Friday Group Ride #248

Friday Group Ride #248

I said, “I’m looking for a three-way,” and my wife rolled her eyes, because that’s what she does when I make crass jokes. I picked up the 4-5-6, adjusted tightened the stem bolts on her new bike, the saddle. I put it down and stepped back to admire her new bike.

The three-way hex wrench might be my favorite bike tool. So handy (no pun).

Cable snips are also important to me. I used regular hardware store wire cutters for a long time and ended up with a lot of frayed cable ends. Know what I hate more than eggplant? Frayed cable ends.

What about a chain whip? The chain whip has mostly one purpose, cassette removal, but there is something medieval about it. It’s like some kind of mini-mace or obscure ninja weapon.

A strong argument could be made for the simple tire tool. I buy the yellow, plastic Pedros ones. I have them scattered throughout my bike life. My commuter bags have them tucked in their tool pockets. My saddle bag has one in it. The toolbox in the garage has a few more.

ParkTrueFor practitioners of the wheel-building arts, the Park truing stand must be right up there. I have never had the patience for wheel truing. I’d characterize my approach as the “ballpark method” whereby you correct a hop in the wheel by adding two contrasting hops and you remedy a rightward shimmy with two, smaller lefts. The wheel is questionably better after you’ve finished. Then you give your hoops to someone with a clue and 9 weeks later they get around to it and give them back to you and you’ve got true wheels. Simple.

And then there’s the hammer, a last resort and a metaphor. When in doubt, when frustrated, when fairly certain that the part A was not machined to fit inside of part B, out comes the hammer. I feel shame every time I take a hammer to a bike, but also a sort of glee. Maybe it’s just me.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what’s your favorite tool? Keep in mind that your answer will tell us all a lot about you. For example, if a torque wrench is on top of your list, you’re a perfectionist, and that’s not me saying that proper torque isn’t important. As my wife would say, “I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin.'”

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49 comments

    1. Jorgensen

      The Campagnolo 15mm spanner is a terrific tool.
      My favorite tool woul be the Campagnolo “T” wrench.
      Both tools are most useful for bikes of the pre index era.
      So, that indicates what predominates my bike room.

  1. Kimball

    My wife would not call me a perfectionist, but lately my favorite tool is the Ritchey TorqKey combined with carbon assembly paste. I use them on both carbon and alloy parts. Rolling out and not worrying whether I over or under tightened something is a good feeling

  2. Ransom

    Chain whips, pedal wrenches, and cone wrenches (thank heavens I don’t use those much these days) are all very satisfying in that they are the *right* way to do something you might otherwise somehow manage to muddle through with unspeakable substitutes and/or rending of garments and gnashing of teeth. The proper cable cutters are like that, but might be the best of the list.

  3. Miles Archer

    Ok. I’ll be the ass. My favorite tool is a credit card and the local shop.

    I like my bike to be a toy and not a hobby.

  4. Stephen Barner

    That’s a tough one. Since Dave already scored on the PB wrench, I’ll snag the T tool. Remembering the feeling that I had when I realized that the freewheel on my Varsity was the first bike part that I could not remove using the tools around the house, I just love any tool that efficiently performs a task that would be next to impossible without it, unless you’re the type of person who doesn’t mind riding with parts that look like they were maintained by a moron. So the truly unusual tools may quickly become the favorite, like the left-threaded Campy crank extractor, or the bizarre 22.3mm extractor needed for Stronglight cranks–what were they thinking?

    On the other hand, perhaps the favorite tool should be one that just feels so right in the hand, like a Var spoke wrench, which is good, since it probably stays in the hand longer than any other tool in the shop. Or perhaps it would be a tool that seems to be perfectly designed for its intended task, such as the Var dishing tool. The heck with it, I just like good tools.

  5. Jack

    I have an old Peregrine spoke wrench that I dearly love. I’d love to find another just in case something ever happened to that one. A good set of T handle hex wrenches, such as those made by Bondhus are amazingly useful, and if you have used them for as long as I have, you’ll probably be in the camp that hates the 3-way hex wrench.

  6. Peter Leach

    Like Robot, I find that the slightly medieval, a little bit ninja side of a chain whip adds to its attraction – and the fact that it makes a job possible in a way that only it can. So, the chain whip and its brother in arms, the cassette lockring tool, are my favourite things in my toolkit. Out of the garage, a multi-tool wins for it sheer practicality.
    ps. I also admit to finding the sound that a cable cutter makes as it smoothly cuts cable / cable housing very satisfying, and in a way that the cutting jaws of a pair of pliers just can’t match.

    1. Walt S

      My favorite “tool” is not actually a tool in the typical sense, but it has made bike maintenance so much easier. It is my Feedback Sports bike repair stand. It is easy to set up and fold down, adjusts to about any height, which is especially important to a tall person like me, and holds a bike solidly for working on and cleaning. It is well designed, made in the USA, and a joy to work with. Since I bought this stand, my bikes get more regular attention, which is a very good thing.

  7. Aar

    I have two:
    – the multi-tool I carry in my jersey pocket because it saves a few group rides per year in roadside repairs
    – bike cleaner because a frequently cleaned bike with a frequently cleaned and lubed chain requires fewer adjustments, repairs and component replacements

  8. Les.B.

    Pedal wrench.
    The Speedplays don’t have a hex socket in the back like some. The pedal wrench doesn’t make it easier to remove Speedplays. It make it possible at all.

  9. John Kopp

    My favorite tool is a Sears ignition pliers with one handle made into a flat blade screwdriver and the other shaped as a tire iron. Throw in a spoke wrench and a couple allen wrenches and I’m good to go.

  10. hautacam

    The third-hand tool. I think that’s what it’s called. The one that lets you take up slack in brake cable and hold the calipers in tension while you tighten the brake-cable fixing bolt. It’s a horrible, frustrating task without that tool — and a peaceful, precise adjustment with it. I am grateful for it every time I adjust my brakes.

  11. Michael

    I’d have to say the multi-tool and spoke wrench I throw in my jersey every ride. They have saved so many rides and also let me adjust things when I just get the idea to try something new mid-ride. I don’t use tire irons much – don’t seem to have any wheel/tire combinations that can’t be separated by some careful hand work. I have all the normal tools at my tool bench, but it would be fun to have a derailleur-hanger alignment tool – I love using those.

  12. Jeremy

    If we’re talking most common and efficient, it has got to be my set of hex head sockets. 3 ways and multi tools are great for a pinch, but when you’re home nothing beats making adjustments with a socket wrench.

    For sex appeal, I love that the chain whip is a tool that 99% of people don’t own, and haven’t even seen.

  13. jbridesbikes

    Bottle opener: “I think a man workin’ [on his bike] feels more like a man if he can have a bottle of suds . . . that’s just my opinion.”

  14. Gerb61

    My home built repair stand. A co-worker gave me the plans for a free standing repair stand. I adapted it to make a ceiling mount for my basement workshop. Doesn’t take up any floor space. Swings up out of the way when not in use (can’t clock myself on it that way.) Best of all, and much to my surprise, the contraption actually works. Who would’ve thunk it?

  15. Ochsride

    Favorite is a tough one but I think I’m going to go with the Crank Brothers M17 multi-tool in my seat bag. It’s come in very handy for myself and friends out on the road. In fact, I think I need another one for my MTB bag.

  16. Rob A

    On the subject of chain whips, my favorite newish tool is the Pedros Vise Whip. Combined with the Abbey Tools Crombie, cassette swaps are super fast & easy.

  17. Matt K

    I would say the Ritchey torque key as well. I can cover all the fasteners on my bike with it, getting them tight enough to work on before tightening them up for good. Never worrying about going too far with them.
    The other ‘tool’ that made my life easier was when I bought a nice tool box to keep me organized. I tried bins or drawers but bike tools and house work tools would always co mingle and result in a search anytime I wanted to work on a bike. So a nice tool box might actually take first place for me.

  18. Rich

    Proud to say I have never needed a hammer on the bikes. Favorites would be having the correct lubes, cleaners, Chemicals in the shop. I had a instructor in college tell me every bolt should have something on it. lube or Loctite. Bikes are almost grease or
    Never -seez

  19. gregorio

    I found a Husky 1/4 inch drive torque wrench at the home improvement store with the big orange sign. It reads in inch pounds AND newton meters. [I guess it’s a TWO way] It gets better. It’s adjustable in 1/10th increments!!! Every last bolt on my bike is adjusted precisely to spec with a tool that, if it were a bike component, would have Dura Ace written on it.

  20. Tom

    El Duke degreaser. Cleans chains; cleans the bike; cleans your hands. Nice stuff. Love the 3-way Allen wrench (and 8-9-10 mm socket wrench) and Crank Bros. multitool. Have a press for cottered cranks, but no long have a bike with them. Can’t bear to part with such a well-made tool. Oh, yeah, the BucketBoss soft-sided tool bag dedicated to my bike tools.

  21. Jim P.

    I’d have to say the “Shop Mech’s Friend” sharpened length of spoke is pretty high on the list because when you need it, you REALLY need it, to the extent that you want to buy it a beer after it saves you a heap of hassle. My favorite tools however, would have to be my cone wrenches. It’s mostly associational now, since they don’t get much use. I just really loved getting the perfect adjustment on old Record hubs so they run like butter. There is something very romantic about practicing a technique until you have it on lock, no pun intended.

  22. T. Guy

    New iteration of an old tool: the Butter B1. I never put my bike on the stand without using it, it’s the first tool I reach for and the last one I put back in the box. Great design, simple and elegant, and a pleasure to use. Just get over the price. It’s worth every penny.

  23. DavidB

    Hmm. I sort of like huge overkill so recently my favorite is using the huge 1962 TIG welder to fuse cable ends. It makes a nice tiny ball end that slides through the internal cabling perfectly, and I don’t have to use those disgusting crimped things that have to be removed to get the cables out. Everybody should have one.

  24. Adam

    Lezyne floor pump, the one with the wooden handle. So much my favourite that I brought a second one while I’m in Canada, on a greatly reduced budget where a $20 track pump would probably do. It just feels right.

  25. David

    Spoke shave, I am carving a canoe paddle out of a defenseless piece of ash. I do need to drop the cash, and get a cable trimmer of note.

  26. souleur

    Favorite tool: the ones I make myself

    Bearing presses, wheel truing stands, are some to name a few, and will be working soon on making a jig…

  27. kurti_sc

    three way tools are my favorite to have. A shimano cassette tool is my favorite to use (it means i’ve worn out yet another rear sprocket on my SS, or it’s time to man up and drop another tooth or two.).
    learning how not to use tools has also been very rewarding for me. No 4th hand tools here and the tire levers are in my son’s camelback.

  28. David

    Three come to mind, two that have already been mentioned: the Ritchey Torque key (the new one with the removable bits, although they should have designed a clever way of storing them in the key), the Park 3 way allen wrench (I especially like the ball ends so you can fit it into awkward places). Third is the Park MT-1, which I carry in my jersey pocket.
    But what I really lust after is one of those Effeto Mariposa torque wrenches!

  29. Gummee!

    Favorite tool? Folding hex wrench set that I pretty much always have with me. I fiddle with my seat lots too.

    I have a few BB tools from when I started riding in the late 80s that I rarely use, but won’t give up. …because every once in a while you NEED them. Ditto with headset wrenches.

    The oldest tool that gets used fairly frequently is my Shimano cable and housing cutter. Bought that in the early 90s and its still going strong.

    M

  30. Alex

    Ahh the chain-whip and cassette remover tool are a perfect pair, and come with the added benefit of allowing one to remove the plastic spoke protectors on a friend-who-doesn’t-know-any-better’s bike.

    The pedal wrench just make all that easier, which is another thing a good tool does, quite satisfying actually.

    But when it comes down to it my magnetised tip phillips head screwdriver is tops. It’s just so clever and simple and useful.

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