Good tools can outlast you and most certainly every bike you will ever own. Tools will keep paying you back the longer you hold onto them and therefore, they are the smartest investment you can make in a new hobby. This article will focus on what you need to create a beginner mountain bike tool kit. This includes the tools needed to swap parts and make adjustments to your bicycle as a beginner mechanic.
First Things First
A great mountain bike tool kit must start with a bread loaf sized plastic box. Most cheap toolboxes like the one in the picture above will come with a sticker on it that is nearly impossible to remove. Once you’ve done the impossible and removed the factory sticker, be sure to add a bunch of your favorite stickers. This will make your toolbox look at feel like… your toolbox!
If your toolbox is like most, it already contains one of the most useful tools you’ll ever come to know… the removable tray. While working on your bike, tools and other parts will have a tendency to walk off. You can use the tray to keep them contained. Of course there are other containers you can use to help keep track of parts, but at the end of the day they are all just trays. By getting into the habit of using this very important tool you will save yourself a lot of frustration.
The Floor Pump
Now before you put anything in your toolbox, you need to buy a floor pump. A good floor pump will be bike specific and include a pressure gauge. As you go up in price, you start to get other features like more volume per stroke and even air reservoirs that can help with seating tires. Maintaining your tire pressure isn’t something you’ll want to visit a shop for, so this should be one of the very first things you buy even before the toolbox itself. While we are on the topic of pumps, a shock pump is also very important. These typically cost around $20.00 and will also eliminate your reliance on a shop to make simple and routine adjustments. If you bike doesn’t have air suspension then obviously you don’t need this.
Chances are you already own the first tool that can be put in your toolbox. A multi-tool gives you a lot or wrenches per dollar, and can help fill in the blanks as you build your tool arsenal. You can always find a missing hex, a T25, and even a spoke wrench in your trusty multi-tool. You do have to keep in mind that multi-tools simply fill in the blanks. They rarely provide the leverage or capability you will get from dedicated tools.
Set of Hex Wrenches
It is important to get yourself a set of metric hex wrenches very early on. Compared to the wrenches in your multi-tool, they have more leverage and can fit into tiny spaces. They are overall much easier to use. Since three quarters of everything on your bike is fastened with hex bolts, you’ll get your money’s worth really quick.
There are many styles of hex wrenches. They can range from T-handles to 3-way ergonomic tools, but you’ll usually get the best cost and performance from L shaped hex wrenches. You can find a set of hex wrenches at Harbor Freight for $7.00. These are great hex wrenches, although the sweet spot for hex wrenches is usually around $15.00. They typically will have more leverage, will be made from harder steel, and will resist rust for a longer period of time. They are not as fancy as a set of T-handles, but they offer similar utility at a considerably lower cost.
Next you are going to want some plastic tire levers. Most mountain bike tires can be installed by hand, but when you do need a tire lever, you need just that. For a couple of bucks they are a no brainer to add to your toolbox. Pedro’s Tire Levers are the best because they are fairly cheap, wider than most levers, and come in fun colors. The width adds durability and surface area. You will find this very helpful when changing a tire that is really tight on the rim. You don’t want to ever use a screw driver as a tire lever as this will ruin your rims.
Needle Nose Pliers
Next, be sure to pick up a set of really good needle nose pliers. It is important to stress buying a REALLY GOOD set. Unlike the hex wrenches, if you buy a cheap pair of pliers from harbor freight you will find they are truly terrible. The handles move around when you squeeze hard and they are unable to cut shift cables for just a few examples. On the contrary, the Park Tool pliers will do an excellent job. Due to their good leverage and harder steel they cut shift cables with ease. They also can be used as a crimper and of course act as a normal plier. These can also cut housing in a pinch, and can be used to undo a master link if necessary. With so many uses, needle nose pliers should be high on your list.
T25 Torx Wrench
The next tool is a T25 torx wrench. This is not to be confused with a torque wrench. Torx bolts can be identified with a star pattern instead of the normal hex pattern. The reason the T25 is suggested is because this is the most popular size. In fact, the T25 is so common in bikes that it is usually the only torx you’ll find in a multi-tool. While you could buy a whole set of these wrenches, one good T25 torx wrench will serve you well.
Adjustable Wrench with Rubber Grip
The next tool is an adjustable wrench with a rubber grip. You want to make sure it is big enough for your fork which is usually just south of 30mm. Although there are very few things on a modern mountain bike that require this style of wrench, they can all be turned with an adjustable one. In a pinch, you can also use the rubber handle as a mallet. You will find that this will come in handy more often than you think. A good adjustable wrench will also have measurements printed on it. The measurements will allow you to use your wrench as a caliper in some cases. You will also need a big wrench in the future since it is required to use most cassette tools and some bottom bracket tools. This is an important tool to get early on since it has so many different uses.
Set of Picks
The last essential tool that can be added to your toolbox is a set of picks. Picks are so inexpensive that is doesn’t make sense to not include. Their uses range from messing with bike accessories, to removing O-rings, to getting dirt out of bolt heads. It is surprising how often a bike mechanic will go looking for a nail or a pin to do the job of a pick. Most people don’t realize how often they need a pick until they own one.
Believe it or not, with the tools mentioned above you can perform a wide variety of repairs to your mountain bike. Even things we left out, like the Philips screwdriver in the rare case you need it, are available in your multi-tool. As you begin relying on the specialty items in your multi-tool, you should pick up dedicated versions to make your life easier. The first on the list will likely be screwdrivers, spoke wrenches, and a chain tool. From there, feel free to buy tools as they become necessary. It won’t be long before you need a cassette tool, torque wrench, bottom bracket tool, cutting tools, a bleed kit, and the list goes on. As you gain experience as a bicycle mechanic you will need more specialty tools, but for now, this is a great start.
The Price of the Mountain Bike Tool Kit
The greatest thing about this beginner mountain bike tool kit is you can easily buy this box and everything mentioned above for well under $200. If you take care of these tools, you’ll be able to use them for life.