Riding a bike is brilliant, but riding one that is looked after and well maintained is even better. A great way to learn how to look after your bike is to build up a collection of tools and learn how to use them. These are the basics to get you started:
1) Pump, tyre levers & puncture repair kit
When your tyres are pumped up to the right pressure they can properly support your weight and grip the road, giving you control and comfort. It will also help you avoid punctures. Go for a mini-pump that is light and portable, and remember to carry it with you in case of emergencies.
As a second option get a track pump: these are much larger, floor-standing pumps that you wouldn’t want to take on a ride, but they’re easier to use and inflate your tyres more quickly. Get into the habit of pumping up your tyres before you head out, and hopefully you’ll never have to use your mini-pump.
When (not if) you get a puncture, you will need a couple of tyre levers to prise the tyre off the rim to access the inner tube. Once the inner tube is out, find the hole and patch it up using your puncture repair kit. Alternatively, carry a spare tube and fit that – you can fix the damaged tube back at home and use it as your spare for next time.
A multi-tool is like a penknife for your bike, with the most commonly used tools to fix and adjust your bike in one convenient, portable package. The basic versions tend to have 4, 5, 6 & 8mm Allen keys plus a Phillips screwdriver.
If you’re going on longer rides or doing some home maintenance you should consider a larger model with additional Allen key sizes and a Torx T25 wrench (for brake rotor bolts and some Sram components).
A chain breaker enables you to split and re-join a chain by pushing on one of the chain pins or rivets. This can be useful in a roadside emergency and is also essential when fitting a new chain. You can buy a multi-tool that includes one or buy a standalone tool for extra leverage.
3) Cleaning equipment
A clean bike is a happy bike. All the moving parts will run smoother and quieter and keep moving a lot longer, if they are kept clean and lubricated. All you need is a bucket, a couple of brushes, some rags and a bottle of chain lube.
Wash your bike with a bucket of soapy water or use a bike-specific cleaner such as Muc-Off. Pay particular attention to the chain and the components it comes into contact with, then rinse with clean water and wipe dry.
If you want to be really thorough then remove the wheels and the chain, so the various components are easier to access. Use an old washing-up bowl or similar for the chain: soak for a while in degreaser (or concentrated washing-up liquid) then scrub with a brush, rinse and dry. Use rags to wipe derailleurs and chainrings and floss between the cogs on the rear wheel.
If you have disc brakes, be very careful not to touch the rotors or get any product on either the rotors or the pads. If they are muddy or dusty then simply wipe with a clean rag. If there is any sort of oil on them then you will need a disc brake-specific cleaner or some isopropyl alcohol.
Once everything is clean and dry it’s time to lube the chain. Use a lube in a dropper bottle rather than a spray - we use White Lightning Epic Ride on our own bikes and on all the bikes we service. Apply to the rollers in the chain, turn the cranks a few times to help it work its way in, then use a rag to wipe off the excess.
4) Cable cutters
The cables on a bike are often overlooked but make a huge difference to how the bike rides, as they provide the vital link between the handlebar controls and the derailleurs and brakes. If you are going to replace the cables then you need a decent set of cable cutters, to make sure the ends of the outers are cut nice and square for optimum performance. Trim the ends of the inner cables and fit a crimp to stop them fraying.
5) Chain-whip & cassette lock-ring tool
You need two tools to remove the cassette. The chain whip wraps around the cassette to hold it still while you unscrew the lock-ring with the splined lock-ring tool. With the cassette off the wheel you can clean or replace it, or access the hub for servicing.
In case you missed it:
Here’s Our Top Five Essential Bike Tools
Pump, tyre levers & puncture repair kit
Multi-tool for adjustments
Cleaning: Brushes, Bucket, Rags & Chain Lube
Chain-whip & cassette lock-ring tool