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Over the years, I’ve come across plenty of articles that claim to tell you how to build up your cycling toolkit for cheap. Somehow the word “cheap” stops recurring in the long list of “essential” bike repair bits and pieces. The truth is, there is no real way to build a whole shop of tools all at once without plopping down a few hundred bucks. But in an attempt to show everyone that not all of us truly need a full complement of bike tools, I present the truest, most budget-conscious, and barest of bones options to you.

For the budding mechanic:  A good pocket sized repair guide.   One good option is the “Pocket Guide to Emergency Bicycle Repair”  by Ron Cordes and Eric Grove.   It’s only 3.5×4.5 inches and a half inch thick.   I don’t carry this myself, but for someone who’s new to this whole bike repair business, it’s really helpful to have. A future blog post will cover this book in detail.

Good bike repair stand. I can't say "great," because it arrived with some small plastic pieces broken. These are small pieces that go between the legs and the supports for the legs to act as a sort of buffer to prevent metal to metal scraping. They are just too fragile, it seems. 3 out of 4 legs had these broken upon arrival. However, these are really only "nice" to haves, not need to haves, and they don't really detract from using the stand in any way. Once you have the stand set up, you don't worry about these at all. The main clamp holds the bike well, if you take care to balance the bike properly. The bike may tilt in the stand if you don't balance it - there is a weight limit to the clamp. I like the included tool tray, but I wish it was more adjustable in height (it is essentially fixed in one position). And the tray could be larger. Otherwise, I am quite happy with this stand. I have worked on several bikes using it, and assembled one out of the box. It makes the job of doing things like adjusting brakes and indexing derailleurs so much easier. The price of this stand is excellent considering the quality.
We like, and recommend, the Crankbrothers Speedier Lever. If you have to pick only one, go with the Pedro’s, but if you want a backup or have some hard tires to unseat, Crankbrothers is a great choice. It’s only one lever (as opposed to a set of two, like the Pedro’s) and it’s longer, so we didn’t pick it over the Pedro’s for portability reasons. But it’s an excellent tool. It has a wide handle you can grip with your whole hand. Like the Pedro’s, the tip is the right size and shape to prevent slipping and stay in place, and the shape of the handle happens to protect your knuckles if you do slip. Even in situations where I didn’t need it, I liked having it because it made me feel like a pro.

Friction gear systems are a lot simpler to adjust, because the movement of the derailer cable can be modulated as you ride, every time you change the gear- they require less cycle maintenance. Modern index shifting systems are a little more complicated because each ‘click’ must release the exact right amount of cable to allow the derailer to move the correct distance to move the chain from one gear to another. Setting up and adjusting a derailer is not difficult and requires only basic tools, but there is a methodical procedure to follow.

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