Frugal Guide to Affordable Bicycle Tools

This guide is to help you get your tools at an affordable price.  If you are new to fixing bikes and have no tools, this guide is for you.  Bikes require a lot of specialty tools that can be really expensive, or you can get some of the cheaper options.  Sometimes it just makes sense to bring your bike in to the shop because the tool needed is too expensive.  I’m going to suggest cheaper options when it makes sense.  If you just want the best tools you should buy everything from Park Tool.  They make great stuff and also have lots of great videos to help with repairs.  I will suggest their tools when it makes sense.

Tools you will need

I’m going to try to order this list starting with the tools you will most need and ending with less used tools.  It will of course depend on what breaks.  If you buy a used bike, you could need any of them at any time. 

  1. Tire pump.  This will be your most used tool, especially if you have a road bike.  I generally add some air before every ride with my road bike and every month or so with other bikes.
  2. Chain cleaner and lube.  Once a year you should clean and lube your chain.  This is done with either a brush or specialty chain cleaner tool.  You also need a degreaser and new chain lube.
  3. Tire levers or bead jack tool.  Eventually you will get a flat tire or wear out your tires and need to replace them.  Getting the tire back on is much easier with a tool.
  4. Allen or hex tool.  Bikes use a lot of hex head screws so you will need tools for several sizes.  I really like having my fold up tool with all the sizes I need.
  5. Grease or anti-seize.  You will want to add some grease or anti-seize to any bolts you remove to insure they come out the next time you loosen them.
  6. Repair stand.  You can probably get away without one, but if you are going to be doing lots of bike repairs it sure makes things easier.
  7. Torque wrench.  There are torque specs for most of the bolts on a bike.  Many are important that you either don’t over torque or under torque. 
  8. Chain wear tool.  Chains wear out and need to be replaced eventually, this tool measures the amount of wear and tells you when to replace.
  9. Chain breaker tool or master link pliers.  Depending on the type of chain you have you will either need a chain breaker tool or a master link plier to replace your chain. 
  10. Pedal wrench.  Pedals require a thinner wrench for removal.
  11. Cone or spanner wrenches.  These are needed to adjust bearings like those one your hubs.
  12. Spoke wrench.  Eventually your bike might get a wheel out of true.  You can use a spoke wrench to straighten it up.  Is also needed for broken spokes.
  13. Cable and housing cutter.  Cables and housing will eventually need replacement.
  14. Cassette removal tools.  If you have to remove a cassette this requires a chain whip tool and lock ring tool.
  15. Bottom bracket tool.  If you put enough miles on your bike the bottom bracket will need to be replaced.  This requires a special tool which is specific to your type of bottom bracket.  There are a lot of different types of brackets so this will require some research for the right tool.
  16. Derailleur hanger alignment tool.  If for some reason you have bent your derailleur hanger you can use this tool to get it back aligned. 

Starter tool kit

The best way to get started is to buy an affordable kit with most of the tools you will need.  From there you can add more specialty tools as needed.  The kit will give you plenty of tools to get started and includes a nice case.  Here is one of my favorite options on Amazon:

Tire Pump

You will definitely want a good tire pump, preferably one with a gauge on it.  Here is a pump that I really like:

Vibrelli Bike Pump

I’ve been using it for years now and have no complaints.  It has a gauge and works with Presta and Schrader. 

Tire Bead Jack

This is a super useful tool for changing bike tires. Getting that last little bit of bead on the rim can be a hassle, not with this tool:

Bike Repair Stand

All repairs are much easier if you have a good stand, and some of them really require one. I strongly recommend you get one.  This stand by Bikehand has worked great for me and is affordable relative to other options.

Bikehand Repair Stand

Cable and Housing cutter

I’ve tried some cheaper options when it comes to cables and I’m not completely happy with them.  Because of this I recommend you just get the Park Tool CN-10, for the price it is really worth it.

Master Link Pliers

If your starter kit didn’t come with a master link pliers and you need one, I recommend just going with the Park Tool MLP-1.2. I do prefer chains with master links btw.

Park Tool MLP-1.2 Master Link Pliers

Hex Wrench Tool

A good hex wrench tool is great to have around when you work on bikes.  I recommend the Park Tool AWS-10, it’s only a little more expensive than other items.  I like mine a lot:

Park Tool AWS-10 Hex Wrench

Torque Wrench

You will definitely need a good torque wrench, so your fasteners all stay tight.  I have found the Marque torque wrench works great and is an affordable price.

Marque Bike Torque Wrench

Spoke Wrench

If you need an affordable spoke wrench that works well, get the Park Tool SW-7.2.

Grease and Lubricants

You will need some good grease and lubricants when you are working on bikes.  I recommend you just go with the Park Tool bike specific options.  They are only a little more expensive than other options.  I use their Polylube 1000 for most my needs.

Park Tool Polylube 1000

Screwdriver for Shimano derailleur

If you have ever tried to adjust a Shimano derailleur you probably noticed, you can’t find a Phillips screwdriver that fits it quite right. They are actually JIS, here is a good deal on a nice screwdriver. Get one before you strip those screws.

Cone Spanner Wrench

You will find yourself needing to use a cone spanner for a few different repairs including adjusting hubs and even removing/installing pedals. Here is an affordable option for 15, 16, and 17mm.

Chain Wear Gauge

Chains last a long time, but eventually they should be replaced. After many miles they stretch out and your shifting might start to suffer. Here is a great tool from Park Tool:

11 thoughts on “Frugal Guide to Affordable Bicycle Tools

  1. I can’t get there from here. I can get to your home page and to other posts, but three different browsers gave me the same message about too many redirects while trying to see this post.

  2. I think with tools the definitions of “frugal” and “affordable” are open to interpretation. I did not buy an inexpensive floor pump. Then again, I’m still using that pump 49 years later. I have spent a few dollars replacing seals on it. I eventually replaced the hose and gauge. I have other tools that could be handed down to my kids when I die. My Craftsman wrenches are also about 50 years old. Cheap Allen (hex) wrenches won’t last and may damage fasteners as well. I see you agree about the flexibility of “affordable”, as you sometimes state that you did not buy the cheapest you found. With a torque wrench, be sure it works for the torques you need.

  3. I agree, Park Tools are the best. They also hold up to a lot of use. True, they are more expensive but I won’t risk another when wrenching on pricey bike components. Nice post!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: