Learning a new skill consistently tops the list of most popular New Year’s Resolutions. But if salsa club and Spanish language lessons don’t take your fancy, how about something that’ll still keep you spending plenty of time with your bike – learning bicycle maintenance.
If you’re new to cycling, you’ll quickly realise that maintenance is absolutely vital for keeping your bike healthy and roadworthy. What’s more, learning these simple but important tasks will save you time and money in the long run. You’ll have a better understanding of how your bike works and fewer problems will be left to worsen between services. So what could be more satisfying than learning how to look after your bike for yourself?
We asked Bruce Karsten, owner of Gravity Cycles, what he considers to be the top 10 must-have tools for any home workshop. Save this blog as a handy checklist for a well stocked tool box for when you need to change that chain or true that wheel.
It’s a frequent scenario: your gears are slipping and you can’t remember when last you had a service or changed your chain. A good place to start is checking whether your chain has worn beyond its useful life.
Place the chain wear tool on the chain with the two measuring pins in between the chain links. Move the measuring slider forward until the measuring pins can’t expand anymore and read the gauge. Readings above 0.5 indicate a worn chain meaning it’s time for a new one. There are tools which are easier to use, for example fixed versions where if the longer pin can slot into the gap in the chain, your chain is too worn.
Ensuring your chain hasn’t worn out or stretched significantly prolongs the life of your cassette and cogs so it’s worth keeping an eye on, especially if you use your bike for commuting.
Chain Whip & Sprocket Removal Tool
Either you’ve worn out the cogs on your cassette or you’ve decided to head to the French Alps (or Box Hill) and need a bigger ratio of gears. These two tools will allow you to hold the cassette still (chain whip) and turn the lock ring (sprocket removal tool) so you can remove the cassette. Some sprocket removal tools will come as one piece and others will have interchangeable sockets that would allow you to remove either Shimano or Campagnolo cassettes. Make sure to buy the correct lock ring to match your cassette brand.
After checking your chain for wear and deciding that you need a new one, you may notice it has a quick-link or power-lock (SRAM). Perhaps the new chain has a quick-links. This tool easily allows you to add or remove these handy links. Cleaning or changing your chain is a much less daunting task when you have one of these.
Place the pincers on either side of the link and squeeze to close it. Then pull the handles apart to extract a link. When putting the link back in, the tension on the chain will lock it again.
If your chain doesn’t have a quick-link or you’re installing a Shimano or Campagnolo chain, you’ll need one of these to insert the new pin into the chain to connect it. The tool can also be used to drive out or remove a pin if you’d like to remove the whole chain. When installing a new chain, it’s always worth inserting a quick link for future repairs or winter cleaning.
Ever wondered what the numbers with the ‘N’ symbol on your frame and components are? This stands for Newtons Metres, the unit used to measure tightness, or ‘Torque’. Manufacturers recommend how tight the bolts should be on the various points around your bike. Over tightening a bolt can cause it to thread or even worse, do damage to the components, especially when fastened to a carbon frame. A torque wrench will allow you to set the desired torque and stops tightening when you’ve reached the limit.
This might seem like an odd one to add to this top 10 list. But believe me, if you’ve ever changed your disc pads or removed them for some reason, then bumped or applied the brake leavers, you will know why they’re invaluable.
When pads are removed from a hydraulic disc caliper they leave a space that allows the pistons that power the brake to close. This can cause problems and means you need to perform a brake bleed – a hassle you could do without!
A brake choc is a solid piece of plastic designed to slot into the space left by the brake pads. This keeps the pistons in place should the brakes accidentally be applied. Alternatively, a small bit of tape across the caliper can help stop them falling out if you’re just moving or cleaning the bike.
If you’re packing up your bike into a car or bike box, the pedals often get in the way but can be a pain to remove without the right tools.
Some pedals can be removed with an oversized hex tool (or allen key), but many require a spanner. A good pedal spanner will have some soft coating to protect your cranks and some are off-set to allow for bikes with less clearance from the chain stays.
Remember to add a little anti-seize to the spindles when you replace the pedals. It can go a long way to stopping them from seizing, especially after a wet winter.
Don’t over-tighten the pedals when you put them back, they’re designed to not come loose.
The left pedal is always loosened in a clockwise (reverse) direction so bear that in mind before you make it even tighter!
For many years I turned my bikes upside-down or leant them against a chair. Then I bought my first work stand and what a game changer that was! If you are going to work on or clean your bike regularly this can save you so much grief! There are various options, but most stands allow you to either clamp the seat post, top tube or remove and fix your front wheel. All raise the bike to a convenient height and allow you to rotate the cranks.
Having the ability to secure the bike so you can turn the cranks and work with both hands seems trivial. But once you’ve used, you’ll wonder how you managed before.
This little tool slides into the dropout where your rear wheel should be on the chain side. It allows you to slot the chain over a rotating guide which lets you turn the cranks and clean the chain without the rear wheel in place. It’s also super handy if you’re transporting your bike and need to remove the rear wheel but are concerned that the rear derailleur might mark or chip the paint.
Thanks to Bruce Karsten, owner of Gravity Cycles. Bruce offers full services for £55 in the Surrey area.