Top 10 Tools to have at Home!

Working on your bike usually derives two responses; it fills you with dread or it presents you with an irresistible challenge! Whatever your reaction having the right tool for the job is critical for the successful completion and also helps to make sure that you don’t end up damaging your prized possession. So we offer our take on the Top 10 tools you should have at home…just in case you’re faced with either fear or fun!

  1. Hex Wrenches; you’ll end up using these more than any other tool, invest in a metric set and you’ll be good for anything from brake blocks to pedals! Getting a set that has “ball ends” will help with those awkward jobs too!
  2. Track Pump; most will work with Presta and Schrader valves. A big gauge is a bonus…especially for those of us with failing eyesight! Some newer pumps can also be used as a “compressor” to seat tubeless tires.
  3. Tire Levers; we’ve mentioned these before as something to keep in your saddle bag but having them in your tool box too means you won’t have to ransack your bike when you’re changing tires. Pedro’s are unbreakable! We also used Levers from Silca or Snēk
  4. Torque Wrench; don’t leave tightening up bolts to guess work, critical items like your bars and stem need to be tightened just right to avoid coming loose on a ride or being over-tightened to failure. One point to note, don’t use the Torque Wrench to loosen bolts.
  5. Chain Whip and Cassette Lock Tool; OK this is twofer, but one without the other is pretty useless, you’ll need the pair to remove a cassette and the Cassette Lock tool to actually tighten the cassette down on the free-hub when you are replacing it
  6. Lubricants; we mentioned Chain Lube last week, others to consider are Anti Seize Compound, Grease, Carbon Grip Compound and so on! Overwhelmed? Get some general purpose bike grease, this is good place to start
  7. Pedal Wrench; having leverage is a good thing when it comes to removing pedals, and a nice stiff pedal wrench is well worth having. It’s not something  you will use every day but when you do you will need a good one!
  8. Torx Keys; 10, 15 and 25 are most common sizes and these are becoming more and more prevalent on SRAM, Campagnolo and FSA equipped bikes
  9. Chain Tool, to be honest you’ll only need this if you are using a chain that does not use Master (or “Quick” Links i.e. KMC, SRAM), if you are using a Master Link Chain get a pair of Master Link Pliers
  10. Bike Stand; ok, so it’s not a tool but it makes it so much easier than working on your bike when it’s leaning against the wall, or worse, upside down. Can also be used when washing the bike!

Bonus items that you may already have; rags, latex gloves, flathead and phillips screwdrivers, scissors, cable ties and a tool box.  All of the above should be available through your local bike shop or online.

Do you need to spend a fortune, no, but it is worth investing in these tools to avoid having to replace them when poorer quality tools wear out.

A clean bike is a happy bike!

So, you’ve ridden your bike hard all day, weekend, or week! Now it’s time to hang it up covered in grime, grease and grimaced induced sweat and wait for the weekend to come around and do it all again, right?  Wrong!

We’d like to present the updated version of old adage; “ride it hard and put it away dirty”…“ride it hard and put it away, washed, waxed, inspected, lubed and ready to roll!

There are several drivers for this;

  • Cleaning it now, while you have the time, removes the panic of pulling it down  before your group ride and realizing it’s filthy from the prior weekend!
  • It’s a good opportunity to give an inspection! Early identification of possible issues can save you a lot of time and money down the road; this includes, balding tires, loose bolts, worn bar tape or even worse a cracked frame!
  • A clean bike is a pleasure to ride. If your motivation is a bit low, jumping on a sparkling steed is a lot easier to do!
  • Longevity of your parts. That black chain is covered in a high friction abrasive paste is quickly grinding down you cassette and chainrings. Chances are it’s also going to ruin any item of clothing it touches!
  • A well “oiled” machine performs better, ok so we’re not oiling anything but a well maintained machine will perform better than one that’s not!
  • If you do find an issue, how happy will your mechanic be when you show up with a clean bike!

With that said now onto the cleaning. The list of parts is quite short;

The Essentials:

  • Bucket; full of hot water!
  • Sponge; car wash sponge, nice, big and spongy, color is your choice!
  • Stiff Brush; used on your cassette and chain; grout brushes are great!
  • Degreaser; we prefer Simple Green and we buy it by the gallon from Amazon
  • Spray bottle; fill 5:1 ratio of water to Simple Green
  • Dish Soap; add a good squirt to the bucket
  • Towel; for drying!
  • Chain Lube; for after you have cleaned you drivetrain. We’re big fans of Wend Wax, it’s low friction and doesn’t attract the road grime that eventually turns into that abrasive paste. One application lasts 100 miles or so.

The Optionals;

  • Car Wash shampoo; ArmorAll works great
  • Bike stand; avoids having to lay your bike down or turn it over
  • Dummy Hub; just makes life easier when messing with the chain, we like the Park Tool DH-1
  • Chain Cleaner; these are mostly all the same, we buy whatever is the cheapest at the time and we are currently using one from Finish Line
  • Frame Wax; Pedro’s Lust, we’ve been using it for over 10 years now!
  • IPA; consumed post recovery shake. A 12 ounce can should last as long as it takes to clean the bike! We opted for the refreshing Gold Cliff IPA from the Kona Brewing Company, not too hoppy with a nice sweet aftertaste!

These are the steps that we follow;

  1. Open beer…
  2. Remove accessories; Garmin, bottles, lights, seat bag!
  3. Remove wheels and mount bike on stand
  4. Move wheels to one side; spray cassette with degreaser, leave to soak in
  5. If no stand flip upside down on grass or towel and remove wheels. Don’t do this on the concrete unless you want to scratch your shifters and saddle and be an instant sad panda!
  6. Mount Dummy Hub if you have one. Spray chain and derailleurs with degreaser, leave to soak in
  7. Use stiff brush to clean chain and jockey wheels. If you’re not using a Dummy Hub be careful pulling the chain across the chain stay, watch the paintwork!
  8. Use chain cleaner to cleaner the chain. Using Simple Green works great and the earlier spray will have helped! Change the fluid once or twice until the chain is clean
  9. Wash bike with soapy sponge and water! Don’t scrimp. The hot water and soap will cut through the dirt and carry it off. Pay attention to the face of the brake blocks, the underside of downtube and between the chain-stays, wash all the sweat off…it’s corrosive!
  10. Rinse bike; a gentle shower from a hose is all you need, not a jet wash, you’re just rinsing it off!
  11. Wipe dry with towel
  12. Use the soapy water to wash the wheels spokes, hubs and tires. Use this time to inspect the tires too!
  13. Clean the cassette; using the stiff brush and the degreaser it’s a liberal application of elbow grease that’s going to get it clean! If it’s almost clean, spend another 5 minutes doing it!
  14. Rinse the wheels; again a gentle shower, no need to blast them, just wash the suds off
  15. Wipe dry with towel
  16. Remount wheels
  17. Hold onto and gently bounce the bike on the tires to knock all the excess water off
  18. Give a final wipe dry
  19. Wax frame; makes it shiny and new!
  20. Lube chain
  21. Finally place your accessories on charge and throw the empty beer can in recycling trashcan!

So that’s it! Think of it as more of a guideline than a prescriptive set of steps.

Do you need to do this every ride, every week or every month…we can’t say for sure.

What we can suggest is to take a look at your bike and ask yourself the question…is it dirty and listen to the answer!

We’ll see you out there!

Side of the road spares!

There is a famous quote from Benjamin Disraeli that goes “I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best”. This is a great starting point for every ride. We all hope to have the best ride, one without problems, with the sun on our face and the wind on our back. There is, however, an equally famous quote from Robert Burns which goes along the lines of “the best laid plans of mice and man often go awry”!

I will virtually guarantee that the second quote has applied to you while on a ride at some point! The end result often leaves you standing on the side of the road looking at your bike and wishing you could wind the clock back 2 hours to before you have left or had packed that extra tube, multi tool or pump!

So in this week’s Newsletter we will give you some food for thought on what you should and/or could take with you on your next ride. 

Alas we are not Pro’s, we are not followed by our Director Sportif or personal mechanic or SAG Wagon! So we need to carry our own spares. Contrary to The Velominati’s Rule #29 carrying them on the bike in a saddlebag frees up your jersey pockets for your nutrition, spare clothes and phone. So here is our list of suggestions:

Inner TubeYesYes, take 2 tubesIdeally take a new one, it should (obviously) hold air and have a functional valve. Don’t think that you need two…just ask Norman Stadler!
Tire LeverYes or NoNo or YesSome tires just don’t need them, if yours don’t your golden, if yours do then bring one at a minimum, you may need two!
Co2 CartridgeNoYesMakes it super easy on the day, re-inflate your tire when you get home as the Co2 will leak out over time 16 – 20 grams for a road tire
Co2 Cartridge HeadNoYesCheck make sure you head type matches your cartridge type, don’t discover you have mixed and matched a push on and screw on!
Multi Tool4, 5, 6mm hex & Torx, flat and cross head screwdriverChain BreakerOn a MTB or Gravel ride a Chain Breaker is very handy to have as well as a spare derailleur hanger! Know how to use them before leaving the house!
Chain Quick LinksYesYesIt’s tiny, weighs nothing and broken chains do happen! Again, understand how to use it before you head out.
Latex GlovesWell kinda…YesTo be honest, these can be a kit saver, you’re guaranteed to have an issue on New White Jersey Day, plus they stop annoying rattles in your bag!
PumpNoYesEssential if your opt out of carrying Co2. Pop it in your jersey pocket. An added bonus it allows you to be a good Samaritan on the road!
CashYesYesMoney talks; at least it will pay for the cab home, let you buy that Coke or even better the second slice of cake on your coffee ride!

All of the above, with the exception of the Pump, should fit into a regular sized saddle bag, you don’t need one large enough for the Kitchen Sink! We’re fans of the Silca Seat Roll for it’s classic European look and the Topeak Wedge Pack XS for it’s clean looks and simple mounting mechanism.

While not an exhaustive list these are the things we take with us every time we ride!