Pinkbike's tech editors spend countless hours out on the trail testing bikes each year, which means that almost as much time is spent in the shop / garage / basement preparing, adjusting, and fixing those bikes. Many of us have also spent time as professional mechanics, the glamorous profession where you can gain the skills necessary for brake bleeds and suspension rebuilds along with learning how to straighten out a bent steel rim with a hammer, how to install a kickstand, and how to remove the disgusting film of sweat and energy gel that coats the top tube of almost every triathlon bike.
Needless to say, we all have a tool or two that's become our favorite over the years. For some, it's a high-end, precision instrument, while for others it's a crude yet efficient item that gets the job done.
I've had this set of Wera L-Keys for about 7 years now, and they've probably been used almost every day over that span. Any inscription on them has long worn off, but luckily the colors are so ingrained in my mind there's never a hesitation as to which one to grab. The ball end
is critical, and these have a clever little retention element that holds the bolt you're working with on the end of the key, so you can free up your other hand. The short side
has "hex-plus" technology, which just means they're better at not stripping out poor tolerance bolts.
Tech Editor & Safety Squinter Favorite tool:
Wera L-KeysHonorable mention:
Coast G20 Inspection Beam
Honorable mention goes to the gift of sight. In this case, that sight is enhanced/provided by this Coast inspection beam, which is basically a flashlight with no focal adjustment and a very small flat circular beam. It's a great help when fishing cables through frames, setting up brakes, and when hunting for that goddamn tiny bolt that fell on the ground. I picked this up fairly recently, and it's quickly become a key piece in my dark and wonderful garage shop.
Second honorable of course goes to Knipex pliers
, but as you'll see in Henry's bit below, that's far from a brave opinion.
Firstly, before I start, I want to say that the Knipex pliers are to bike mechanics what soya-pumpkin-spiced lattes are to Taylor Swift fans as they take awful Instagram photos in Starbucks, unburdened by their parent's restrictive data plan for the first time and really able to upload the dullery in a staggering-high-definition-tedium-infused-shitbox-sideshow. We get it, you can crimp cables. It's not a lightsaber.
Tech Editor & Kettle SupervisorFavorite tool:
Bodged hose clampHonorable mention:
Tiny tape measure
I've fallen foul of this myself, undoubtedly. But I'm a silly boy with lots of growing up to do. Instead, I present to you something shonkier, worse looking and far less useful - the HQ-high-tech hose clamps. The result of bonded premium plastic and 20 minutes with a hacksaw, hammer, and chisel.
These clamps, always at the right size to clamp the hose, make aligning and straightening hoses an absolute breeze and can help you get cleaner and less cluttered cables, all while avoiding frames or headtubes with just the lightest of twists. In fact, until SRAM brought out their haywire line of brakes, they could make any front end look sharp and tidy. But alas, there are limits to this tool's power.
If you aren’t using a headset with the ingenious split crown race, or a fork that features an integrated one, like Ohlins' first generation 36 RXF used (that comes with its own set of problems, but I applaud them for simplifying the installation process), then you’ll need a set of unique tools to install and remove that crucial little part.
Seasoned (or even partially seasoned) mountain bike home mechanics certainly know how to wield a hammer and flat-bladed screwdriver, but there’s a certain satisfaction that comes along with using the correct tool for the job. Park Tool's Adjustable Crown Race Puller (CRP2) is one of those seldom-used pieces of equipment that does what it says on the tin.
Once the three blades are positioned between, and around, crown and race, the handle at the top of the main tube pushes on the fork’s steer tube to pull the whole apparatus up. The satisfying process relieves the race of its press fit on the lower portion of the steer tube without any bloodshed or unsightly marks on your fork.
Apparently it's not cool to like Knipex pliers anymore. Good thing I stopped worrying about being cool years ago, so I can still include them as one of my favorite tools. Plus, they're definitely more useful than Henry's vice grip and super glue abomination....
Yes, Knipex pliers are super handy for crimping cable ends, but that's becoming a little less common now that more and more bikes are showing up with battery-powered-everything. These days I'm most likely to use them to open up the top cap of a fork to add or remove a volume spacer when I don't feel like digging for the right size socket, or to loosen a compression nut when swapping brake lines.
Managing Tech Editor, Nap EnthusiastFavorite tool:
Knipex pliersHonorable mention:
Schwalbe / Unior tread cutter
They can also be used to straighten out a bent rim or rotor, push in DU bushings on a shock, unscrew the bottom of a dropper post to service it - the list goes on. I'm a fan of the 180mm version, since they're large enough for most bike-related tasks, and small enough to toss into a basic roadtrip tool kit.
Unior's tread cutter also works great as a way to quickly trim zip ties.
Honorable mention goes to these Schwalbe-branded tire tread cutters that are manufactured by Unior. They do work to cut down mud spikes or do other tire modifications – there's even a depth gauge to make sure every cut is the same height – but I've only done that a couple of times. Instead, I use them as a zip-tie trimmer. Living in the Pacific Northwest means that a fender gets installed on every test bike, and this tool is the fastest way that I've found to flush cut the ends of zip ties. Overkill? Most likely, since nail clippers can be used to achieve the same result, but I like the heft of the tread cutter and the shape feels better in my hand.
I feel a bit silly throwing this in alongside the list of beautifully built tools on this list, but my hastily improvised wall stand has proved surprisingly useful. I threw it together soon after moving into my new workshop/bike store with some bits of scrap timber I had lying around. The idea is to keep the bike secure and upright to make it easier to work on things like setting brake lever angle, handlebar roll or measuring frame geometry - tasks that require the bike to be level, so a conventional workstand won't do.
Tech Editor, Food Waste Disposal UnitFavorite tool:
Bodged bike standHonorable mention:
Cheap plastic calipers
You can buy wall-mounted wheel holders for around £15, but they don't hold the bike securely enough for this purpose. This design holds the bike perfectly upright because the vertical two-by-fours are just the right width apart (63 mm) to hold 2.4-2.5" tires tightly; plus, they extend a full 110 mm away from the wall so the wheel is held over a large vertical distance, not just at one point level with the hub. This means the bike doesn't flop to one side while I'm working on it.
It's literally two parallel big bits of wood screwed onto two small bits of wood, which are screwed into a stud behind the wall. Yet it's proven very handy not just for setting up and measuring bikes, but also as a place to put a bike while I make space for it elsewhere, or even for holding the bike steady while I mount or unmount my two-year-old from her Shotgun seat
Brian is taking some well-deserved time off this week, so I (Henry) thought I'd fill in for him. Brian loves printing things. I don't know why, nobody does, but it's best not to ask questions. To do Brian justice, I'm now going to write as if I were him.
Big boss and 3D Printing AuthorityFavorite tool:
This thing, presumablyHonorable mention:
Boy oh boy, there are few such sweet remedies to the aching pain of managing a bunch of children both at home and at work than printing out Star Wars figurines and bottle holders. The unbridled joy of getting absolutely razzed on Tim Horton's coffee at 6 PM before listening to my favorite Brian Adams CD and cracking on with an 8-hour shift long into the early hours is hard to beat.
I'm an artist, and these glorified choking hazards are my art. Leonardo had the Mona Lisa, I have this nifty inline One Up pump holder