Saturday, 21 May 2011

Ten Tools for your Road Cycling Toolbox

In the second of a series of articles.  Former Pro bike mechanic Mike Jackson talks us through 10 tools which he recommends.  There's a few there that i'll be investing in for sure.

We’ve all got a box of tools with stuff we have had since we started cycling. Probably still got your first set of Allen Keys you got free on the front of a long since out of print MTB magazine or that first multi-tool that you picked up at your LBS. I know I have!

When you upgrade to a better bike it’s time to think about the quality of tools you use too. If you use cheap or worn tools they can do some serious damage to your Bling components or worse still, slip and cause you a serious injury.

Follow a few of these tips below and it may help you to spanner in relative safety and with more confidence. One tool in particular is a revelation.

Allen Keys

We all need to check things or tinker with position from time to time and as 95% of quality cycles are held together by the six sided socketed screws it is essential to have a good selection of metric Allen Keys.

Park Tools and Pedro’s make some excellent quality “P” handled, ball ended, hex wrenches, which are the choice of many pro mechanics. As with most things in life, a little investment will last you a lifetime. 

Park Tool Co. P-Handle Hex Wrench
I have the luxury and need have both sets but also use a set of “L” handled (standard) keys for those inaccessible locations like that pesky second bottle cage. The 3 way wrenches are useful when building a bike up too. Like bikes, you can never have enough quality Allen Keys. If they are damaged or start to damage your bolts, discard them. 


If you’re serious about your setup then you will need a workstand. I use a discontinued lightweight Park Tools stand that I have had for years and should keep on doing so for the foreseeable future. If I were to invest in a new stand I would be spoilt for choice. 

If you like the upright, seatpost supported stand I suggest the Feedback Sports ProElite. The mechanism is quite superb and it is very stable and light. If you prefer the Bottom Bracket supported type then Park Tools make a Team Race Stand that is a nice solid unit and holds the bike with either dropout.

Park Tools Team Race Stand
Pedal Spanner

Potentially one of the most dangerous operations is the removal of pedals. When a chainring bites, it usually hurts for a long time. A quality pedal specific spanner is a good way to cut your chances of a nasty cut. I use a nice long Pedro’s Equalizer Pro. It has a MTB style grip as a cushion for your hand and a nice wide 15mm spanner head at the business end. 

Its finish is fabulous too, matt black, this seasons colour! Some pedals have no flats which infuriates me. No Allen Key is as long as my Equalizer but a few companies make some pedal specific Allen Keys. Park Tools and Pedro’s again make plastic handled 6mm and 8mm wrenches that fit the bill well, still a little too short, for my liking, for those over tight, dry pedals.

Chain Whip

Another area for serious spanner rash! This is my big tip for safety and innovation. I have used a Park Tools chain whip for years but always found them to be a little cumbersome and awkward to use. I had come to the conclusion that it was supposed to be like that. That is until I saw the best tool I currently own. 

It’s not too expensive, will last forever and just won’t slip of the cassette. Some years ago an American cycling guru, Leonard Zinn designed a cassette tool for Pedro’s that makes the process of cassette removal incredibly easy and importantly safe. 

Pedros Vise Whip
This tool is a derivative of the humble Mole Grip, Vice Grip or Electricians Adjustable. Zinn coined it the Vise Whip and it went into production as soon as Pedro’s had tested it. If your cassette lock ring is as tight as it should be then this will be your best friend. The best chain whip on the market.

Headset Tool

If you’re fitting an external cupped headset then you need to use a specialist tool to assist you. You could spend a fortune on a top brand. There are loads on the market but if you’re on a budget go for a Park Tools Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press (HHP-3). It is capable of fitting most External Cup Headsets and BB30/BB90 too. Simple and cheap.

Home Mechanic Bearing Cup Press
Chain Splitter

Cheap Chain Splitters can destroy a good chain by distorting the outer plates. This weakens the pin joint and can cause premature failure. I always fit a quick link in my chains. It stops me unnecessarily damaging a chain. 

Plenty of Chain Splitters are on the market; go for one with a long comfortable handle. Quite often you get a stiff link in the chain, this causes mis-shifting and noise but it is difficult to align the pin correctly with most splitters. 

For this I use a Park Tools Mini Chain Brute (CT-5). It has a shelf specifically designed for the task. It’s small and easy to put in your jersey pocket. Cheap too!

Park Tools Mini Chain Brute
 Quick Link

As previously mentioned I fit a quick link to my chains but if you struggle to break them then use a set of Park Tools Master Link Pliers (MLP-1). Fat Spanner make a good copy too.

Cable Cutters

Get some bike specific Cable Cutters and use them just for that. No zip ties, no nails or screws, just use them for the inner wire cables and the outers on your bike.

Fork Cutter

If you read my last blog I mentioned using a Fork Steerer cutting guide. It gives a better finish and more accurate cut. To smooth things even more use Effetto Mariposa Carbocut blades. Tungsten Carbide edged blades last up to 6 times longer and don’t rip your delicate carbon fibres. I use these and an Ice Tools Cutting Guide.
Track Pump 
Invest in a Track Pump with a wide base, a long hose and a pressure gauge. Forget the smart heads out there. Go for a Lezyne Flip Chuck, it’s pretty foolproof. I have fitted this to an old and trusted SKS pump, solid and efficient. The pump takes the guess work out of tyre pressure. 

Lezyne Flip Chuck
About the Author

Started off by fixing my own bikes as a kid and after joining the military I attended several 24 hour MTB events as a mechanic then chief mechanic. I did RAAM as a driver/mechanic and then looked after several military teams at week long MTB races.

I got my big break and worked for a couple of pro road teams,, Rapha Condor, Kinesis and Team Raleigh. I am now a freelance mechanic and build bikes for Onix Bikes.

You can follow Mike (and ask him questions) on Twitter here.  If you can get your bike to Mike, he can do the following: -
Full Service, Strip, Diagnostic Check & Rebuild. £50.
Report supplied on return, all areas cleaned, greased and adjusted.
Parts are extra to the quoted price. Any supplied component can be fitted in this price.

Partial Service, Inspection & Diagnostic Check, £30.
Report supplied on return, bike returned clean and adjusted.
Parts are extra to the quoted price. Any supplied components can be fitted in this price.

All other work, price on request.  You must arrange drop off and collection.  Contact Mike by e-mail at

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