Buying Guide: Tools & Cleaners

What tools should I buy for my bike?

Whether you’re building a bike from scratch or planning on tackling home maintenance of your pride and joy, nothing makes the job more frustrating than having poor quality, or incorrect tools. Home workshop setups can cost a fair bit of money, but compared to the cost of shop servicing, you can save a packet in the long run. Having a few basic tools can make it a lot easier to work on your bike at home.

Jump to:

Working at Home

First off, you’ve only got two hands, so a workstand is always helpful for holding your bike at a useful height when you’re working on it. Most rely on a clamp that grips the frame’s tubes – height and angle adjustable versions make the job a lot easier, while some will also accept a secondary tool shelf. If you’re just looking to do simpler jobs, such as tuning gears, a stand which raises the rear wheel off the ground, is often enough.

What tool is absolutely essential for working on a bike?

Most jobs on a bike will require Allen keys. A full set, from 1.5 to 8mm will keep all bases covered, while ball-ended ones, like the Specialized Mechanic Wrench Set will make getting into awkward areas, such as front derailleurs, a lot easier. You may want to back your Allen keys up with some Torx keys too, as Torx bolts are being used more by component manufacturers.

If you’re doing bolts up, then you’ll need to grease them too, to stop them seizing. Different bolts and threads need different greases, so in time grease, anti-seize or copperslip, carbon assembly paste and Loctite should make their way into your workshop tool kit. Instructions with components should give you an idea of what you should use where.

How can a chain splitting tool help?

Whether you’re attaching a full new drivechain or just swapping a rear derailleur, a good quality chain splitting tool will save you a lot of grief. Chains can be fiddly, so look out for ones with a chain hook and tabs to stop you pushing pins too far, such as the Topeak Link 11 Folding Chain Tool. Shimano chains generally require joining pins if you split the chain, while SRAM’s chains have Powerlinks for when you reattach links.

What other tools will I need when working on my bike?

Some jobs, such as cassette and bottom bracket removal, will need specific tools, and many will require an adjustable spanner to go alongside them. A set of screwdrivers is also useful for adjusting the limit screws on a derailleur. Finally, if you want to do absolutely everything yourself, look for disk brake bleed kits, headset presses and wheel truing stands for a more comprehensive set of workshop tools.

Tools on a Ride

Why do I need a multi-tool kit?

Nothing can spoil a ride more than a mechanical problem. Having a flat tyre or mechanical problem is especially bad when it’s blowing a gale or chucking it down with rain – so it’s always worth carrying some basic tools with you -and of course learning how to use them! Packing your jersey pockets (or saddle bag/pack) is always a balancing act between being fully prepared for any eventuality and taking as little as you think you can get away with. For this reason, cycling multi-tools and kits are often built to be as compact and light as possible, while still being functional.

Which multi-tool kit is best for cycling?

The most basic multi-tool will have a few Allen keys and a screwdriver, but while they’ll cover a lot of bases, they won’t cover them all. Multi-tools can come equipped with almost everything you’ll need, neatly packaged together to contain Allen keys, screwdrivers, Torx keys and even chain tools. If you take good care of them, they should last years, which makes them a good investment. Some come with neoprene cases, which stop the tools flapping open in your pack, and keep moisture away, which will help prevent rust.

What do I need to fix a bicycle puncture?

One of the most common mechanicals while riding your bike is the dreaded puncture. Taking a replacement tube is always a good idea in case your puncture is from a split tube, but puncture repair kits are a quick and economical way of getting you back on the road or trail.

There are two main types of puncture repair kit. The first is the rubber patch and vulcanising glue – these will create a repair that should leave the tube as good as new. The second is sticky patches to get you back on the bike quickly. Sticky patches tend not to last as long though, so we’d recommend a full repair when you get home. Once you’ve repaired your puncture, you’ll need to re-inflate your tyre with a mini pump. Mini pumps come in a wide range of shapes – the larger they are, the quicker they should be able to inflate your tyres, although they will be heavier than the smallest pumps. Road bike tyres need high pressure whereas mountain bike tyres need high volume, and there are specific mini-pumps for each purpose.

Some, such as the Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV, come with fold-out footplates and handles, while others, like the Topeak RaceRocket are small enough to fit in your back pocket. For those who really want to minimise time spent faffing, CO2 cartridge inflators inflate tyres in just a couple of seconds. If you want to spend as little time as possible by the side of the road or trail.

Lubes and Cleaners

Why is lubrication important for a bike?

If you don’t keep your bike clean and well lubricated, you’ll find that components wear out a lot faster - especially your drivetrain, wheels and suspension. Cleaning and lubricating your bike can be a chore, but it’s certainly worth it and the right products make the job quicker and more efficient. At Evans Cycles we have plenty of lubricating and cleaning products to help keep your bike running like a well-oiled machine.

Can I use warm soapy water to clean my bike?

Back in the day, a bucket of warm soapy water is what we used to clean bikes, and there’s certainly no harm in doing that. It’s worth being aware that some general cleaning products may have salts in them, so a thorough rinse is required to prevent rusting. Sponges tend to work well on cars, but for ingrained dirt and grime on a bike, brushes rule the roost. Bike cleaning brush sets like the FWE bike cleaning brush set, provide a range of different brushes designed to get into nooks and crannies. Another approach to bicycle cleaning is to use a bike cleaner or bike wash spray. They’re simple to use: spray them on the bike, wait a few minutes then with a blast from a hose and perhaps a bit of brush work, dirt tends to come off very easily.

Are there alternative methods of cleaning your bike?

Bike-specific pressure washers have a motor and water tank to spray dirt off your bike. Be careful around bearings and suspension if you choose to use other pressure washers, as they can easily force water behind seals.

Once the bike is clean, water dispersers should be used on the drivechain to prevent rust. Spray-on versions such as GT85 are popular, but take care around braking surfaces as their Teflon component will severely impact on braking performance! If you do contaminate your brakes, a disk brake cleaner can salvage the situation.

With the water dispersed, it’s time to lube your chain. As the name suggests, wet lubes work better in wet conditions, but are messier. Dry lubes and waxes work well in dry conditions, helping stop dust from sticking to the chain. For best results, apply lube to a clean, dry chain.

What other cleaning tools are good for my bike?

Frame polish sprays like the Muc-Off Pro-Detailer polish keep your bike looking tip-top, and can help prevent dirt sticking – again, take care around braking surfaces. Suspension forks and shocks also benefit from fork sprays, such as Finish Line Suspension Lube spray, to help keep their wipers and seals working smoothly. For more tips on how to clean your bike, watch our video guide to bike cleaning.

Want to know more about cyclo-cross bikes? Try our cyclo-cross bike buying guide.