque wrench, screwdrivers, spanners and hex keys, go for Halfords Advanced Professional - always on offer, nicely made and a lifetime guarantee.

I must have being doing it wrong for 34 years, it's an option but not in any way necessary or essential for any task.

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BehindTheBikesheds [2414 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I use an older torque spanner that was given to me that's spot on, you can however buy a 'bergen' torque wrench for about £20 (5-25nm) not sure if they are chinese copies or from liquidated stock of the US company, they are calibrated and Bergen used to be pretty good from what I'd read BITD.

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Shamblesuk [172 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
wellsprop wrote:
srchar wrote:
dafyddp wrote:

Finally, go on ebay and buy loads of those little aluminium caps that you insert on the end of a cut brake or gear cable.

What do you use to crimp them onto the cable?  I never managed to get a neat crimp with anything and, after admitting defeat, run some solder into the end of the cut cable to stop it fraying.  Also means you can easily remove it from the inner and reinsert if you need to, for example to clean and lube.

But the anodised ones do look pretty and I would like to be able to fit them in a way that doesn't make them look like the work of a bodger.

The cable cap crimper on the cable cutter.

 

....on the seashore?

Avatar
Shamblesuk [172 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Grahamd wrote:
Nixster wrote:

Good list.

I'd question the need to spend £120 on a low capacity torque wrench though.  I have a Ritchey torque key which is great and does the job on stems, seat post clamps etc. and I don't think my small torque wrench has come out of its box in anger as a consequence.

Not sure what a pad alignment tool is (something to do with discs?) 

No, is for rim brakes, gets to toe in setting spot on. 

 

Always found a credit card does this job equally well. Likewise I didn't know this existed, a quick video search revealed all and I can't say I would add this to my already extensive tool list.

Maybe a related topic could be tools that can be replicated by every day items. I'm sure we've all been there.

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TypeVertigo [428 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
LastBoyScout wrote:

What they missed in the article is a decent Torx wrench set - you'll probably need T25 for disk brakes and T20 can be useful for brake/shifter clamps.

Correct. Even on rim-brake bikes, sometimes Torx bolts are used on stems (3T in particular) and on rear derailleurs (I believe SRAM is an example). Not currently as mainstream as hex keys, but a decent Torx key set should cover all eventualities.

I have yet to see a long-handle version of a Torx key set though. My set is from Irwin, and they're barely as long as a "short" hex key set with no ball-ends from Stanley.

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SingleSpeed [429 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

I must have being doing it wrong for 34 years, it's an option but not in any way necessary or essential for any task.

 

I would say it is essential for correctly indexing your gears.

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PaulBox [681 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
TypeVertigo wrote:
LastBoyScout wrote:

What they missed in the article is a decent Torx wrench set - you'll probably need T25 for disk brakes and T20 can be useful for brake/shifter clamps.

Correct. Even on rim-brake bikes, sometimes Torx bolts are used on stems (3T in particular) and on rear derailleurs (I believe SRAM is an example). Not currently as mainstream as hex keys, but a decent Torx key set should cover all eventualities.

I have yet to see a long-handle version of a Torx key set though. My set is from Irwin, and they're barely as long as a "short" hex key set with no ball-ends from Stanley.

I got one of these in a set of Lezyne tools, they're pretty good:

http://www.wiggle.co.uk/lezyne-torx-block-tool/?lang=en&curr=GBP&dest=1&...

 

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StraelGuy [1547 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Here's a great ghetto tip for when you lose your quick-link pliers (that would be me, then) that works perfectly is feed a gear inner through the chain on one side of the quick link and back up through the chain on the other side and then cross over the end of the cable and pull hard. It pops the chain apart perfectly with virtually no effort smiley.

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Zigster [16 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
dafyddp wrote:

Lots of excellent points

I bought a 20 year old MTB, stripped it down and rebuilt it for exactly that reason.  Bike maintenance holds no fears for me now.

As a big fan of Campag, the £150 Campag chain tool makes me very cross - it's almost as if Campag wants to go out of business.  I only have 10-speed Veloce but I'd be very wary about buying 11-speed Campag.  Even 10-speed Veloce needs tools which a lot of local bike shops don't stock because they are hugely expensive and rarely used.

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MarkiMark [82 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I use a credit card for toe in on brake pads. Seems to work fine. 

Cable puller seems overkill when cable generally only need to be hand tight anyway, then adjusted using (errr..) adjusters.

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HLaB [241 posts] 7 months ago
0 likes
Grahamd wrote:

Would add a brake pad alignment tool, which you're likely to use more frequently than a chain tool IMHO.

 

Looks usefuk but I have survived without it, a piece of card does the same thing so I wouldn't describe it as a essential beginners tool but I can't fit a new chain without a chain tool its more important to me  1

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Woldsman [277 posts] 7 months ago
1 like

If a brake pad alignment tool was even a little bit essential you can bet Park Tool would be offering you their BPA-2.3 - or something - by now. Instead, their suggestion is a laggy band wound round a few times and slipped over the trailing end of the brake block to help set up correct toe in. 

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