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10 Essential Bike Tools for the Home Mechanic

If you want to work on your own bike at home, then you'll need a few tools to get started. These are my picks for the essential bike tools all riders need to fix, tune, and tweak their bikes.

Written by: Bruce Lin

Published on:

Posted in:Guides

Sometimes, wrenching on bikes can be as fun as actually riding them. Sometimes, it can be so frustrating that you want to throw your bike in the dumpster (hopefully this doesn’t happen too often!). Whatever end of this spectrum you end up on, the one thing that will always improve the experience of working on your own bike is a good set of tools. 

So what do home mechanics need to build the perfect tool kit? These are the tools that I consider essential for every home mechanic working on modern road, gravel, and mountain bikes. I use all these tools regularly and can’t keep my bikes running without them! 

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1. Hex Wrench Set (+ T25 Torx)

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This is where the wrenching journey starts for most cyclists. If you don’t have any tools, a good hex wrench set is the first thing to get because it will handle the vast majority of the bolts found on modern bikes. I say a GOOD hex wrench set because high-quality hex wrenches are machined to better tolerances, so they fit bolts tighter and are less likely to strip them.

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T25 Torx bolts are the second most common type of bolt used on bikes after hex bolts. It’s always a good idea to at least have one T25 wrench handy just in case.

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If you prefer, a bike multitool can be an alternative to a set of hex wrenches, and many will also include a T25. Multitools are also easier to take with you on a ride (always a good idea), but they can be harder to use in tight areas and lack leverage when doing serious work. I have both, a set of wrenches for my garage, and a multitool I keep on the bike. 

2. A Floor Pump (With a Pressure Gauge)

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Obviously, you need a way to air up your tires (some may argue that a pump should be number one on this list). If you’re only going to buy two tools, make it a pump and hex wrenches.

The one thing I’ll recommend is to get a pump with a built-in tire pressure gauge. Good floor pumps are super reliable and should last for years, sometimes even decades. Modern bikes need a pump compatible with Presta valves (many pumps have dual-sided heads compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves).

The tire pressure gauge is important because it will allow you to pump your tires up to the same pressure every time you ride and experiment with pressures to dial in things like comfort and rolling resistance. 

3. Tire Levers

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If you get a flat and need to replace a tube or you want to change your own tires, then you need tire levers to unseat and seat your tire beads. There’s not much to say about them. I always recommend Pedro's levers. They’re cheap, tough, and effective. Most mechanics consider them the best tire lever in the business. 

If you have disc brakes, they’re also a handy tool for pushing back pistons when replacing brake pads (just make sure they’re clean!).

4. Chain Lube (+ Cleaning Tools)

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Okay, so chain lube isn’t technically a tool, but chain lube is something every cyclist NEEDS in their toolbox. Keeping your chain and drivetrain clean and lubricated is essential to keeping your bike running quietly and smoothly and preventing premature wear. Any lube will work (read the linked article if you want to get nerdy), and the key is to just keep the chain clean and to lube it whenever it starts making noise (lubing more often is better). 

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You can clean your chain with a rag or a toothbrush with a bit of water, but there are tons of products specifically designed for cleaning your chain and drivetrain before applying lube. Personally, I use a 3-sided chain brush. I dip it in some degreaser or soapy water and run the chain through it. I wipe the chain with a rag and apply lube when it’s fully dry. 

5. Bike Repair Stand

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This is going to be one of the pricier tools on this list. I think that cyclists who don’t own a repair stand are subjecting themselves to unnecessary suffering. Repair stands hold your bike up off the ground, making it way easier to remove the wheels, access components, and perform services and repairs.

You don’t need to go crazy. Feedback’s entry-level Recreational Repair Stand 2.0 is less than $200 and will do everything you need. Options like the Feedback Sport Stand have a few more handy features and can fold up for transport and storage.

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In general, I always recommend Feedback stands because their stands are super lightweight and easy to move around, and I think they have the best/easiest-to-use bike clamping system in the business. 

6. Torque Wrench

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Many important bolts on your bike (e.g., stem, seatpost, suspension bolts) have a recommended torque spec. It’s always a good idea to use a torque wrench for the final tightening. It prevents damage and ensures everything is properly tight.

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TPC includes a small 5Nm torque wrench with every bike purchase (it’s in the hero image for this post!), and that should handle the vast majority of bolts cyclists will need to torque during assembly. I still use mine, but as my home repairs have gotten more complicated, I’ve picked up a nicer adjustable torque wrench that can handle everything from stem bolts to crank and suspension linkage bolts. 

7. Valve Core Wrench

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If you run tubeless tires like me, this is something you’ll get a lot of use out of. Valve core wrenches allow you to remove the valve core from your tubeless valves. This allows you to do a few things: 

  • It allows more airflow for seating tubeless tires
  • It allows you to clean and clear clogged tubeless valves
  • It allows you to inject/add tubeless sealant (usually with an applicator bottle or tubeless syringe) without unseating the tire

I use mine almost monthly and I actually have several because they’re small and I tend to lose them. Maybe I should keep them in a magnetic dish (see below). 

8. Rotor Truing Fork

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If you have disc brakes, this is the handiest tool ever. With six disc brake bikes in my garage, I use mine a lot. 

There’s nothing more annoying than a disc rotor constantly rubbing during a ride. If the rub is due to a warped rotor (either from heat or bumping it into something) then you’ll need to use a truing fork to true the rotor and make it straight again. It’s possible to use an adjustable crescent wrench, but I find you can’t get the same minute and precise adjustments you get with the actual rotor truing tool. 

9. Chain Breaker (+ Quick Link Pliers)

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Other than keeping your chain clean and lubed, the best way to increase the life of your drivetrain is to replace your chain before it gets too worn. (You can check your chain with a ruler or a chain checker, or track your mileage, but personally I just proactively replace my chain every season.) You’ll need a chain breaker to cut your new chain to the correct length.

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Quick link pliers aren’t essential, but they’re nice to have. It’s possible to install and remove quick links without them but the pliers make it a snap (literally). 

10. Shock Pump

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This mainly applies to mountain bikers. A shock pump is essential for adding or removing air from your suspension. This lets you set up your sag and dial in your suspension for your weight, riding style, and terrain. 

5 More Advanced / Nice-to-have Bike Tools

1. Tri Allens

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Tri Allens are just hex wrenches arranged into a three-pointed, Y-shaped tool. I actually use these a lot because they’re convenient and easy to spin. 

2. Cassette Lockring Tool + Chain Whip

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Cassette tools allow you to remove and install your cassette from your rear wheel. For removal, you’ll need to use it in conjunction with a chain whip to keep the freehub from spinning. Removing your cassette makes it easy to give it a deep clean. I also regularly swap cassettes/wheels on my bikes and wouldn’t be able to without this tool.

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I just use the cheap Park Tool lockring tool with a socket wrench (it also works with a crescent wrench). For chain whips, I either use a basic Park Tool whip or Feedback’s cassette pliers. There’s no slippage, so you won’t skin your knuckles.

3. Cable & Housing Cutters

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If you’ve ever tried (and probably failed) to cut bike cables or housing with regular wire cutters, then you’ll know why you need cutters designed specifically for tackling steel bike cables and housing. 

4. Truing Stand (+ Spoke Wrenches)

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Truing/building wheels is a fairly advanced skill, but if you can do it yourself, you’ll save lots of money and experience a level of zen that you can only achieve with a truing stand. This is the skill I’m most excited about honing this year.

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5. Magnetic Parts Bowls

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Bikes have a lot of tiny bolts and parts that are easy to drop on the ground and lose forever. Magnetic bowls are one of the best things I’ve added to my home workshop and they save me A LOT of frustration. 

Complete Bike Tool Kits

Many cyclists piece together their tool kits tool by tool over several years. But if you want a complete set-up right out of the gate, you can also buy a complete tool kit that will cover all the essentials and more. Here are the two that I’d recommend: 

Park Tool AK-5 Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit

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Park Tool is the king of bike tools. This kit is super complete and it even includes Park Tool’s “Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair” that will help new home mechanics learn the ropes. Riders on modern bikes likely won’t get much use out of the cone wrenches. 

Feedback Sports Team Edition Tool Kit

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I like that Feedback’s tool kit can be hung from their repair stands, keeping all the essential tools within reach. It comes with a full set of tri allens, which I like a lot, but I’d add a traditional L-shaped hex wrench set since there are situations where a tri allen just won’t fit. 

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Do you agree with my essential bike tool picks? What tools did I miss? Let me know in the comments!