Bicycle Tool, Maintenance And Cleaning Guide

Words by Mark

on 05/04/2018 17:17:00


When it comes to repairing your bicycle, being a dab-hand at mechanics can save you a lot of money,time and aggro. But you can't fix a bike just by looking at it and asking it nicely to sort itself out. Sadly it just doesn't work like that - You're going to need some help. Enter the cycling tools, specifically designed over many years of trial,error and innovation to help you become as self sufficient as possible when in regards to cycle maintenance. As a general rule, 'Buy Quality Buy Once' is the motto to swear buy when it comes to selecting which tools are right for you as a properly good set of tools,although initially a bit costly, will more than provide value for money over time as you'll (hopefully) never have to replace them.

When you've done all your repairs and have got back out on the tarmac and trails, you're bike is going to need a clean. Cleaning your bike will not only increase the lifespan of your componentry - it'll also prevent mechanical failures by keeping all the moving parts clean of dirt and detritus that can clog, scratch and invade parts of your bike's frame you didn't even think light could reach. So, as nice as it is to play with your tools, a squeaky clean bike will mean you'll spend more time shredding and less time shedding, which can only be a good thing - no one likes missing a ride because their bikes rusted and corrupted beyond repair.

Basic Bike Check

If it's a little while since you've ridden your bike, you'll want to give it a once over to ensure it's safe to ride. Using our handy infographic below, you can run through all of the key parts of your bike and make sure they're working correctly before putting a foot on a pedal.

Bike Safety Infographic

Bicycle Tools


A must-have for any budding home mechanic, the bike workstand allows you to work on your bike from all angles safely, without having to lean it against things or hold it up yourself (a logistical nightmare). More expensive variations will be made of strong material and utilise clever clamping systems, magnetic tool holders and loads more helpful features to aid your repair tasks. You can also get cheaper, plastic workstands for home repairs - they work in exactly the same way but are obviously less durable due to the material used to make them. Folding workstands are brilliant for the back of the van, giving you the opportunity to take your workshop with you everywhere you go!

Browse all Workstands >>


Allen-Keys/Multi-Tools/Screwdrivers/Torque Wrench

An absolute necessity for on-the-go and home repairs, these tools allow you to perform a variety of cycle-based maintenance and have lots of great uses when it comes to fixing up your bike.

  • Allen-Keys - These come in a variety of styles from flat to ball-ends. Ball end Allen keys are definitely the ones to go for as these allow you to turn bolts from an angle, a really useful feature when trying to negotiate the twists and turns of the modern bicycle frame. Ball-end style Allen keys tend to be more durable and accurate than their flatter,cheaper counterparts. This means you'll be able to get your bolts tighter whilst reducing the risk of 'rounding off' the bolt holes.
  • Multi-Tools - Multi-Tools are like the Swiss army knives of the cycling world. Within them,depending on how much you want to spend, you can find bolt cutters, flat/cross head screwdrivers, allen keys, spanners - you name the tool and there'll be a multi-tool out there that has it! You can get mountain or road bike specific sets, with price points dictated by the quality of construction material used on the internal tools, the number of tools offered and the overall weight of the set.

Browse all Allen-Keys and Multi-Tools >>

  • Screwdrivers - Whether you get screwdrivers included on your multi-tool or allen-key set or you buy them individually, you'll be sure to need them at some point for work on your bike. A size 0,1 and 2 Phillips cross-head and a couple of flat-heads should see you through without issue, but if you want to go for a full set you can justify it by how often they'll come in handy around the house!

Park Tool SDSET Screwdriver Set >>

  • Torque Wrench - Expensive but absolutely vital for those working on carbon frames or other super light components. Torque wrenches allow you to manually set the amount of tightening/force you wish to apply to each bolt - preventing damage from over-tightening to super-light components. You can also get Torque hex key-sets that are essentially smaller versions of a torque wrench. Torque bolts are becoming more and more prevalent on modern bikes so make sure you check the spec and plan accordingly tool wise.

Browse all Torque Wrenches >>


Pedal Spanners/Combi-Spanner Sets/Pliers

  • Spanners - In the days of lore, almost everything on a bike could be tightened via bolts with spanner flats. Nowadays this type of bolt is rarely seen on higher end bikes and has pretty much rendered the full set of combi-spanners obsolete in terms of fixing your bike (though they can be lifesavers for work around the house!). You'll really only need a 15mm pedal spanner if you're riding on standard pedals. A pedal spanner is normally longer than a conventional spanner to give you for leverage to prise those pesky pedals away from the crank arm. Certain features on different bikes will require varying spanner sizes (I.e 13mm for bolt-up hubs), but if you're just looking to do a bit of low-key bike maintenance then you're probably better off buying the individual spanners you need rather than a full set of combi-spanners.
  • Pliers - Used to crimp cable end and hold/pull parts, The best value to be had on pliers is found within 3-piece sets - each featuring long handles and different style, metal clamps on the end (one sharp for crimping, one serrated for grips and a pointed style base for smaller tasks). Pliers are fantastic bits of kit and whilst they will certainly help you look after your 2-wheeled bestie, they'll more than pay for themselves over time with use in gardening and other household tasks.

Browse all Spanners,Wrenches and Pliers >>


Tyre Levers/Pumps

Fixing a puncture is an essential skill to have when it comes to bike maintenance. Not only will it save you money but also time - allowing you to make ongoing repairs and not having to called your significant other to come and pick you up because you've blown out 20 miles from home. Of course, you'll need to make sure you've got a spare inner tube with you or failing that some puncture patches or c02 canisters to get your tyres back up to full PSI. Going tubeless will alleviate the puncture issue but bare in mind that you'll need rims that can support tubeless set ups and you'll have to fork out for the sealant and tape - though this cost will probably be justifiable when compared to the cost of constantly having to replace your inner tubes.

  • Tyre Levers - Work to help you to get the tyre on and off the wheel rim. They're available in either plastic or metal variations, with the metal ones offering a lot more strength and longevity of use - but at a much higher cost than a set of simple plastic levers. It's good practice to have two sets, one for the saddle bag and one for the home workshop.

Browse all Tyre Levers >>

  • Pumps - A track/floor pump is too big to take with you on a ride but is definitely worth the investment for home repairs as it allows you to get higher pressures into your tyres with less effort and in a far quicker time than a smaller hand-held pump. Hand held pumps do have their place though, either attached to the bike or in your saddle bag for side of the road puncture repairs. If you're riding a bike with suspension systems, a shock pump is an incredibly advantageous tool to have in your arsenal, enabling you to pre-load your suspension to your specific requirements.

Browse all Tyre/Shock Pumps >>


  • Cable-Cutters - Do pretty much what you'd expect. Cut Cable. But they cut them better than anything else on the market. Specially shaped to keep the cable ends together and stop them fraying, think of the cable cutter as the Bride's katana out of Kill Bill and the plier or other cutting tool as a butter knife - that's the difference in slicing quality that were talking here.
  • Cable-Pullers - Mechanical derailleurs and braking systems rely of tensioned cables to be effective. A cable puller holds the cable tight and maintain the tension whilst you tighten the clamp bolt. Not exactly essential but a massive help when you're undertaking some repairs at home - Riders of bikes with hydraulic brakes or electronic shifting need not worry about this particular tool as their futuristic machines don't rely on the same system of cables and clamp bolts.

Browse all Cable Tools >>

Chain Wear Gauge/Chain Tool/Sprocket Tools

  • Chain Wear Gauge - Having your chain snap whilst your riding is something you really don't want to happen. Just ask our web designer Mike Greenshields, to show you his scars from his Klingsman-esque body slide across a roundabout after his chained snapped following a attempted sprint away from a Citroen Saxo. A Chain wear tool will check the flex and length of your chain, depending on the model, inform you as to whether you're in need of a new chain or not.
  • Chain Tool - This handy bit of kit permits you to replace your own chain from the comfort of your own home by clamping parts in place allowing for a super-easy and user friendly way to add/remove links to your chain and get it back onto the sprocket.
  • Sprocket Tools (Chain Whip/Lockring Tool) - A chain whip makes getting the sprocket off your bike a breeze as it holds the sprocket in place, preventing lateral movement and making the repair relatively easy. A lockring tool allows you to get the sprocket off easily as it works to undo the high-tension nuts that hold the sprocket in its position.

Browse all Chain Tools >>


Spoke Keys/Wheel Truer

  • Spoke Keys - Allow you to tighten the spokes on your wheel ensuring that they're all at the correct tension and avoiding a mid ride spoke snap and the disasters that can lead too.
  • Wheel Truer - A tool that enables the mechanic to ensure the wheel is rolling straight without any buckles. Furthermore, it allows you to test how different spoke tensions affect the roll of a wheel.

Browse all Spoke Keys and Wheel Tools >>

Bottom-Bracket Tools

With so many varieties of BB on the market these days, it's essential that you get the correct tool for your bike. Unless you're actually a working bike technician you're unlikely to need more than the specific tool for your bike. BB tools are used in a multitude of ways but mostly they focus on the installation and removal of specific BB parts. Normally constructed from ultra-strong metal, a high-quality BB tool is an item you'll certainly require to become the best home mechanic you can be.

Browse all Bottom Bracket Tools >>

Cleaning Products

Keeping your bike clean is essential for component longevity and your own morale. Seeing a spotless bike waiting for you in the shed before heading out for a ride is a great boost, regardless of what the weather is like outside. Clean bikes just feel better to ride, fact...

For those not in the know, cleaning your bike can feel like a chore. However, it's much quicker and easier than you think. All you need to spare is 5-10 minutes after a ride and use the following items:

  • A bucket of warm water (or another water source like a hose)
  • Sponges, cloths and brushes
  • Bike cleaner
  • Degreaser
  • Chain lube
  • Elbow grease (optional)


    Step One - Lather Up and Scrub

    The best time to clean your bike is immediately after a ride, as any dirt that has accumulated won't have the time to stick and harden onto the frame or any components. This is particularly important for cyclo-cross riders and mountain bikers who might have picked up some serious amounts of mud.

    Start by rinsing your bike down with warm water to remove any excess muck. Jet washing your bike is not recommended, as it will flush out grease from key areas like your bottom bracket and headset. Instead, simply scrub off the claggiest areas with a sponge or cleaning brush.

    Once the worst of the dirt is removed, give your bike a spray down with some bike-specific cleaning fluid. These products are made to penetrate dirt effectively and loosen stubborn areas of mud. Leave the cleaner to do it's work over a minute or two and then continue to scrub your bike with a sponge or brush, working from the top of the bike to the bottom (from the cleanest areas to the dirtiest areas).

    Browse all Bicycle Cleaning Products >>

    Step Two - Degrease the Details

    One of the most important areas to consider when cleaning your bike is the drivetrain. In bad conditions, muck and grit can work its way into the chain links and other moving parts. If this isn't removed, it can begin to wear down components at a faster rate than normal, making your bike feel horrible to ride.

    Once the worst of the dirt is removed from a general rinse and scrub, spray a good quality degreaser over your chain, cassette and chain rings. This will cut through the oily dirt that builds up in this area much more effectively than normal soaps and cleaners. Leave this to work it's magic over a few minutes before using a stiff bristled brush to get rid of any excess grit from the drivetrain. It's worth considering that some brands make specific chain-bath tools for this step, making the process a lot simpler.

    Finally, bring your drivetrain up to a shine with a last application of some soapy water or bike cleaner. This will remove the final traces of dirt, rinse away the degreaser and make everything look that bit shinier.

    View Muc-Off Degreaser >>


    Step Three - Lubrication Last

    Now the bike has been thoroughly cleaned and rinsed, leave it to dry naturally or do it by hand with some clean rags or chamois. Since the chain has been degreased, it is important to re-apply lubrication to keep it running smoothly. The type of chain-lube you use will depend on the riding conditions expected (wet or dry). In either case, apply lube carefully to the inside of the chain whilst winding the pedals backwards to ensure there are no dry-spots.

    Lastly, if you're particularly proud of keeping your bike clean and shiny, it's worth investing in some finishing polish. This will help stop mud sticking to the frame and give your bike that showroom-fresh look. After following these steps, it's pretty hard not to be motivated for your next ride with your spotless steed smiling in front of you.

    View all Lubricant products >>

    Find your nearest Rutland Cycling store

    You can browse the entire Maintenance range online, or you can get your hands on it in your nearest Rutland Cycling store.





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