Essential Bike Tools: Buyer’s Guide for the Beginner Mechanic

essential bike tools

Updated 11/20/16

DIY bicycle wrenching might sound intimidating, but consider this: Having a few essential bike tools and the skills to perform basic maintenance will not only save you significant cash in the long run, but could also save you from a long walk home if you snap a chain or pop a spoke in the middle of nowhere.

There are a few basic bike tools that every cyclist should own, some aren’t even bike specific (ie: they can be found cheaply at a hardware store). Every cyclist should know how to lube a chain, fix a flat and properly clean a bike. In fact, a cleaned and degreased bike should be first on the list before a tool ever touches it.

The right tools will help you replace a chain, cables and housing, as well as adjust brakes, remove a cassette or straighten misaligned wheels. I suggest pairing this guide with a bicycle maintenance book such as The Big Blue Book of Bicycle Maintenance or the recently updated Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance and, if in doubt, always consult your local bike shop before attempting a hero move that could compromise your bike or result in more repairs.

Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair | Amazon
$8.21

Learn to repair your bike with this powerful book! Each job is carefully explained in a way that makes sense to a novice mechanic and the experience wrench person. Each repair or maintenance project has easy to follow steps, complete with photographs, examples and helpful tips.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:13 am GMT

Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance | Amazon
$22.49

This is the world's best-selling guide to bicycle repair and maintenance. From basic repairs like how to fix a flat tire to advanced overhauls of drivetrains and brakes, Lennard Zinn's clearly illustrated guide makes every bicycle repair and maintenance job easy for everyone.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:18 am GMT

For instance, I have a riding buddy who tried to pry a crankset off his mountain bike using a crowbar. There’s a reason why Park Tools doesn’t make a blue-handled crowbar.

Bottom line: don’t be that guy. Use these essential bike tools to get the job done instead.

Want to keep it simple and buy a complete set of tools instead? Here’s my top pick for the beginner home mechanic and one for someone looking to perform more advanced repairs.

Park Tool SK-4 Bicycle Home Mechanic Starter Tool Kit | Amazon
$169.95

A perfect way to start a bicycle tool collection! A great combination of tools to help a home mechanic clean, adjust, maintain, and do some basic repairs on bike.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:19 am GMT

Park Tool AK-5 Advanced Bicycle Mechanic Tool Kit | Amazon
$299.95

This is a set of 36 carefully chosen tools to do basic maintenance and cleaning as well as perform a wide variety of repairs and adjustments on just about any bicycle. A perfect way to start or add to your collection of shop quality bicycle tools.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/05/2021 04:01 pm GMT


Bike Repair Stand

Best Bike Work Stand
Park PCS-10 Work Stand

Anyone who’s attempted a repair while leaning their bike against a wall or the side of a car will instantly recognize the value of a good bike stand. A bike stand is the foundation of all repairs and even makes cleaning your bike and lubing the chain so much easier. Look for one that has a broad base, is adjustable and clamps to the seat post. Or impress your friends and build your own

The Park PCS-10 Home Mechanic Stand is one of the bestselling and most reliable stands available. It’s sturdy and securely holds the bike. I like its versatility, with room to easily clamp tubes from 24mm-76mm. A quick release controls the height and this 25-pound-model folds down flat for portability. At $167, I’d suggest this for someone dedicated to more serious wrenching and who needs something sturdy and reliable.

For the occasional repair, the Bikehand Pro Mechanic Bicycle Repair Rack Stand is a good option. It holds a bike securely, but isn’t as durable as the Park PCS-10 and its plastic parts are more susceptible to wear and tear. This stand retails for $90.

You can find a full list of stand options at Amazon.

Park Tool PCS-10.2 Home Mechanic Bicycle Repair Stand | Amazon
$215.99

A workstand is perhaps the most essential tool for anyone working on a bicycle. The Park Tool PCS-10.2 is a basic bike workstand designed and built for the home mechanic, a stable way to hold nearly any bicycle for adjustments, cleaning, and repair.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:20 am GMT

Bikehand Bike Repair Stand (Max 55 lbs) | Amazon
$129.00

You need a bike repair stand to take care of swapping tires, lubricating a chain, adjusting the derailleurs, or building a new bike. The bike stand must be good looking, heavy duty, light, foldable, portable, adjustable and good value.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:20 am GMT

Basic and Essential Bike Tools 

If you own a bike, even one that you ride occasionally, these tools are necessary.

Bike Pump

best bicycle pump

Every bike owner needs a standing floor pump as well as a mini bike pump or frame pump to re-inflate a flat tire on the road. There are two types of valve stems, Presta and Schrader. Your best bet is to buy a bike pump that has dual heads for both. 

Standing floor pump

My main gripe with floor pumps is that the seal on the pump heads is unreliable and tends to leak air over time. Lezyne has expertly solved this problem with a chuck that threads directly onto the valve. It also delivers twice the airflow per stroke than similar models and is all metal. Style-conscious cyclists will appreciate the slick stainless steel shaft and polished wooden handle. I’ve used the same Lezyne pump consistently for the past six years and have never had a problem. Bicycles already have enough wear items. If you ride regularly, spend a little more initially ($70) for a pump that you won’t have to worry about wearing out.

If you need something less expensive, at around $30, the Nashbar Earl Grey is reliable with a large, easy-to-read pressure gauge. It’s ideal for someone who only rides occasionally. This pump lacks the refinement and ease of use of the Lezyne and its plastic parts give it a cheaper feel.

Looking for more options? We break down what to look for in a pump and share our top picks.

LEZYNE Classic Floor Drive Bicycle Pump, Black | Amazon
$74.99

Easily achieve the high pressures required in road bike and other low-volume tire applications. A smaller-diameter allows for high pressures to be achieved with minimal pumping force.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:16 am GMT

Nashbar Earl Grey Floor Pump | Amazon

Check out the Earl Grey if you want a reliable, inexpensive floor pump perfect for light-duty use.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Minipump

When you’re on the side of the road with a flat you need a pump that’s both reliable and high pressure. Lezyne fills this niche nicely. Their Pressure Drive Hand Pump delivers air with 30% less pumping through an ABS hose. Their screw-on chuck ensures air goes straight into your tire. Available in two sizes, this pump is ideal for road and mountain.

LEZYNE Pressure Drive Bicycle Tire Hand Pump | Amazon
$49.99

No one likes getting a flat. With the Lezyne Alloy Drive Hand Pump, the hassle of fixing one on the road or trail just got easier. The Alloy Drive is a compact high volume hand pump made of custom CNC machined aluminum for precise and lightweight construction. 

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 04:29 am GMT

Hex Keys

Bike Hex keys
Hex Keys

Also referred to as Allen Keys or an Allen or Hex wrench, these tools are available in several different lengths and sizes. Some have longer levers. You can cheaply buy the traditional L-shaped key at hardware stores or Park Tools offers hex wrenches with a P-shaped handle for better grip.

Three-way hex keys are also available, which offer three popular sized keys in one tool. These can be difficult to maneuver in tight places (bottle cages, saddles), so I don’t recommend these if you’re looking for one set of hex keys to do it all.

Hex keys don’t need to be bike specific, but be sure to get a tool that’s high enough quality and won’t round out. Consider the tool’s leverage and length for the job.

Ideally you should have Hex keys that range from 1.5 mm-10mm. If you need a basic setup, the fold-up hex wrench should be fine.  

Uxcell Hex Key Set, 9 in 1 Metric Long L Shape Ball End Wrench | Amazon
$14.49

Designed with a ball end to access socket cap screws with up to a 25-degree entry angle. Made from heat treated chrome vanadium alloy steel, which is good hardness and torque. Chrome-plated finish is highly resistant to corrosion.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 05:55 am GMT

Park Tool PH-1.2 P-Handle Hex Wrench Set | Amazon
$81.95

Engineered for utility and durability, Park Tool P-shaped hex wrenches can be found in bike shops around the world. The 8 included metric sizes encompass nearly every size of hex fastener likely to be found on a bicycle.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/05/2021 04:02 pm GMT

Park Tool AWS-3 3-Way Hex Wrench | Amazon
$13.95

Park Tool's 3-Way Wrenches are a mainstay of professional bike shops. The iconic Y-shape fits perfectly in the palm of your hand and provides excellent leverage, making them a favorite of mechanics in bike shops worldwide.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:10 am GMT

Park Tool AWS-10 Fold-Up Hex Wrench Set | Amazon
$9.35

The Park Tool AWS-10 is a bicycle-specific folding hex wrench set equally at home in the workshop and on the trail. Compact, yet large enough to provide excellent leverage, the AWS-10 can be used as a shop tool in place of a full-size wrench set, or as a take-along tool for trailside adjustments.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:13 am GMT

Multi-tool

Every cyclist should slip a multi-tool in their pocket before hitting the road. You never know when you’ll have to tighten a bolt on the fly and this cycling Swiss Army Knife will save your butt on many occasions.

For around $14, the Blackburn Heist 10 is a very basic multi-tool that will suit the minimalist or mechanically challenged. It’s laser etched alloy frame tightly holds the tools in place, which include 2-6mm, 8mm and 2.5mm Hex keys, crosshead and flat screwdrivers and a T25 Torx bit.

best cycling multi-tool
Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool

For something a little more robust, and that offers added insurance on a ride,  I love the Topeak Hexus II multi-tool, which includes 16 tools, including a chain tool, spoke wrenches, a chain hook and tire levers. For around $18, you can’t go wrong with this multi-tool.

Blackburn Heist 10 Multi-Tool | Amazon

For 2011 we are back with a redesign of the Toolmanator Series. This series is more lightweight and compact than ever before. Utilizing the latest in hardened tool steel, with serviceable pivots and hard anodized frames, these multi tools will endure multi years of hard use.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Topeak 60102538 Hexus II Multi-Tool

The award winning Hexus II multi-tool from Topeak offers 16 pro-quality, hardened steel tools that fold into an ergonomic composite body. Providing a blend of tool selection, low weight, and compact size, the Hexus II features an integrated, full sized CrMo chain tool head compatible with all single and multi-speed bicycle chains.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Phillips Screwdriver

Most people have a set anyway, but for bikes, a screwdriver is just the tool for adjusting some brakes and derailleur stops. Or you could opt for a set that’s included in a multi-tool.

Tire Levers

A chain tool and tire lever
A chain tool and tire lever

Tires levers come in various shapes and sizes and are used to remove a tire from the rim in order to change a flat. I like the basic Park Tool variety, but play around and find your favorite. Or, better yet, pick up a set that are already included in a multi-tool.

Park Tool TL-1.2 Tire Lever Set for Bicycle Tires | Amazon
$5.89

Strong, smooth, and versatile, Park Tool TL-1.2 Tire Levers are made of a strong lightweight material and feature a redesigned tip for easier entry into just about any bicycle tire, including tubeless systems. The unique design lifts the tire away from the rim and features a spoke hook to use when multiple levers are needed.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:20 am GMT

Flat Repair Kit

Some patches require glue, others are glueless or require sanding, but having a patch kit is an easy way to save a tube for re-use.

Park Tool GP-2 Super Patch Kit for Bicycle Tube Repair | Amazon
$5.45

This adhesive tube patch stretches, flexes, twists, and turns right along with the bicycle inner tube. Lightly roughen tube with the included sandpaper, clean, apply patch, and you’re ready to go. Includes six patches and one square of sandpaper.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:20 am GMT

Chain Cleaner Tool

how to clean a bike chain
Chain cleaning tool and brushes

I hate cleaning my chain, but this tool makes it easy and keeps your hands clean in the process. Just run the chain through the chain cleaner tool and the scrubbing brushes work their magic.

Finish Line Shop Quality Bicycle Chain Cleaner | Amazon
$27.31

For cyclists who are serious about keeping their drivetrain in race-ready condition, Finish Line's Pro Chain Cleaner is a valuable piece of equipment that will make this tedious task much easier.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:16 am GMT

Optional Bike Tools 

These tools aren’t necessary for everyday bike tweaks, but will come in handy for performing routine maintenance.

Chain Tool

Remove a link or repair a broken chain with a chain tool. You can probably get by with the one provided in a multi-tool.

Park Tool CT-5 Mini Bicycle Chain Tool | Amazon
$17.95

The Park Tool CT-5 performs like a shop-quality bicycle chain tool, in a lightweight (77g) compact size that easily fits in a saddle bag or mobile mechanic's tool roll. 

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 01:20 am GMT

Cable Cutters

Used to cut cable and cable housing. This model also has a built-in crimper. 

Park Tool CN-10 Pro Cable and Housing Cutter Tool | Amazon
$38.95

This is a shop quality cutter designed specifically for use on all bicycle cables and housing, including hard-to-cut index housing.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 04:49 am GMT

Needle Nose Pliers

Crimping, grasping and cutting can be accomplished with needle nose pliers

Stanley 84-096 5-Inch Needle Nose Plier | Amazon
$11.80

The Stanley Needle Nose Pliers feature long, tempered jaws ideal for bending wires or working with small objects as well as work in tight places. With a forged, chrome-nickel steel construction that meets or exceeds ANSI standards, these needle-nose pliers have a rust-resistant finish and machined jaws for a slip-resistant grip.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:09 am GMT

Spoke Wrench (spoke key)

chain checker
A chain checker tool isn’t necessary, but is a nice indicator of when to replace your chain.

A spoke wrench can help true a wheel. Be sure to have one specific to the size of your nipples. Buy the smallest size that fits.  

Pedal Wrench

This is the tool for removing even the most stubborn pedals. Choose a pedal wrench with a vinyl handle to keep the wrench from digging into your hand.

Park Tool PW-3 Bicycle Pedal Wrench | Amazon
$26.95

Made from Cro-Moly steel for a shop quality pedal wrench made to last. By adding reinforcement around the stressed areas and upgrading the material we can offer a new investment cast pedal wrench that is still the most comfortable on the market. 

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:13 am GMT

Metric Wrench

Used to adjust brakes and derailleurs. Be sure you have 8,9,10 and 11mm.

Park Tool MW-Set Metric Wrench Set | Amazon

World famous Park Tool quality wrapped up in a great set of metric combination wrenches. The MW-SET includes 6mm to 15mm 12-point box/open end wrenches. Forged from Chrome Vanadium Steel, chrome plated, meticulously polished, then center dipped in Park Tool blue vinyl for a positive grip.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

Cone Wrench

DIY bike repair
Cone Wrench

These are used to tighten the bearings on loose bearing hubs. 13-14mm and 15-16mm cone wrenches are good to keep on hand for adjusting front and rear hubs and some locknuts.

Park Tool Cone Wrench Bicycle Tool Kit | Amazon
$23.80

These cone wrenches are designed for the home mechanic or occasional user. They're made of thin steel and are nickel plated and heat treated for long use. 

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:11 am GMT

Chain Checker

Excessive force is placed on cycling chains, which results in stretch and wear. You may notice the “sharks teeth” begin to appear on a cassette that is being worn unevenly by a stretched chain with worn links. Neglecting a worn chain can in turn prematurely wear expensive drivetrain parts. A chain checker helps you keep tabs on how much life your chain has left. 

However, you can save yourself some money, and ensure accuracy, by simply using a ruler. Place a ruler at the center of a chain pin. The other end of the ruler should match up to the center of a pin as well. If not, the chain is worn and should be replaced.

Bikehand Bicycle Bike Chain Wear Indicator Tool Chain Checker | Amazon
$6.98

The easiest way to ensure that your shifting is the best and prevent unnecessary wear on the rest of your drivetrain, it also ensures your chain is not excessively worn. This BikeHand ChainChecker Tool is designed and intended to use specifically measuring the state of your chain in relation to the extent of wear it is showing.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:19 am GMT

Cleaning Brushes

A cassette brush will help clean road debris off your drivetrain and you can use other bike brushes to get into tight spots. They’re also non abrasive to your frame.

Park Tool GSC-1 Gear Cleaning Brush | Amazon
$6.48

This is specially designed to free your bicycle drivetrain from muck and grime. A comfortable handle with a curved, toothed end reaches dirt deep between the gears, and tough nylon bristles clean the derailleur and chain. Saves wear and tear on your chain and cassette

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:20 am GMT

Finish Line Easy-Pro 5 Piece Brush Set Precision Cleaning Kit | Amazon
$15.19

This set includes different brushes to tackle any cleaning job. Great for cleaning bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:15 am GMT

Torque Wrench

A torque wrench is a must for anyone who’s wrenching on carbon fiber, as each bolt must be tightened to a certain specification. Over tightening can crack parts and void warranties.

Venzo Bicycle Torque Wrench | Amazon
$59.99

High-quality torch wrench great for bicycle parts or bolts. All parts were made in major factory with the highest reputation in Taiwan.

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 12:16 am GMT

Chain Whip and Lock Ring Tool

While these aren’t essential bike tools, a chain whip is used if you need to replace a cassette. The lock ring tool helps to remove the cassette. Be sure to buy one with a guiding pin.

Bikehand Bike Bicycle Cassette Freewheel Removal Tool Chain Whip | Amazon
$17.98

This tool is used for the installation and removal of pedal, cassette. Two sides of 15mm pedal wrench combines with freewheel turner. Features rubber-wrapped handle grips comfortably. 

Buy at Amazon.com
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
12/06/2021 04:15 am GMT

Want even more cycling hacks or to connect with a community of like-minded cyclists? Join us in our free Facebook Group.