17 Must Have Tools For The Do It Yourself Mountain Biker

by Robb Sutton

For this entry in Weekend Wrenching, we are going to talk about tools. Every job can be made harder without the correct tools to do the job. Bicycle maintenance requires several specialized tools that will make your life much easier on and off the trail.

One thing to keep in mind: In my early days of mountain bike maintenance, I didn’t go out and buy the most expensive tools I could find. I bought the store brand tools until I saved up enough to get some more expensive versions from Park or Pedros. This comes in handy later in your mountain bike maintenance career because you can use your “first set” as a mobile tool set that stays in a small tool box.

#1 – Bike Repair Stand

Ultimate Bike Repair StandMountain bikes…for the most part…are very awkward to work on. In many cases, you have to have the wheels off or you need the bike up at shoulder level to get the work done easily. This is where the bike stand comes into play. A bike stand will hold your mountain bike so that it is easily accessible for any repair or build. Normally, you hold your frame by the seat post with the clamp that is at the top of the stand. This allows you to move the bike around as you work. I bike stand will make life much easier as you become more proficient at your bicycle maintenance.

Over the years, I have used the Ultimate stands because I feel that they are more stable. Park Tools also makes a great stand that a lot of riders like.

#2 – Floor Pump

You will not be able to live life as a mountain biker without a good floor pump with a properly working pressure gauge. You will start to take tires on and off (some people more than others) and tire pressure is crucial to how the bike rides. A good floor pump will end up going with you everywhere.

Find a pump that you are comfortable with and one that you can read the air pressure gauge easily. Almost all floor pumps go to much higher pressures than you will ever use, so make sure you can see the pressure that you use easily.

#3 – Y Hex Wrench

Y Hex Wrench from Park ToolsThis should be one of the first tools you ever own as a mountain bike maintenance beginner. This Y shaped he wrench contains three of the most common sizes found on mountain bikes today (4mm, 5mm and 6mm). I keep several of these laying around and even one in my pack while riding. It is a nice, convenient way to have the 3 most common sized hex wrenches at your disposal.

#4 – Hex Wrench Set

The Y Hex Wrench will get you through a lot of repairs and tunes, but nothing replaces a good set of hex wrenches. The Y Wrench can actually get in the way in tight situations, so have a good set of hex wrenches laying around.

Almost all of the bolts on your bike will be hex heads.

#5 – Multi-Tool

You should already have one of these in your pack when you ride, but this is a good reminder. A multi-tool is a must have for any mountain biker. It can keep you riding on the trail or provide you with a tool you just can’t seem to find on those bike maintenance days. With a wide range of hex heads, screwdrivers and most of the time…a chain tool, this compact set is a perfect compliment to any tool collection.

#6 – Chain Tool

Most multi-tool’s come with a chain tool, but it is much easier to use a dedicated chain tool when possible. This cheap little tool will save you time and fingers while you are working at repairing that chain in the stand.

#7 – Chain Whip

Chain Whip Tool

This funny looking tool is specific to rear cassettes on any bike. It will hold your cassette still to allow you to remove the lock ring from the cassette to do drive train maintenance and replacement. Replacing drive train parts is one area that you should seriously consider doing yourself, and the tools associated with these change outs are a must have.

#8 – Lock Ring Removal Tool

Lock Ring ToolThe Lock Ring Removal Tool and the Chain Whip go hand in hand. The lock ring on your cassette that tightens the cassette down onto the hub body requires a specialized tool due to its unique pattern. You use this tool along with the chain whip to remove your cassette from the rear hub.

#9 – Cable Cutters

A good set of cable cutters will make your life much easier when replacing housing or cables on your mountain bike. Can you do this with a non-specialized tool? Yes…but you will not be as efficient and your cuts will not be as clean. A nice side effect of a good cable cutter is the ability to round out the housing after you are finished with the cut. A good set of cable cutters also insures a straight and accurate cut on cable. This will make feeding the cable through the housing much easier.

#10 – Bottom Bracket Tool

Bottom Bracket Tool - Bike Maintenance

Almost every mountain bike on the market today comes with external bottom brackets (x-type). These bottom brackets house the bearings external to the frames bottom bracket shell. This makes them easy to remove and replace. The bottom bracket bearings are a wear item on your mountain bike. They also require this specialized tool for removal and installation. You will scratch the bottom bracket shell when using this tool…that is normal.

#11 – Pedal Wrench

A great pedal wrench was always one of those tools that I was certain I didn’t need. Couldn’t you just use some other wrench to remove the pedals? Yes…but it is a pain! The nice advantage of a pedal wrench is its thin profile. This allows you to get the pedals off easily and quickly without any real effort. The handle is also much longer than a conventional wrench to give you more leverage and get your hands farther away from the bike to make removal and installation easier.

#12 – Chain Ring Nut Wrench

Chain Ring Nut Wrench - Bike Maintenance

Chain rings are another wear item on your mountain bike. This little wrench keeps the rear of the chain rings bolts still while you unscrew the hex side of the bolt. Its low profile allows you to get in behind the rings for easy installation and removal.

#13 – Tire Levers

This seems like an easy assumption, but choosing the right tire levers can mean the difference between easily installed tires and bloody knuckles. Pick out a set of STRONG tire levers. I use the Maxxis levers and they have worked perfectly. A previous set of Park’s caused me a lot of issues…they just were not wide or strong enough.

#14 – Adjustable Wrench

An adjustable wrench will help you use other tools in your mountain bike maintenance arsonal like the lock nut removal tool. It is always a good idea to have one of these laying around at all times.

#15 – T-25 Torx Wrench

T25 Torx Wrench - Bike Maintenance

The bolts that secure the rotors on your mountain bike are held in with T-30 Torx heads. Many brakes actually come with one of these wrenches, so keep it handy and try not to lose it. It will come in handy when you are swapping out rotors or wheels. Be careful not to strip out these bolts during removal and installation.

#16 – Screwdrivers

You will need medium sized flat blade and phillips head screw drivers throughout your bike maintenance career. You will use these to do routine maintenance tasks like derailleur adjustment, so keep one set around the bike maintenance area at all times.

#17 – Shock Pump

This specialized pump will control the air pressure in your suspension components. Almost all full suspension mountain bikes come with air suspension. Most bikes and components provide you with one of these pumps with purchase, so keep it in a safe place. I would also recommend carrying one of these with you on the trail.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Your 17 must have tools for any bike maintenance wrencher! Start building up your collection now so when we start to go over each area of the bike…you are ready. Try to shop around for the deals on tools because at any point in time…someone is having a sale.

Here are a couple of stores that have a great inventory to get you started…



www.REI.com

6 comments

6 comments

Gary November 30, 2019 - 1:04 pm

It’s amazing how much easier your life becomes when you finally get a bike repair stand. I worked on mine by just flipping it upside down for the longest time.

Reply
Israel January 25, 2009 - 11:04 pm

re: chain ring nut wrench…

I was looking for this last week, and in one shop I went to, the mechanic didn’t know what I was talking about [sigh].

But at least he (eventually) understood what I wanted to do, and suggested I just use a flat blade screwdriver to hold the nut in place while I hex wrench the bolt. I might just try this, since I can’t find this sold anywhere (don’t suggest online… shipping it to me would cost more than the tool itself!) =p

Reply
198 January 27, 2009 - 8:40 pm

@ Israel – A flathead screwdriver will work. The nice thing about the tool is during use…it is easier to hold while working on the cranks.

Reply
SS November 23, 2008 - 10:07 pm

My additions:

Park DAG-2. You won’t need it all that often but it comes in very handy when you start experiencing shifting issues.

http://www.parktool.com/products/detail.asp?cat=48&item=DAG-2

Torque wrench. It’s really easy to get ham fisted on over torque bolts.

http://www.parktool.com/products/detail.asp?cat=13&item=TW-5

Reply
Paul November 23, 2008 - 5:28 pm

Number 12 would be great!

Pauls last blog post..FOX RP23 SETUP & USE

Reply
Jay November 23, 2008 - 11:43 am

sweet I have almost all of those. And the ones I don’t have… well they may just find a spot on my Christmas list. Although I’ve never even SEEN number 12…

Reply

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