One of the great things about bicycles is that they're relatively easy to maintain and repair. In most cases you can solve problems with the kit you carry on your bike, which should include a spare tube, tire levers, all-in-one tool and pump. This allows replacing the tube and handling minor issues, such as fine-tuning parts that loosen or go out of adjustment.
As you master simple fixes, you may get interested in doing more involved repairs, such as replacing worn cables, cleaning the drivetrain, upgrading certain parts or even straightening wheel wobbles. These tasks and more are well within your capabilities if you have the right tools and a little know-how.
This article outlines a tool list and supplies to equip you for these basic repairs. Some tools you may already own. Others are bicycle-specific instruments that we carry. There's no need to rush out and buy all these tools right away. Instead, assemble your selection as you need them. This approach ensures that you get tools that you really need for your brand and model of bicycle (tools required vary accordingly).
How do you know which tools you need and how to use them? We recommend picking up a book about bicycle maintenance and visiting the Park Tool website, which includes informative explanations of their many bicycle tools and a complete repair section. And don't forget that we're always happy to advise, too!
A good stand makes repairs easier.
Equipment and supplies
- Repair stand (photo, above, right): While it's possible to work on bicycles when they're propped on the floor or hung from a rafter or beam, once you've used a repair stand you'll wonder how you lived without one. It elevates the bike so you're able to inspect the parts up close and without throwing your back out in the process. It makes it easy to spin the wheels, and brake and shift to check adjustments. And, some stands are portable so you can easily take them with you to double-check your bike before the start of the ride. Tip: Most bumper/hitch car bicycle racks will work as repair stands in a pinch.
- Workbench or counter: A place to lay out your tools and that part you're working on.
- Vise (photo, right): To hold things so that you can use both hands to work on it. Tip: A vise is most useful if it's firmly attached to the bench so you can pound or pull without the vise losing its grip or moving.
- Apron: The main purpose of an apron is protecting your clothes. Plus, most include pockets, allowing you to stash commonly used tools within easy reach for more efficient wrenching. Tip: When you're hunting for that "lost" tool, check your apron pockets first.
- Rubber gloves: While bicycle repair isn't as grimy as automobile work, it's still smart to protect your hands from lubricants, solvents, scrapes and other abuse.
- Goggles: Eye protection is a must in any workshop.
- Lubricants: Keep drip or spray lube and grease handy for easy access.
- Thread adhesives: Secures parts so they cannot loosen.
- Anti-Seize: Prevents parts from rusting together.
- Solvent: For degreasing/cleaning parts. Tip: Help protect the environment and consider biodegradable ones.
- Alcohol: For cleaning rims and brake pads. Also great for installing handlebar grips.
- Rags: You can't have too many.
- Hand cleaner: This cuts grease faster than soap and may even contain lanolin to save your skin.
- Zip-ties: Handy for attaching things.
- Chain-cleaning kit (photo, right): This is comprised of a plastic case with stiff brushes inside. You fill this with solvent and install it on the chain. Then by pedaling, you cause the brushes to scrub the chain clean. Tip: Some people prefer to remove chains for cleaning or to simply clean them with a rag dipped in solvent.
Regular hand tools
Tip: You may already have many of these tools, which are useful around the home/garage. If not, they're widely available in hardware stores or home centers.
- Small and medium regular (photo, right) screwdriver
- Small and medium Phillips screwdrivers
- Combination wrench set including 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17mm wrenches
- Regular pliers
- Needle-nose pliers
- Small and medium Vise-Grip pliers
- Plumbers' (also called "waterpump") pliers
- Diagonal cutters
- 6-inch adjustable wrench
- 12-inch adjustable wrench
- Ballpeen hammer (8-ounce size is about right
- Plastic or rubber mallet
- Hacksaw (photo, right)
- Course and fine file (flat and half-round)
- Metal punches and chisels
- Outside/inside caliper
Special bicycle tools
Tip: Which specialty tools you need depends on the type(s) of bicycles you're working on. For example, you won't need the tools required for repairing adjustable bottom brackets if the bike you maintain is equipped with a cartridge bottom bracket. If you have any questions about which tools are required for your bicycle, ride it in and we'll take a look and show you what you need.
- 8, 9, 10mm "Y" tool
- Allen wrench set comprised of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10mm wrenches
- 4, 5, 6mm combination Allen wrench (photo, right) or folding Allen wrench set
- Metric/English tape measure
- Floor pump with gauge
- Chain tool (compatible with your chain)
- Spoke wrench (to fit your spoke nipples)
- 3 tire levers
- Pedal wrench (photo, middle)2 each: 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18mm cone wrenches
- Axle vise
- Cassette lockring remover
- Chain whip
- Cable cutter (photo, bottom)
- Crankarm removal tools
- Chainring bolt wrench
- Adjustable bottom-bracket tools
- Cartridge bottom-bracket tools
- Threaded-headset wrenches
- Torx hex wrenches
- Torque wrench
- Truing stand Tip: alternatively, you can true wheels in the frame and fork.
- Dishing tool
Photos courtesy of our friends at Park Tool.