The “Right Tool For The Job” has never been more important than when doing repairs and maintenance on your modern mountain bike. Mountain bikes are comprised of lots of special parts that allow you to brake, shift, and accelerate with precision and perform in often adverse conditions like mud and water. When you have all these special parts it also means you need specialized tools to work on them.
Inspiration For This Article:
I was working on my friend’s bike the other day and he was asking about some of the different tools I had. He was amazed at the amount of specialized tools that I had in my shop. I guess after a few years in mountain biking you do start to collect a lot of specialized tools for different jobs.
I wanted to write an article about some essential tools that I think all mountain bikers should have in their tool box. I have used all of these tools with great success and know many other riders that have used them as well. It won’t be an exhaustive list of everything you could ever need, but it should provide a good base of tools that will help you perform most general repairs and maintenance on your mountain bike.
Let The Experts Do The Technical Jobs:
I am also not involving more professional or expert type repair tools like headset presses, facers, or wheel truing stands. I think these types of repairs are best left in the hands of your local bike mechanic that is trained and experienced in these types of repairs, installations, and maintenance. Without the right training the average home mechanic can really hurt himself or damage his equipment, possibly beyond repair.
Learn To Do Bicycle Repairs and Maintenance Yourself:
If you are new to working on your own bike or would like to learn some bike maintenance and installation skills, I highly recommend checking out Dave Delgado’s DIY bike repair videos. Dave has a ton of videos on all sorts of repairs, installations, tuning, and maintenance topics for your bike. I’ve used several of these videos myself for a few tricky subjects I wasn’t totally familiar with like help with damping settings and bleeding brakes.
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25 Essential Mountain Bike Tools
Bike Repair Stand – Having a secure foundation to work on your bike is really important. You can find bike repair stands that are portable or hard mounted to a wall or a floor base. It really makes a lot of difference to be able to work on your bike in a position that lets you get to all sides of your bike, keep it steady, and allow you to cycle the drivetrain with ease.
Suggested Portable Bike Repair Stand: American made Park Tool PCS-10
Suggested Hard Mounted Bike Repair Stand: American made Park Tool PRS-4 OS
Suggested Floor Mounted Bike Repair Stand: American made Park Tool PRS-3 OS-2
(if you want the matching base it is #130)
Bottle Opener – Repairs always make me thirsty. How about you? This tool is always near by to help quench my thirst with a tasty beverage.
Suggested Bottle Opener: American made Park Tool SS-15
(I love this one because it’s so much more than just a bottle opener. It’s also a 15mm socket wrench for axle nuts, 15mm open end wrench for pedals, and a tire lever)
Cable/Housing Cutters – These cutters have a specific jaw that cut through wire and brake/shifter housing very cleanly.
Suggested Cable/Housing Cutters: American made Park Tool CN-10
Cassette Lockring Tool – This tool allows you to loosen a cassette lockring to remove your cassette from your freehub.
Suggested Cassette Lockring Tool: American made Park Tool FR-5
Chain Lube – Make sure you buy quality chain lube. This should be specifically for bicycles.
Suggested Chain Lube: Tri-Flow, White Lightning, Finish Line
Chain Tool / Spare Master Link – This is useful when sizing a new chain to remove excess links. There is no replacement tool that can do its job. I’ve also combined a spare master link here because a spare is always handy. You can also look into getting a bike repair multi-tool with a built in chain tool to save money.
Suggested Chain Tool: American made Park Tool CT-3
Chain Whip – The Chain Whip is used in conjunction with a Cassette Lockring Tool to loosen a cassette lockring or freewheel from a wheel.
(I like the HCW-16 model because it includes a 15mm pedal wrench on the end)
Diagonal Cutting Pliers / Dikes / Side cuts – Known by a few names, a good set of cutting pliers are useful for snipping zip ties and other cutting jobs.
Suggested Diagonal Cutting Pliers: American Made Park Tool SP-7
Electrical Tape – Tape always comes in handy. I usually use electrical tape to wrap derailleur and brake lines together for a clean look coming past the handlebars to the frame.
Suggested Electrical Tape: 3M
Floor Pump – A good floor pump is a necessity in a home shop. Make sure the pump you buy accepts Presta and Schrader valves. Look for a pump that comes with a gauge you can read easily to know how much air is in your tires.
Suggested Floor Pump: American made Park Tool PFP-5
Gear Brush / Small Craft Brushes – All kinds of debris can get caught in your cassette, derailleur, chainrings, etc and should be cleaned out regularly. A gear brush makes it easy to get in between the gears of the cluster. I also usually keep an assortment of small craft brushes around to clean up other hard to reach places on my bikes.
Suggested Gear Brush: American made Park Tool GSC-1
Goops (Grease / Loctite (blue) / Carbon Assembly Paste) – Each of these “goops” are pretty important to use when assembling or doing maintenance on your bike. A good waterproof grease is useful on bottom bracket threads, seatposts, headsets, pedal threads, and other areas where you have some metal on metal friction. Loctite is a thread locker that helps keep bolts in place and stop them from vibrating loose. It’s good to use on stem bolts, rotor bolts, brake caliper, and brake adapter bolts. Carbon Assembly Paste is important to use on carbon seatposts, stems, and handlebars. The Carbon Assembly Paste has micro-friction beads in the paste to create friction and prevent slippage.
Suggested Grease: Phil Wood Waterproof Grease
Suggested Loctite: Loctite Blue
Suggested Carbon Assembly Paste: FSA Carbon Assembly Paste
Hammer - A hammer is not used on bike repairs or maintenance very often. However, sometimes a love tap is needed every now and then. Try to have both a metal and hard rubber hammer available. Better yet get the suggested two sided hammer.
Suggested Hammer: American made Park Tool HMR-4
Hex/Allen Wrenches – There are several different ways to attack Hex Wrenches. They play a integral part in bicycle maintenance and repair. I have Hex Wrenches in several different form factors depending on what I’m working on. First I have 2 of the tried and true Park 3 way Hex Wrenches. They are quick and easy to use but don’t always fit in all locations. I also have a full set of P-handle Hex Wrenches (often called “T-handle” except by Park) that allow me to get more places and are more comfortable to use than standard L-shaped Hex Wrenches. Another form factor I have for Hex Wrenches is my trusty fold up version. Fold up sets of Hex Wrenches usually have all the sizes you may need except the largest sizes.
Suggested P-handle Hex Wrenches: American made Park Tool PH-1
Suggested Fold Up Hex Wrench Set: American made Park Tool AWS-11
Multitool – Having a quality multitool in your toolbox is nice for repairs in the shop and out on the trail. Multitools often offer many of the most commonly used tools, like I’m listing in this article, wrapped up in a small package. I like multitools with specific extras like a knife, pliers, or chaintool.
Suggested Multitool: Topeak Alien DX Deluxe
Pedal Wrench – This is nothing more than a 15mm open ended wrench. They are often longer in length because you may need more leverage to loosen pedals that people tighten too much (please don’t be that guy). Some pedal wrenches may have two different slots for different size pedals or to gain more mechanical advantage based on the crank placement.
Suggested Pedal Wrench: American made Park Tool HCW-16 (this is also a chain whip as seen earlier in the article) or PW-3 (I like this one because it can take off 15mm and 9/16″ pedals)
Pliers – Pliers are a lot like a Hammer or Diagonal Cut Pliers, they are a great general use tool that can come in handy when you need to hold something or pry something loose. Just be careful what exactly you use them on.
Suggested Pliers: American made Park Tool NP-6
Screwdrivers – Adjusting derailleur stops and other parts require a screw driver now and then. It’s a good idea to find a multi-tipped screw driver that is easy to swap from Philips to Flat or has different size tips.
Suggested Screwdriver: American made Park Tool SD-SET
Shock pump – If you have air suspension on your bike this is a must. Sometimes a new fork will come with one. Look for a pump that has a good valve that will not bleed off air when you disengage.
Suggested Shock Pump: Topeak Pocket Shock Pump
Spoke Wrenches – Spoke wrenches are used to tighten loose spokes at the nipple. Not all nipples are the same size, so make sure the wrench you get fits. If you’re looking to true your wheels I’d suggest taking it to a bike shop to have a trained mechanic work on them. If you can’t take it to the shop at least check out some educational videos online.
Suggested Spoke Wrenches: American made Park Tool SW-7 (fits 3 most popular spoke nipple sizes)
Tire Levers – Tire levers can be very helpful at getting on and off stubborn tires. Usually you won’t need tire levers for XC tires but some tire and rim combinations can be tricky. Only use plastic Tire Levers. Stay away from metal levers because they can often do more harm than good by pinching tubes or bending your rim.
Suggested Tire Levers: American made Park Tool TL-1
Torx Wrenches – Torx is the name brand for the star shaped bolts used to attach your rotors and chainrings. It isn’t a tool you’ll use very often but is good to have in your box.
Suggested Torx Wrenches: American made Park Tool TWS-3
Utility Knife / Scissors – A knife can come in handy during many repairs and maintenance. Scissors are also a good choice.
Suggested Utility Knife: American made Park Tool UK-1
Non-Essential Tools Used Less Often But Handy
- Adjustable Wrench – An adjustable wrench comes in handy because it can work on all sizes of nuts and bolts. It is also useful if you need to true a rotor a little bit if it gets bent.
- Bottom Bracket Tool – Make sure you get one that fits your specific bottom bracket manufacturer.
- Chainring nut tool – Used to change chainrings only.
- Cone wrenches – Thin open ended wrenches not used very often.
- Fabric measuring tape / metric and standard – Measuring tape is handy to set up your cockpit to your liking or other measurements.
- File – I often use a file after I’ve cut a seatpost, handlebar, or fork steerer tube to debur the end.
- Flashlight – Having a good view of things is always helpful.
- Pad of paper – Keep a shop journal to log maintenance and document ride settings
- Pen/Pencil/Sharpie – Used to right down notes about your bike like setup details or a shop journal.
- Picks – You can use just about anything, even a sharpened spare spoke to get out small objects from your bike.
- Pipe Cutter / saw guide – Used to cut a seatpost, handlebar, or fork steerer tube to length.
- Zip ties – Get the short thin ones to attach cables to your frame and racing number plates.