Last week I asked my instagram audience whatthey would include in a beginner mountain bike toolbox. Overwhelmingly, they agreed on hex wrenches,and tacos. Good start, but something’s missing.
Last time we assembled a new mountain bike,and if you’re following with a real life purchase of your own, well you might havejust spent all your money. This is why we’re talking about tools today. Good tools can outlast you, and most certainlyyour bike.
They’ll keep paying you back the longeryou hold on to them, and therefore tools are the smartest investment you can make in yournew hobby. So today, we’re going to take this breadloaf sized plastic box, and fill it with the most essential tools you should have as abeginner.
While there are cleaning supplies, lubricants,and other consumables essential to caring for a bike, this video will focus on whatyou need to swap parts and make adjustments. This all starts with the toolbox itself. If yours is cheap like this one, it will comewith a sticker on it which is near impossible to remove. Once you’ve done the impossible, it’sready for your stickers.
This will make it look and feel like yourtoolbox. And if your toolbox is like most, it alreadycontains one of the most useful tools you’ll ever come to know: A tray. When working on your bike, parts and toolswill have a tendency to walk off. So, use the tray to keep them contained. Of course there are other containers you canuse to keep track of parts, but at the end of the day they’re just trays. Get in the habit of using this very importanttool, and save yourself a lot of frustration. Now before you put anything in your toolbox,you should have a floor pump. I mentioned this in the bike assembly videobut I wanted to reiterate it here. A good floor pump will be bike specific, andinclude a pressure gauge.
As you go up in price, you start to get otherfeatures like more volume per stroke, and even air tanks that can help with seatingtires. Maintaining your tire pressure isn’t somethingyou’ll want to visit a shop for, so this should be one of the very first things youbuy, even before the toolbox itself. Also in the last video, I mentioned the shockpump. These only cost about $20, and they too willeliminate your reliance on a shop to make a simple and routine adjustments.
If your bike doesn’t have air suspension,then obviously you don’t need this. Chances are you already own the next one:A multi tool. Multi tools give you a lot of wrenches perdollar, and can help fill in the blanks as you build your tool arsenal. You can always find a missing hex, a T25,or even a spoke wrench in your trusty multi tool. Even an all purpose multi tool can be useful. Between this Crankbrothers F15 and this LeathermanWingman, we have a mini version of all this. For that reason, it never hurts to have somemulti tools around if you want to get up to speed quickly. But like I said, multi tools fill in the blanks. They rarely provide the leverage or capabilityyou’ll get from dedicated tools. So pick up a set of metric hex wrenches veryearly on.
Compared to the wrenches in your multi tool,they have more leverage, can fit in tighter spaces, and are overall much easier to use. It’s also important that you have duplicatesof the wrenches in your multi tool because—sometimes you need two of the same size. Since 3/4 of everything on your bike is fastenedwith hex bolts, you’ll get your money’s worth real quick. There are many styles of hex wrenches likethese T handles, and this highly ergonomically three way tool. But usually you’ll get the best cost toperformance out of these L style wrenches. For the sake of this video I bought a $7 setof these from Harbor Freight, and they’re honestly not bad.
But to me, the sweet spot lies at around $15,which will get you a set of plated hex wrenches from Bondhus. These have more leverage, are made of hardersteel, and will resist rust for longer. They’re not as fancy as a set of T handles,but they offer similar utility at a considerably lower cost and footprint. Next, you’re going to want some plastictire levers. Most mountain bike tires can be installedby hand, but when you do need a tire lever, you need just that—not a screwdriver. So for a couple bucks, they’re a no brainerto keep on hand. Next pick up a set of really good needle nosepliers, and I stress, a really good set. For this video I bought a cheap pair fromHarbor freight, and unlike the hex wrenches which worked fine, these are truly terrible.
The handles move around when you squeeze hard,they are unable to cut shift cable without the help of additional tools, and I couldactually see the dents in the cutting blade after using them. On the contrary these pliers can do the jobof several tools, including a cutter, a crimper, and of course a normal plier. It can even cut housing in a pinch. Any set of pliers can also be used to undoa master link. Just grab your chain like so and squeeze. With so many uses, needle-nose pliers shouldbe high on your list, but to cut with them you’ll need a decent set with good leverageand hard steel. The next tool is a T25 which is a size 25torx wrench, not to be confused with a torque wrench. Torx bolts can be identified with this littlestar pattern, and the most popular size is 25.
In fact the T25 is so common on bikes thatit’s usually the only torx you’ll find in a multi tool. I have an entire set of park tool T handletorx wrenches, but the only ones I keep in the face of my workbench are size 25 and 15. In fact, I have T25’s all over my shop foreasy access. So while you could buy a whole set of thesewrenches, one good T25 will serve you well. The next tool is a an adjustable wrench witha rubber grip. Make sure it’s big enough for your fork,which is usually just South of 30mm. Although there are very few things on a modernmountain bike that require this style of wrench, they can all be turned with an adjustableone.
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