Kids grow. And fast. That means when you pull their bikes out (and yours, for that matter), seats need to be raised, brake levers tweaked and the shifting smoothed out. But there’s some good news: You don’t need an engineering degree or a funny little mustache to do these DIY fixes yourself. Quite the contrary. Bike tools, which are often part of handy bike tool kits, plus a few YouTube videos will take you from never-turned-a-bolt noob to neighborhood-shade-tree-bike-mechanic hero — but only if you’re willing to put in the effort and learn as you go. Not looking to go deep? We’ve also included a few bike multi tools for down-and-dirty fast jobs. But a word of caution: Get too skilled, and before you know it, you’ll be fixing bikes for friends of friends of your kids. Our advice? Make space in the garage.
If you’re not sure what you need when it comes to bike tools, this 34-function life saver is like the big Swiss Army: Kinda chunky but a good bet that covers a lot of bases. Topeak’s Alien tools have been around for a long time, and as bikes continue to change and evolve, so does the Alien. This newest version has everything you need to address minor maintenance issues for contemporary bikes. It’s a great first step into the world of DIY bike maintenance, and even if you do end up with a fully stocked workshop down the road, it’s a handy tool to keep in the car or bring along for longer, remote trips where a more minimal multitool won’t cut it. Just beware the spoke wrenches. Wheel building and maintenance is both an art and science, and it is best left to those with experience and specialized tools.
When you're ready to move on to replacing cables, diagnosing drivetrain wear and swapping out worn drivetrain parts, this home mechanic starter kit provides what you need. Park Tool has been around since 1963 and is regarded by many as the top name in quality, affordable specialty bike tools. At $169 it's a bit of an investment but considering the fact that these tools – in the hands of a qualified mechanic – fetch an hourly labor rate of $60 or more, this kit has the potential to pay for itself in short order. It even includes the excellent Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, a nice touch to help ensure that the tool kit is put to proper use.
Higher-end bikes usually come with carbon fiber handlebars, stems and seat posts, which is terrific, but has one minor downside. Carbon tubes don’t stand up well to excessive clamping force, and the margin of error for correctly tightening things like handlebars and seat posts isn’t very forgiving. The manufacturer’s torque spec will be just tight enough to make them stay put without crushing and destroying these top-shelf, featherlight (and expensive) components. To be sure you’re hitting the mark, you need a torque wrench. Bontrager’s Pro Ratchet Multitool is adjustable from 2-8 Nm and includes 6 hex tools, 3 torx bits and a #2 Phillips head. The waxed canvas carrying case is a nice touch for this premium multitool.
If you’ve reached the point where you’re planning consecutive days and weekends around riding bikes and you’re willing or able to perform basic drivetrain and brake adjustments, it’s time to get a repair stand. A stand gets the bike up off the ground to a comfortable height and allows the wheels and cranks to spin freely, which is necessary for a variety of maintenance tasks and awfully nice for a whole bunch more. This stand is compatible with just about any kind of bike; it’s easy to use, adjustable, stable and portable.
It happens constantly: A bike will be shifting great, and then suddenly it's not. Very often, this is due to a bent rear derailleur hanger, maybe caused by a seemingly innocuous fall to the righthand side, or being shoved sideways into the back of car, drive side down. Kids, especially, tend to crash a lot, to the point where fixing bent derailleur hangers is an almost essential skill for being a good bike dad. When facing the sudden crummy shifting issues that accompany a bent hanger, inexperienced home mechanics often waste lots of time fussing with cable tension and limit screws, to no avail, when a quick visual check could identify the culprit: A misaligned, bent, twisted or otherwise tweaked rear derailleur hanger. It’s a super common issue and easy to spot if you know what to look for. It’s easy to fix, too, if you have this handy tool.
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