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The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset
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i made an offhand comment a few days ago that i felt you could buy all the bike tools you need for $300. a number of readers asked for that list of tools. so i wrote it up and it's on the home page.

i priced the tools out and added it up and it came to $299 if i added it correctly in my head, and that was just a sheer coincidence. but, this list does not include:

- basic home tools (workbench, vise, screwdrivers, etc.)
- lubricants, sealants, adhesives, cleaners (tho these can be cheap, certainly $50 for the lot)
- consumables (rim strips, plastic tape, spokes, ferrules, housing, cable)
- bike workstand

the biggie there is the workstand. but it's not prohibitive. the one i use is about $300 and i don't think you can spend any amount and get a workstand that's any better.

i'm sure i'm missing some necessary tools. happy to hear from all you garage experts what tools i've not listed (or perhaps what tool sets you think offer the best value when aggregating this list of tools i name).


Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I paid WAAAY less than that for even more tools. The easy way to do that? Buy them 30 years ago.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I've found that a hangar alignment tool for RD hangar adjustment is absolutely required to get it right if it's not shifting right. Unfortunately, that runs $75 for Park tool, with not many alternatives.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Truing stand. You can't really consider yourself a competent bike repairman without being able to true a wheel and trying to do it on the bike using the brake pads doesn't work well.

Some sort of bearing press. C-clip pliers. Pedal wrench and a decent set of cable housing cutters!
Last edited by: grumpier.mike: Sep 13, 17 15:54
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Music and beer.

And some YouTube videos to see how to the job.



.

Once, I was fast. But I got over it.
Last edited by: hblake: Sep 13, 17 18:33
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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You can improvise a few tools at minimal cost.

My repair stand consists of a sawhorse, hinge, scrap timber and an old front hub. Cost $20.

My truing stand consists of a chopped up roadside-hard-rubbish bike frame and fork, and some cable ties. Cost $0
The rear wheel from the same free bike works perfectly as a derailleur hanger alignment tool (axle thread pitch = derailleur hanger thread pitch)

A metal skewer from the kitchen drawer does just fine for opening cable ends or retrieving internal cables.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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So if you're deciding you don't want those HS and BB facers/mills, let me know...

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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [brider] [ In reply to ]
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brider wrote:
So if you're deciding you don't want those HS and BB facers/mills, let me know...

it sounds like mattyk needs them more than you do! i feel sorry for that guy. did you know that he tied a rock to an old broom handle with used twine and that's what he uses for a hammer?


Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Pretty good starter list!

a JIS screwdriver is nice to have.
I'd consider a dremel an essential for me as well.

My Blog - http://leegoocrap.blogspot.com
Podium Sports Racing - http://www.podiumsportsmed.com/team/
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [MattyK] [ In reply to ]
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Ha. Love it.

I picked up a Crescent wrench at a garage sale for $0.25 and ground away the majority of the jaw thickness. Presto-- adjustable cone wrench. (Still good to have at least one of the real deal in the common sizes though.)
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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As I mentioned in the facebook post, a pair of end nipper/end cut pliers is great to have. Cheap ones are fine.

Use these on cable ties instead of the side cuts. Much closer and cleaner cut that is much less likely to slice your hand some day.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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There's no need to buy the entire set of tools at once. I'd have organized the list a little different. I think there are three tiers of tools. Working your way up the tiers as needed eases the cost of entry / sticker shock:

Basic tools
- Allen wrenches (4/5/6 tri-wrench + pocket-knife style metric set)
- Torx set
- Spoke wrench
- Screw drivers
You can do a LOT of work with just this basic set. I can't imagine owning a bike without these tools. Only the 4/5/6 tri-wrench ($10) and spoke wrench ($10) are bike specific. You can get a cheap-o toolset at a Box store that has everything else for $20 (also includes pliers and other useful man-skill tools). I used my brake pads on my bike while upside down in the living room to true my wheels for a very long time.

Semi-Advanced:
- Housing cutter (you didn't list this one) but then I use my angle grinder as often as my cutter...especially when I can't find the housing cutter, like last week. :-)
- Cone wrenches
- Whip / Cassette spline

These items are helpful, but their necessity for a new bike owner isn't very high. Cones don't need adjustment very often. Cassettes don't need to be replaced very often, and housings are good for a year+.

Advanced/Assembly tools:
- Truing stand
- Heaset, pedal wrench, bottom bracket, and crank tools fall into the advanced category to me.

I didn't buy a truing stand until I decided to build my own wheels---at that point the capital investment was easy to justify. If you don't build wheels, I don't think you ever *need* this.

Granted I don't have a fancy, modern, CF tri-bike. So, my organization above is based on the alloy, square taper age.

Bike stands:
- I own the bike stand in the center front of your picture. Its great having a stand. But, I use it to wash my bikes, or if I need to work on the frame with the wheels off. The other 99% of the time, I use my trainer as my workstand. Noting how much I love indoor training, I use my trainer as a workstand about 100x more than I use it as a heat-generating device.

I worked on my bikes for several years before I splurged on an honest-to-god workstand.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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The most affordable presses that look like they might be worth their weight are the Wheels Mfg ones, has anyone used these? I don't know that I could squeeze those Park products into the budget that's specified here.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [mpquick] [ In reply to ]
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Anyone using a homemade headset/BB press? Back when I mountain biked a lot, there were plenty of posts on MTBR's Maintenance forum about using a length of threaded rod, some washers and nuts instead of the Park tool.

Something like http://bostonfixed.us/...hp?DiscussionID=3854
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [WelshinPhilly] [ In reply to ]
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did that for years (and on a good number of auto bearings too!)
Finally bought a super nice wheels mfg one from a friend who was selling off his stuff a while back, but I've still got a good number of different size threaded rods/washers in the toolbox.

My Blog - http://leegoocrap.blogspot.com
Podium Sports Racing - http://www.podiumsportsmed.com/team/
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [mpquick] [ In reply to ]
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have one. it's nice



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Fruit snacks are for winners
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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I'm a notorious cheapo and or "value" guy.

1. Bike stand
I am fortunate enough that my wife is a total value shopper and picked up the famous/infamous? Aldi bike stand for me 2 years ago. I think the brand is Bikemate. She figured it was so cheap ($30 I think?) that if I turned my nose at it, we could just throw it away or sell for a few bucks next garage sale. I'm no joe pro, but I will fiddle, clean chains/etc.....and it is more than adequate for that.

2. Here's my real pro tip. (Pro as in, I own a factory and use lots of tools....when it comes to tri, I'm a completer, weekend warrior former fat older guy....now just an older guy)
Harbor Freight!
Don't buy a pedal wrench. Get the really 'thin' metric open end wrench set from Harbor Freight. $7-8 is my recollection. Works like a peach as a pedal wrench and you wind up with a usable set of metric wrenches for putting together Ikea furniture instead of their included tool which will always result in scraped knuckles and much cursing.
Lots of cheap allen wrenches too. $3-6 depending on what you want. I go with the smaller the better. One set is so small and light, I keep it on one of my bikes instead of bike-specific doohickey/multitool. The bonus here, is when I fail to put away my other metric allen wrenches I use about the house and can't find them in the pile on my workbench, I know where a backup set is.

As with Harbor Freight, though....if it's a MISSION CRITICAL tool you can't live without....buy two, because one's gonna fail. Still cheaper than buying "good" tools from the box store. Although, that's generally for the electric or pneumatics. Wrenches....meh...for the most part....are wrenches.

For me, the one thing I've had zero luck trying to scrimp on is a floor pump.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [aj```] [ In reply to ]
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Did you read the article? There was a dissertation on what is harbor freight safe.


Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:

it sounds like mattyk needs them more than you do! i feel sorry for that guy. did you know that he tied a rock to an old broom handle with used twine and that's what he uses for a hammer?
Oi! Don't make me come over there and hit you with my hammer!

Don't feel sorry, I'm just being creative on a tight budget.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:
Did you read the article? There was a dissertation on what is harbor freight safe.

Apparently....I'm a moron and didn't scan the front page thoroughly enough. Back in a bit.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [aj```] [ In reply to ]
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OK....read it now.
*whew*....a little better taste in my mouth now that my foot isn't planted in it.

I'll have to look again for cartridges. Last I checked, the ones that worked in my spritzer were a little more expensive because they're "food grade"
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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We should have a "post your home bike workshop pictures" topic.

Mine consists of a floor pump, feedback sports sprint stand, bunch of bike parts all over the garage, and some good parktool pieces sitting on the floor next to the general toolbox because I can't buy a tool chest right now because we've been moving soon... for 4 years now. A mouse pooped all over them once. It is now hopefully happy living in a greenbelt near my office.
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Dilbert] [ In reply to ]
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Dilbert wrote:
We should have a "post your home bike workshop pictures" topic.

Mine consists of a floor pump, feedback sports sprint stand, bunch of bike parts all over the garage, and some good parktool pieces sitting on the floor next to the general toolbox because I can't buy a tool chest right now because we've been moving soon... for 4 years now. A mouse pooped all over them once. It is now hopefully happy living in a greenbelt near my office.


Lol. Mine is not nearly so well organized, except I do have a bike toolbox...but, nothing's in it. Well, that's not strictly true. All the tools I don't use are in there, and an empty butyl shraeder tube box, and I think a finisher medal.
Last edited by: Tom_hampton: Sep 14, 17 15:33
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Re: The Bike Tinkerer's Toolset [Dilbert] [ In reply to ]
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Dilbert wrote:
A mouse pooped all over them once. It is now hopefully happy living in a greenbelt near my office.

or nestled among pillows and blankets inside a storage bin in your garage, exiting and entering through a hole you were pretty sure no rodent could make.


Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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