So you’ve been looking around the interwebz and you think you want to try servicing your own bike. GREAT! Clients say this to me all the time and I always encourage them to try. After all, that is how most people learn. Worst case scenario, you have to call someone in to fix what you couldn’t and maybe they’ll give you a few tips for your next attempt!
That said, you do need some essential tools to make servicing your bike easier.
Metric Allen Keys
On most modern bikes, allen head bolts are used on almost everything. You may be able to get by servicing your bike with a allen multitool (like one you’d put in your bike emergency kit), but it is far from ideal. I like long handle allen keys with a ball end. The long handle helps with leverage and gives you a good grip compared to the tiny allen keys included in ikea furniture. Look for allen keys made from chrome-vanadium steel or buy from a reputable brand. The cheapo box store wrenches tend to be made of a softer steel and the corners can quickly become rounded over time. That means your bolt heads will also become rounded and will be very difficult to loosen. Most common sizes you’ll need are 4, 5, and 6mm but make sure the set ranges in size from 2-8mm.
You don’t see hex type bolts often on many modern bikes. Some pedals need a 15mm wrench but be aware that your typical wrench may be too thick depending on how the pedal is designed. Older bikes will use 8-10mm wrenches commonly on brakes and derailleurs. you may find 6-7mm wrenches useful for loosening the bleed nipple when servicing brakes.
Philips Head screw driver
Although bikes specifically use JIS phillips head screw heads, a normal #1or #2 sized phillips head screwdriver will work fine.
Pliers and Cutters
Sometimes you need a bit of extra grip and this is where pliers will come in handy. I have both needle nose and a “normal” set of pliers. You’ll also need a good set of wire cutters to nicely cut cables and cable housing. It might seem unnecessary but have a nice 90 degree cut without burs makes shifting and braking much smoother.
You don’t need anything fancy but a nice set of different sized brushes will help keep your bike clean. A clean bike makes maintenance easier and parts last longer. You certainly don’t need to buy brushes (although I find if you don’t have any brushes, a a generic brand like this off of amazon is a decent value). I use everything from tooth brushes and paint brushes to baby bottle brushes. I do have a bike specific brush made to clean between the rings of cassettes and chainrings.
If you work on your own bike, you will eventually want a bike stand. Working with a bike held securely at a proper height and angle is invaluable. You can always get by with turning the bike upside down, and that works in a pinch but I wouldn’t want to be crawling around serving my bike. You can also find a bunch of DIY solutions on the internet. Some hold the bike with a clamping head and some just hang by the seat.
There you have it! 6 essential tools to help you start working on your own bike! Don’t be afraid to make a mistake! It can always be fixed!