You cannot build a bike from scratch or service it properly without high-quality tools. They need to fit precisely and be durable so they wear out slowly and evenly over time.
Team mechanics usually have two or three sets of tools: one extensive kit that hangs on the workshop wall, one emergency box for taking in the team car, and often a slightly more comprehensive one that lives in the truck. Good mechanics pride themselves on the tools they have amassed. We hang onto apparatus for years — long after the component it was designed to install or adjust has been consigned to history — because you never know when it might come in handy.
Beyond the basic hex keys, wrenches and screwdrivers, it is vital to ensure you have access to cycling-specific tools when building up a new frame. Bottom bracket bearings will only last if the frame’s threads are tapped and faced properly; headsets will only fit into head tubes that have been milled for the cups or direct-fit bearings to come. Carbon frames and forks need very careful preparation if they are to be assembled safely, so take care to use the correct cutting and preparation tools. Using a tool that isn’t suited to the material is likely to result in frustration, destruction, or both.
It is unwise to assume that a new frame will be problem-free during assembly. Checking frame alignment is highly recommended. All threaded elements on the frame should also be checked to make sure they are clear of paint or debris and also that they are in line. Likewise faces that are destined to meet components such as cups or bearings should be prepared correctly.
After use, all tools should be carefully cleaned before they are put away. This is even more important where cutting tools are concerned. It means they will be ready for their next outing and also that any damage or wear and tear can be more easily monitored and acted upon. When storing cutting tools, it is good practice to hang them after use. If that’s not possible, the next best option is to wrap them in a bit of clean rag, taking care to ensure that the sharp cutting edges do not come into contact with each other or anything else that may damage them.
Tools should be looked after and used for their exact purpose: avoid the temptation to use the head of a pair of cutters as a makeshift hammer. If you visit a shop and see its set of bottom bracket cutters covered in grease, rattling around in a drawer or storage bin, you might want to get your threads chased elsewhere.
In reality your toolkit is never fully complete. As tools wear out with regular use eventually they will need to be replaced.
If you plan to take care of regular service on your own bike, invest in a workstand. Working at the correct height with the bicycle held securely will make a massive difference in the ease with which you can carry out certain tasks.
Bike Mechanic is an all-access pass to cycling’s back stage: the team truck, the service course, and the workshop. Through gritty photographs and striking interviews, Bike Mechanic explores the daily lives of the bicycle technicians who keep the pro peloton rolling, no matter the weather, no matter the hour. Bike Mechanic gets you inside the action that most never see, while providing bike tuning tips and time-tested procedures that will make you a better wrench.