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REVIEW | EDITORIAL

Everyday Bicycle Tools

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Apr 12, 2022
Reading time

Pressed

I own a headset press. A nice one, from Park Tools. I've had it so long that I couldn't tell you what I paid for it and it's quite possible that it's paid for itself in beer over the years anyway. It's a convenience I enjoy having, but it's certainly one I call a luxury tool because other than headsets or bottom brackets it really serves no purpose. I'm assuming most pay a shop to press in the one headset they buy a decade. I mean, every bike comes with one and it's usually cheapest just to replace the bearings - and that makes the most sense.

I know from past comments that plenty of folks use a hammer and a block of wood but I feel the need to caution you, before going that way, that like many things in life it works great until it doesn't, and when someone f***s up their multiple thousand dollar frame and/or expensive headset you don't tend to see those stories. If you are going to thwack in anything pressfit on your bike from bearings, to headset cups, to bottom brackets just do cycling a favour in general and check all the boxes on the mental waiver before hand. Celebrate your home mechanic successes and own your screwups. Personal accountability and all that. Put another way, no your cracked carbon headtube is not a defect in manufacturing and materials.

Thinking about the few times a year I use my headset press moved me on to thinking about tools in my bicycle tool box that I use regularly around the house. They're tools I specifically acquired for working on bikes but which serve many purposes. I've used everything here in the last week.

Marin SQ24 Claire Headset Press NSMB AndrewM.JPG

If you've never used a headset press before, my kid would tell you that you've missed out. That aside, for the number of new headsets the rider needs installed in a decade it's not much of a min-maxed tool purchase. Especially compared to my list here.

Non-Metal Manipulators

Despite my well-documented lust for titanium, I haven’t been able to justify buying one of those glorious multi-headed Ti hammers. Like an Abbey Tools or an Acoustic Cycles. I have a slightly-rusted Estwing hammer for driving nails that was beyond used and free-to-me over twenty years ago. My short sledge I use for driving spikes for trail work isn't much newer. My bigger sledge is also long bought and paid for. In fact, when it comes to metal hammers I figured most folks probably already own what they need.

But what's surprising to me is how few of my friends own a rubber mallet and a soft-faced hammer. There are some 2-in-1 options as well but I like my mallet to have a big surface area where the plastic soft-faced hammer, sometimes called a fretting hammer, delivers more concentrated force. In the bike world both are great for getting stuff unstuck without any of the cosmetic, or more than cosmetic, damage that can come from whacking and thwacking with a metal face. Like removing a crankset stuck in a bottom bracket, or pivot hardware that's a bit too friendly with your bearings when servicing a suspension frame.

Around my place I seem to always be coming up with stuff that requires some manipulation without defacement, whether it's trying to sort something out on the car, or fixing an appliance, or just tap-tap-tapping something back into place. For a combined 30-40 CAD amortized over many, many years, definitely pick up some soft-surfaced thumpers. You'll be surprised how often they come into play.

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My old mallet was just a single-durometer black rubber and it served me well for about ten-bucks. This two-durometer unit was my dad's and it's not that I don't use both ends of it, but I don't know if it would be a priority if I was replacing it.

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My plastic-faced soft hammer has been around a long time. It's my only hammer that I don't have to open a drawer to access as it hangs right next to my bench. That way the default is always plastic rather than metal.

Knipex.

Can you even be a bike mechanic and not own a pair of Knipex Parallel Pliers? They only have come up in almost every teardown piece I've done on NSMB, not to mention showing up in every article written about wrenching anywhere in the last decade. Are they that good? Yes. Plenty of leverage, a firm grip, and once you start using them in the shop it's amazing how many jobs you end up doing with them. I press some linkage bearings with them, carefully remove fork top caps when I don’t have yet another size of flat socket, and recently used them on some very-stuck brake caliper pistons.

In a professional shop environment there’s an argument to have a couple sizes - but at home the 52mm/2” is all I have and that's great 99% of the time. You can buy them plenty of difference places, mine are dual-branded as Cyclus and Knipex. They're made in Germany and they seem to last a very, very long time under regular use, if not forever. They are not cheap to buy but now I'd own a pair even if I never worked on bicycles because they're that useful. Actually, for a lot of stuck nuts or bolts they grip so much tighter than an open wrench, I'll reach for the Knipex first as long as there isn't a space constraint. I hate round edges on nuts and bolts.

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It's nice having multiple Knipex sizes sometimes, but all I have at home is the 2" / 52mm and it's unusual for me to wish for some smaller ones.

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This is the photo I usually send with my reply and different outfits selling Knipex list things differently. I use these things around the house all the time. The other week they were very helpful in changing the brake lights on my car.

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The discerning eye may note in this photo that the button has started to stick a bit on my sizing selector, despite my best efforts they're still not quite as good as new. But their versatile utility, (straightening rotors, installing linkage bearings, changing the leaking hose on my kitchen sink), makes them a great tool.

Olfa Utility Knife

Sometimes brand names do matter. Olfa's box cutters, or snap-off utility knives if you prefer, are made in Japan. They're not that much more money than buying generic crap, and the stainless steel blade channel means never grabbing your blade and realizing it's just a seized hunk of crap. The thumb-wheel friction lock mechanism is easy to use and the blades stay sharper longer than cheap units I've used. I think this last one cost me 8 CAD. You can easily make the argument, as with the soft-head hammer and mullet, that this is not a bike tool being used everyday but rather an everyday tool being used on bikes. I'll counter that 80% of the time, if I'm holding an Olfa utility knife, I'm doing something bicycle related. Either way it's a great tool that's not expensive.

Working on bikes I use mine to trim zip-ties, to remove the seals from bearings to add grease before installation, and for other duties as required. Outside of bikes they're great for opening boxes, cutting up cardboard, and trimming an endless number of different materials. The last non-bike job I used it for was cutting a bit of drywall so my socket cover would fit properly, but it's rare a week goes by without me pulling it out for something or other. They're available at every hardware and tool store and I've even seen them are the grocery store on occasion.

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Every time I use a crappy utility knife it reminds me how much I like my Olfa. It's not a lot of extra money to genuinely enjoy using a tool.

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The runners are stainless steel; the blades are not. But they stay sharp surprisingly long and, in my experience, the system never seizes together.

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Olfa makes different adjusters. I have a strong preference for the thumbwheel and one handed operation is totally intuitive.

Wolf Tooth Key Chain

I always carry a multi-tool with me wherever I go in addition to my EDC Leatherman Skeletool, which covers knife, pliers, and Philips-head screwdriver. I guess I just regularly see things that need to be fixed and I hang out at enough local institutions that I semi-regularly see mountain bikers who need a hand. Now I'd argue that these days anyone who can afford a GX-level bike or higher has little reason not to be carrying some kind of bike-stashed multi-tool but it's still nice to help out another member of the community even when they're a victim of their own decision not to wear a pack or stash a multi-tool.

For the last little bit I've ditched my multi-tool and my key chain in favour of this Wolf Tooth 6-Bit, which is a slimmed down pair of the 8-Bit Pack Pliers that I use for mountain biking with the added advantage that it locks closed when it's in my pack or pocket, assuming you spend the extra ten bucks for the keyring attachment. Even without the keyring attachment it stays closed pretty well thanks to the power of magnets but for me the addition of the lock and keyring combined is what makes it an every day tool. I take it everywhere and I've already leant it to a couple of mountain bikers and tightened a bunch of stuff around my building. The 6-Bit system has the big 8mm hex on a swivel and then inserts for 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm hex, a flat head #3.5 and a Phillips #2 screwdriver, plus T10 and T25 Torx bits.

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Inserting the keyring locks the 6-Bit tool closed, rather than just relying on magnets. It's nice piece of mind when tossing my keys into my bag.

Everyday Tools NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

The same basic layout my beloved 8-Bit tool minus the quick link pliers. I've used the new 6-Bit a bunch already and it's part of my daily leaving-the-house kit.

Knipex parallel pliers don't go on sale very often but I have had some friends score good deals on multi-packs if you would like to own multiple sizes. Locally the 52mm/2" option seem to run 80 CAD most places.

My Olfa box cutter was about 8 CAD but depending on the version or if it's a package with extra blades I've seen them listed for 15-20 CAD as well. They make a lot of different versions but any of the 'heavy duty' versions will have the stainless blade track. If you're feeling generous you can always buy a three pack and hook up a couple of friends as well.

Non-metal manipulators come in at every price point from a 10 CAD mallet to a 500+ CAD Ti hammer with replaceable plastic caps. If I had to choose between the two options I have, I'd probably stick with the plastic-faced soft hammer as I use it all the time, but there are moments when having a rubber mallet is the only way to go.

The new 6-Bit is the one item here you can't grab at the local hardware store. But, you can now get them from your local bike shop or direct from Wolf Tooth. They're 52 CAD without the keyring and 62 CAD with and come with nine different colour options for the accent chainring bolt.

Let us know what's in your tool box, for bikes and other stuff as well.

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Comments

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+9 Andrew Major taprider Lynx . Mammal silverbansheebike imnotdanny DancingWithMyself Eric Nelson OneShavedLeg

Two other useful tool related items I have on hand when stuff needs doing are a small rechargeable headlamp and a pair of reading glasses. Sadly age has taken its toll enough that I'll find myself struggling with a job that shouldn't be that hard only to realize it would be a lot easier if I can clearly see the parts/tools in question vs. interpreting a dark blurry impressionist painting of the situation. 

I've started to think a pair of those folding reading glasses from the pharmacy really needs to end up in my on bike tool kit/frame bag. If One Up comes up with a version of their EDC that has a Rx monocle in the top cap I may just have to finally get on of those blingy tools.

Reply

geraldooka
Michael
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major DanL

These are great: https://www.thinoptics.com/best-sellers/readers-black-keychain-case?gclid=Cj0KCQjwxtSSBhDYARIsAEn0thSLQffD4OUKBD6WytO_qFpfjONuyOckml8vBJ-04QLBl2ThHUSEiP8aAgCZEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

They are tiny and often available at cheaper than typical pricing as well as come in several shockingly small form factors. If you are getting them for tools work I’d pick a slightly higher magnification than one might use for say reading or office work (I don’t use them for that purpose).

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Vik Banerjee

You know, a flip-open mini monocole could be a great add on. I have been on multiple rides where a pair of reading glasses has been produced and passed over to the person we’re waiting for to adjust something. Amazing what a time saver they are (whether it’s the gift of sight or the act of passing them over).

Reply

DanL
DanL
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Vik Banerjee

I found a pair of folding reading glasses that fit into a small hard case which means it's immune to getting bashed on trails and gets thrown into whatever pack I have.
Talking utility knives, I use a Stanley knife all day every day, it's about 20 years old and it shows just how crappy the BS mastercraft offerings are in Rona. Those 'things' make my blood boil that they knowingly sell such a substandard product for real money.
One more thing that makes any hammer personal, especially framing hammers during a long day, is hockey tape which will mold to your hand.

Reply

albert03
albert03
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 DanL

ThinOptics is the solution to folding glasses in a hard case.  They don't have ear pieces, they pinch your nose to stay in place, and it works extremely well.  I always have a pair in my car and in my pack.  Really helps if you ride with contacts and can't see your phone/map.  And it's true that just about everything is easier with better lighting and some magnification.

Reply

DanL
DanL
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Those are the ones I use - I have a set squirrelled away in most places I'll need them.

Reply

DancingWithMyself
DancingWithMyself
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Agreed on the glasses.  I'm about 1.5 in reading glasses. I've found that for working on bikes I like small 1.75 or 2.0.  Can look over the top to select tools and such, and then when working the extra magnification is really nice.

Reply

papa44
papa44
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+4 Andrew Major hotlapz DanL Mark MacNab

I’m gonna go with both my Wera Allen key set and screwdriver (the one with the bits in the handle). They are the two tools I sadly also take on holiday and consider them a minimum, I would throw in a Stanley knife and a notebook but surely that’s just the second step of getting dressed in the morning and doesn’t even need mentioning, imagine walking around all day not being able to cut something or take a note? Madness. Definitely fancy a pair of those Knipex though, they look potentially life changing in the same way owning my first pair of proper wire strippers was, wiring anything is a joy with the right strippers

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 papa44

My Skeletool does every day duty in my pocket. I’ve been trying to do notes on my phone (since I’m carrying it anyway) but the full note pad from a recent product teardown is probably an accurate picture of how that’s going.

Reply

vincentaedwards
Vincent Edwards
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+4 Andrew Major Lynx . Mark MacNab Dustin Meyer

The Knipex are a life changer. Wera allens and drivers are brilliant as well.

For headsets and press in BBs, I’ve always just used these:

https://www.leevalley.com/en-us/shop/tools/hand-tools/clamps/69825-dubuque-wooden-handscrews

They require a bit more attention during install compared to a proper headset press, but if you keep things parallel as you go they work great. Plus they’re handy to have around the house. I’ll clamp them to a workbench with an ‘f’clamp (or 2) and use them like a soft jaw vice for other bike servicing tasks.

Reply

Onawalk
Onawalk
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

If you drill a hole through both clamps, between the threaded ride, and cut a length of 1/2” reddi rod through the headset and head tube, they require way less futzing. 

Couple big washers and nuts, and you’re off.

Takes a little longer to get set up, but won’t slip out.

I skipped using the clamps all together, and just use the rod with some wooden bucks.  Same same same

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Interesting cross over tool use! I wonder if it would be an easier easier process if you had headset adapters (the inserts that go on the cups - for some headsets - in the press tool in terms of keeping everything square? 

Neat either way.

Reply

hongeorge
hongeorge
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major khai

This has been ideal for me for home use - 20 euro, and neatly shaped for a bunch of headset and frame sizes, obviously not as quick as a proper press that quick releases,, but equally a step up from threaded bar and washers.

https://www.bike-discount.de/en/acros-do-it-yourself-headsat-tool

Reply

vincentaedwards
Vincent Edwards
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

That reminds me of another tool I really love having access to- a $400 Prusa Mini 3D Printer (it helps to have a background with CAD) - I’ve made my own tools to press in fork seals, and could easily print adaptors for headsets and BBs. 

For other folks doing this- I suggest increasing the number of shells (walls) to 4- same goes for the top and bottom layers. PETG filament is a lot tougher than PLA (much less prone to cracking)

Reply

kain0m
kain0m
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Oh yes, the good old 3D printer. It solves many problems you did not have before owning a 3d printer. My first "real" print was a little bracket to attach the front of a kitchen drawer that had broken. I've also printed a holder for my shoe horn, a stand for my fountain pen, parts for RC drones, phone stands,... 

The real challenge is to know when NOT to print something, but to use another process.

Reply

tehllama42
Tehllama42
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

So much this - the number of tools and adaptors you can generate with access to a solid printer is actually mind-boggling. 
TPU mounts for various hardware can also go a remarkably long way, as can cheap DIY UAS battery straps for load carriage.

Reply

Jeff_Carter
Jeff Carter
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Etacata Tadpoledancer

I really enjoy using the Pedros Downhill Tyre lever. It's great for spreading brake pads before a pad swap, as well as removing flat tyres and installing that last bit of tight bead on a new one.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I would have said it’s a great tool for everything but levering tires, but it all comes down to how gentle you are. I’ve seen some warped tires and rims. 

I’d say my Park DH lever is differently useful in a similar regard.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Agreed. The Pedros DH lever absolutely maims rims, but it's a great pry-tool.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Mammal Lynx .

A regular hammer plus a block of wood, hunk of plastic, hunk of rubber, and a brass or aluminum punch equals a lot of different specialty non marring mallets. Just saying. Also in favor of block of wood is that has two durometers (parallel vs perpendicular to grain), and two blocks can make any vice a soft jaw one.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 kcy4130

Hahahaha. I always feel the need (headset related) to note that when it comes to wood and hammers everyone just needs to exercise personally responsibility if things go awry. 

But yes, ‘block of wood’ is a favourite tool!

Reply

Abies
Simon Apostol
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Mammal Pete Roggeman

As a serial tool misplacer and thus user of cheap things from Home Depot and yard sales, the Wera allen key set recommended here is now one of my most prized possessions and has aided in the assembly of numerous IKEA furniture items. Bookmarking this page because gosh, turns out nice tools are just as much a pleasure to use as nice bike parts are to ride. Maybe even more so.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major Lynx . mrbrett

Ah yes, the old hammer and block o'wood trick when you don't have a head set press... You know what works well in place of a soft mallet? A hammer and a block o'wood. Lol.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 bushtrucker

I’m going to softly disagree here as I only have two hands and a lot of the time I need one for holding ‘the thing’ and one for holding the hammer. 

For example, tapping out a stubborn crankset with my $10 rubber mallet I can hold the crank and keep it from falling on the floor. 

I use blocks of wood for hitting all kinds of stuff (and shim plenty of stuff around the house with wood too) but I think everyone needs a mallet in their life.

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major kcy4130

You don't need a hammer AND a block of wood to remove the crankset, you just hammer WITH the block of wood.

(And before you all accuse me of being some kind of primitive moron, I do own a blue HMR-4.)

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+5 Mammal Velocipedestrian kcy4130 Eric Nelson Kos

"Big Rock For Fix Cranks. Small Rock For Fix Gears. Smallest Rock For Fix Brakes."

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I use the hammer/block on stubborn cranks all the time. I just get creative. Not saying that it's better than using the right tool, but it can be used most of the time without issue, and that's good enough for 22 years of mountain biking.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Mammal

Certainly, I just meant to highlight that compared to a lot of tools, a rubber mallet is very cheap and also has the potential to be very high-value per use. I used a wood-handled Rona-special for years before I inherited the one in the photo. Definitely got my $10 worth many times over.

Reply

khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

A previous apartment where I lived had the "secure" parking broken into on three separate occasions during the ~2yrs we lived there - possibly more, but I had stuff stolen 3x.  I was never madder than when my $6 rubber mallet got jacked.  It was probably the lowest value thing I lost in terms of replacement cost, but I used that thing all the time.  I replaced it with a dead blow mallet which is even better.  But I did think it kind of funny that I was the most angry about losing a $6 tool...

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

But yes, before Andrew replies [of course he beat me to it], personal responsibility required. That should be the case with ALL bike repairs you conduct yourself though, pretty much goes without saying. If you do it yourself, and it's possible to f*ck it up, it's your fault if it does. 

I do tend to love finding unconventional ways to complete jobs though, if specialty tools aren't available. At a time when I had way more time than money, I needed to fit a new-to-me Boxxer with an unfortunately short steerer onto my '07 DH bike. I filed about 10mm of stack off the head tube (within 0.1mm of flat), hammered that stainless King DH headset back in, and called it a day. Only rode that setup for a year, but no issues or creaks whatsoever.

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Mammal khai

Facing down head tubes was really common for a while - along with 800mm flat bars - gotta get low! Then folks sized up their frames & Reach started growing. 

Kudos to you for getting the headtube flush/square enough with a hand file. I’ve seen some impressive sections of daylight between cup and headtube on some DIY jobs but the tools to do it properly are expensive. 

I’ve cut three seat tubes now with a hacksaw. Drill a hole and use a stacked pair of hacksaw blades to make a new slot. Clean up with a file and a deburring tool. Every time it achieved an extra 2cm of drop. 

Actually thinking I may do a follow up piece on the less common and more use specific tools that I love. My debburing tool, Hayes Feel’R gauge, Shimano T-30/5mm T-tool, and why. I think the Feel’R gauge at $35 is the most expensive thing in the group. Nothing I technically need, but all things that make working on bikes more satisfying.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I love the drill and stacked blades for the seat tube method. That's great. I also like the idea of highlighting the infrequent-but-still-loved tools with an article. 

For the head tube job, it was a just a very slow careful process. First mark the end game length with a scribe around the OD of the head tube, and file 'er down that far. Then use a reliably flat steel item and sand paper to hone it from there. It turns out forward strokes take off more than reverse strokes, so I just went around honing in different orientations until the calipers told me I was done. It worked, but I wouldn't want to do that again. An '07 Norco Team DH has plenty of head tube to spare, and yeah, in '07/'08 I raced with an 800mm trials flat bar (they actually had a nice sweep). The sketchiest job was actually firing out the old stainless King DH headset, those have like 40mm insertion depth. I cut them down to around 20mm before reinstalling, just in case I needed them out again.

Reply

Onawalk
Onawalk
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

1/2” threaded rod, large washers, scrap wood, basically a headset tool for $6.00

Or spend $12 and get 3/4” rod, nuts, washers.

Reply

cheapondirt
cheapondirt
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major kain0m

I wholeheartedly second the humble Olfa knife. There's nothing like it (except a good knock-off, which is what I'm currently using because I'm a serial knife misplacer).

The pliers wrench is awesome as well. I'd like to give one to my kids for high school graduation after starting their tool kits sooner, maybe with a Picquic screwdriver. Lots of utility for the money there.

Maybe it's a MEATengines piece but what tools would you like to send along with your daughter when she eventually moves out of your home?

Reply

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Mammal khai cheapondirt

That is a great article idea, especially because I feel responsible for her wanting to take tools to things and her enjoyment of good tools.

The only tool she owns right now aside from her OneUp EDC is a Wera screwdriver-style T-25. Because everyone needs one of those. A pair of Knipex would absolutely be a out-in-the-world gift. Maybe get some sappy message, or a wicked dad joke, etched into it.

Reply

crashmtb
crashmtb
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 cheapondirt
AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Mammal cheapondirt

And a vice and a way to mount it! It was a revelation once I had one.

Reply

BadNudes
BadNudes
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major cheapondirt

Love my picquic drivers, one would definitely be in my essential tools list or my son's first tool kit - I have two of the home-gamer phillips, flat, roberston varieties because one always goes missing. I also got the metric hex driver which is nice for some bike jobs, but doesn't see as much use as I thought it would. It can be hard to pick the right sizes, especially since they included a 5.5mm hex; do corresponding screws even exist? I think if I replaced the 5.5 with a T25 it could be a great tool for handlebar controls or anything else not requiring high torque, but as is it sees more use assembling ikea style furniture once a blue moon.

Also love my knipex pliers and olfa knives, and my new wera hex/torx keys have been pretty nice, but the T25 fits a bit too snug in most bolts I've used so far.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

My Wera Torx set the T-25 is a tight, or maybe I’ll say deliberate, fit in a lot of bolts. The screw-driver style T-25 is perfect.

Reply

AverageAdventurer
AverageAdventurer
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Vincent Edwards

Besides wera wrenches and knipex pliers the tools I find are in my hand the other 30% of the time are knipex side cutters or flush cutters. The amount of zip ties in the bike world is crazy. Sidecutters are a valuable tool for a tire install at this point. That $142 maxxis tire isn't going on if you can't get it out of packaging. 

Flush cuts for those externally routed moments grabbing a frame near a rough cut zip tie is up there with stabbing a frayed cable into your thumb. 

Not everyday tools but ones I'm thankful for; the vice, that "clearance" Stanley socket set, and a hacksaw. Between the vice and sockets you can bodge a lot of stuff together/apart. Hacksaw I mean.. cuts stuff you need cut.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+4 Vik Banerjee Mammal AverageAdventurer kain0m

Having a vice is such an under-rated tool by anyone who doesn’t have one. I use mine all the time for stuff that has nothing to do with bikes and no matter how small a space I lived in I’d have one (~850 sq/ft I feel like I can say that).

Reply

kos
Kos
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian

There are people without a vise? I don't know any......

Also, four sets of soft-type jaws.

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Props for the spelling.

Reply

mammal
Mammal
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Absolute must. Even for me.

Reply

tehllama42
Tehllama42
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Mammal Andrew Major

As a connoisseur of crappy tools, I must say that the Knipex pliers are absolutely worth the splash of cash on them (as are self-locking tweezers if you ever have to frequently deal with fiddly tasks).
In some regards, I consider my badge of half-assability as its own justification to own nice tools where they can pay for themselves.

Reply

paul-lindsay
Paul Lindsay
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major kcy4130

Great article! I want to buy some of those Knipex pliers, the sizing I'm seeing isn't quite the same and I can't see what the text on the handles say, is this the same thing?

My tip is Bondhus Gorilla Grips, I think the medium HF7M one is best for bike stuff but I've bought a few sets now as they're handy to have in the van or under the sink. I pick up one of these before I use my Wera allen keys, I think they're a better fit, there's no rounded edges on the keys. I've got stuck shallow bolts out with the Bondhus tools where the Wera keys were starting to chew - Shimano master cylinder fill bolts for example.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

That's a larger jaw setup that I use (2.5" v. my 2") but otherwise, though I don't know what advantage is gained from them being black with just the head polished, they're the same gizmo.

If it's helpful the Knipex part # for mine is 86 03 250.

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paul-lindsay
Paul Lindsay
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Thanks, yes that was helpful, I've just ordered a set.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Derek Baker

Does anyone have an ultrasonic cleaner? I keep thinking it's the sort of thing that once I had one, I'd use it all the time - but have yet to pull the trigger...

I just put a JIS #2 Philips screwdriver in my Amazon cart as well. Time to see if it's actually better.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 khai

I don't own an ultrasonic cleaner and I'm resistant to giving up space and treasure for one, but they're fantastic. We used Nice Guy Geoff's for my last King hub teardown and combined with a toothbrush it was awesome how nice the DriveRing parts cleaned up. 

The JIS screwdriver is a letdown unless you're next-level persnickety. I mean, I'm fairly particular and it's a better interface, but still, I can take it or leave it.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Great to know, thanks - I won't bother with the JIS if you feel that the difference is that marginal.  

I've got a pretty good idea of how I can store an ultrasonic cleaner - I just need to build a small bottom shelf on my bench and should be good to go.  I almost bought one 2 years ago when the carb on Andrea's TTR was giving me fits but I finally got there with a tonne of patience and a can of carb cleaner.  I can see myself dropping all manner of stuff in there just because I have one.

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trumpstinyhands
trumpstinyhands
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 BadNudes

I got a folding anodized utility knife at Canadian Tire when they were half price. I look totally 'baller' when cutting up weed gummies.....

https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/mastercraft-folding-utility-knife-0575084p.html#srp

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 BadNudes silverbansheebike

Not a fan of those folding box cutters, I feel if you try trimming your snacks with an Olfa you’ll be even more satisfied with the process.

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Derek Baker

Or just don't cut 'em up - eat that whole thing.

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trumpstinyhands
trumpstinyhands
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yeah we have the Olfa ones at work. I concede that they are a better product, but shiny shiny 😉

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silverbansheebike
silverbansheebike
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Olfa all the way!

Some notable mentions from my at home shed-shop are a Workmate folding bench with attached vise, mitutoyo 6" scale, and most importantly a BMF'er of a flathead screwdriver that I've had forever. Need a prybar? chisel? extra leverage on a pipe on a set of vise grips? an actual screwdriver?! BMF'er!

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I was surprised at how often I pull my digital calipers once I replaced the analog dial ones I had previously, which I had a hard time reading now that I've reached middle age.  

I don't carry a pocket knife but when I'm in the house/garage/vehicle I get annoyed if I don't have some sort of a cutting tool within arms reach regardless of where I am.  I bought a box of uber cheap razor blade boxcutters and leave them everywhere (it's not a kid friendly house).  I also have a few folding knives kicking around if I need a longer blade.  Offset or flush cut snips are an absolute game changer for trimming zip ties.  If that's the only thing I ever used them for I'd still have several pair.  

I have tape measures everywhere too.

I use a drift/punch with surprising frequency.  Just this morning I used one to remove a magnet from the clip on my hydration hose.

Bags of zip ties, electrical tape, and to a somewhat lesser extent small rolls of velcro are also very commonly reached for. Same with toe straps.

I have one of those little rolling stools in the garage and often wish I had it in many places.  Too lazy to go get it (and the wheels are filthy), but damn it's handy!

I'm sure there are lots more...

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Khai, I’m shocked you don’t carry a pocket tool?! I used my Skeletool thrice today while ootandaboot.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

I used to, but weaned myself off of them back when I used to fly several times a month and lost one too many of them to the TSA.  These days I rarely leave the house, so tools are generally not very far from reach.  I do consider getting a new one every once in a while, though...

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 khai kcy4130

I had traveled very little on my own as a young adult and many, many years ago when I went for the first time to Vegas for Interbike I had the chance to get too close to some impressive firearms and very grumpy, very large men when we were leaving the airport. 

At the time I was working for a small distributor and I'd flown in light - carry-on only. Leaving the show the good folks at one of the brands we carried had given me a stack of their new super light, totally inline, not-yet-released miniature road pumps to send out to good dealers for feedback when I arrived home. I bundled them together with a quick wrap of tape, threw them in my pack, and hopped a shuttle. 

The scariest part was actually the way the border agent screening my carry-on asked if I'd be okay with him running my bag through the scanner again. Almost a dare? When he asked if I was okay with him running it through again as the ratio of passengers to security started to become very unnerving it suddenly dawned on me - ACME Dynamite right out of a Roadrunner cartoon. 

"THEY'RE BICYCLE PUMPS. MINIATURE BICYCLE PUMPS! FOR INFLATING TIRES!"

Everyone was super chill after that (I may have still been shaking a bit the next day) and it was all good flying out, but to this day I don't drop someone off at an airport without going through every pocket of everything I've thought about wearing in the last three months at least four times.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Like anything, if you fly enough you get complacent/sloppy.  I've discovered lighters in pockets that had made countless trips on planes, have been grilled by the TSA for flying with track cogs (I was flying out of a tiny airport in the MidWest and assume he saw me and thought they were ninja stars?) and once was idly fiddling in a jacket pocket before the security lineup when I found a single round of .22 ammunition (I used to spend a lot of time on the biathlon range).  I separated the round from the casing, threw both parts away, and then washed my hands for 10min before going back to Security.  The best was when I was flying with a vacuum sealed bag of maltodextrin, to be used as home made energy drink.  TSA pulled me aside and asked "So... do you have anything you want to tell me about in your luggage?  Money... Weapons...  DRUGS?"  That's when it dawned on me that my homemade Gatorade looked just like a big 'ol bag of cocaine right out of a movie.  I laughed and explained what it was, and was honestly disappointed when he didn't stab it with a knife and taste it.  Instead he walked it back to the rest of his buddies to tell them about this dumbass he just stopped with an incredibly suspicious looking package.  He let me go though, with the bag.  I have to assume he was assessing my voice and body language more than anything.  Good times!

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mark-macnab
Mark MacNab
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Besides several of the items already mentioned,  (knipex, knife, soft face knock-ometer) one impulse purchase that I'm really happy with and use for almost all bike wrench jobs is a 1/4" mini bit ratchet.     
To get access to the little fasteners that secure cable ports, water bottle screws, chain guide fasteners behind the chainring etc.     sooo handy for tight jobs.     
..the wiha one i have has the direction lever too prominent and it gets reversed at inopportune times but I still love having it.

https://www.wihatools.ca/1-4-inch-ratchet-and-bits-35-piece-set

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Mark MacNab

Also on the mini ratchet train, This wee thing is great, particularly how the extender can turn it into a T wrench. 

Didn't much like the quality of the bits, I've swapped them with slightly better ones I had, but some Wera hex plus are on the list.

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mark-macnab
Mark MacNab
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Velocipedestrian

Interesting that you mention the quality of the bits.   That was why I bought the wiha mini set.  Just to get a decent set of good bits. 

and initially, I was thinking "meh, so I have to pay for this silly little toy to get them.." 
but it turns out to be surprisingly useful.    and the bits are great quality too.

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kain0m
kain0m
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Velocipedestrian

There is a very similar multi-tool by Topeak. It's called the ratchet rocket, and come with good quality bits. There's also a version with torque sticks or a chain breaker and tire levers in the same pouch. Love that thing!

Side note, I never thought about using the extension as a handle. Makes total sense, that's why theres a hex in the end of the ratchet! Thanks for the tip!

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Or just for holding the other bit you're using.

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Poz
Poz
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

When I first saw the Wolftooth 6-bit come out I sighed a “meh” as a biking tool but quickly came to realise it’s the perfect keychain EDC. It’s amazing the amount of times I’m looking for an Allen key or Philips head for simple one off scenarios.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

It’s funny, as a bike tool for riding I immediately said the same. I don’t have space concerns that prevent me carrying the 8-Bit and quick link pliers are good to have. But as a bike tool that goes where my keys go I’ve been using it a ton. 

The best is twice now I’ve been in situations where riders who should know better are grumbling about their lack of ‘X tool’ and, walking by, being that total stranger - not on a bike - and silently handing them exactly what they need Is hilarious.

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mrbrett
mrbrett
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Mammal

Nail clippers - bigass gnarly giant-toe sized if possible. Used for zip zie tail trimming with no chance of collateral damage with a knife blade vs. brake hose. Cuts the tail of the zip tie flush and slightly curved so there are no sharp edges either. Cost is like $6 for a half decent set.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I know a fair fee folks who do the clippers, and I certainly tried it on their recommendation. In the shop where time counts nothing beats a nice set of flush cuts, but at home I like just using my Olfa over anything else.

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kos
Kos
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

My wife bought me a set of flush cut clippers for five bucks at a sewing fair 15 years ago. Still going strong.

W/R/T utility knives, you DO know that Knipex makes several?!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Yes, but I always go back to min-maxing. Olfa presents glorious value.

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xy9ine
Perry Schebel
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

i always wondered what the fuss was over knipex pliers (in lieu of proper wrenches, sockets, etc), but now that you've mentioned some specific use applications, they do sound kinda handy. hmmm.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 DancingWithMyself

People always say that until they try them. I even know mechanics who said things like “pffft, I got by this long without them” who now own 3 sizes.

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cyclotoine
cyclotoine
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+5 Andrew Major khai Pete Roggeman Greg Bly Derek Baker

I am thinking of buying the mastercraft ones and taking them to my local machine shop with a box of dougnuts and asking them to shave them down for use on cones. How I'd love to donate all my cone wrenches to the bike co-op or some aspiring mechanic.... cone wrenches suck and wear fast. Knipex cone wrench would be amazing. I know there are people offering this as a service but they're like $150 USD to buy the Knipex ones machined down.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Derek Baker

I... just... can't... this is F'ING BRILLIANT. I'd kill for a pair of Knipex cone wrenches. I wonder it they'd be stiff enough machined down all the way to cone wrench thickness (or actually, if cone wrenches need to be that thin?). Yeah, cone wrenches wear out so fast and suck. 

If you do this I need to see the result. Thank you in advance.

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ronij
ronimjones@gmail.com
2 months, 1 week ago
0

This comment has been removed.

cyclotoine
cyclotoine
2 months, 1 week ago
0

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

That's clever as hell.  I don't often have a need for cone wrenches, but a pair of those would be sick...

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cheapondirt
cheapondirt
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Tool counter guy actually scoffed when I asked for one. The "you gotta have the shiny new thing eh?" kind of reaction. It honestly made me second guess the purchase. But it is really nice to have. What other tool can take a fork apart and just as effectively disconnect a sink drain?

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Pete Roggeman kcy4130

It's so weird when the person who's job it is to sell you stuff is a dick about it...

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cheapondirt
cheapondirt
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 khai

Yes, very off-putting. If I am wrong as a customer, please advise me, but don't make me feel dumb for wanting something you don't.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Andrew Major cheapondirt Pete Roggeman

Exactly - I love it when a knowledgeable shop employee steers my purchase or makes a suggestion.  I've had lots of shop staff prevent me from buying something they had in stock and suggested that I go elsewhere to find something different that they don't even sell.  Store employees are largely valuable for the knowledge they have, which I may not.  But there's a way to do it that makes one feel good about the encounter, and another way that really does not...

AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

This comment has been removed.

T0m
T0m
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Digital calipers are so nice, perhaps because of my *mature* eyesight. Soft faced hammers are great - Andrew nailed why because you don’t have to hold the wood block that’s “just as good.” Also nothing like it for driving proud frets back into their fretboard. Although a drill press used as a press is great for that too, and much more, but not very EDC friendly.

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cyclotoine
cyclotoine
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 cheapondirt

The patent must have expired on the knipex. Has anyone noticed these: 

https://www.canadiantire.ca/en/pdp/maximum-pliers-wrench-10-in-0581692p.html#srp

might be a good alternative if you can't stomach the cost of Knipex.

When the Wolf Tooth tool was released I can say I immediately loved the idea and want one, but I don't carry a tool around now. Do I really need this? No not really, but wolf tooth knows how to make me irrationally purchase tools.

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mrbrett
mrbrett
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Derek Baker

I think those might cost more than Knipex. Pretty much Every single Mastercraft tool I have broken has suffered some frustrating early death. 

I’m guessing as far as math goes: 3x Mastercraft$ > 1x Knipex$$

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cyclotoine
cyclotoine
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

Maximum is Canadian Tire's attempt to make a quality tool the is differentiated from the budget Mastercraft branded tools. I believe the Maximum stuff carries a lifetime warranty and my experience is that, while not top of the line, Maximum branded stuff is better than Mastercraft. I'd also feel more comfortable having them machined into the ultimate cone wrench, since I still work on a lot of old bikes too.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I mean, they probably have a lifetime warranty so the only cost of a fresh pair is a trip to Can-T, but still.

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Shoreloamer
Greg Bly
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Yep I use master craft , Can tire brand . For construction work. When the tool fails . Always replaced same day .  No bill needed. 

Imagine if the bike industry handled warranties with genuine support. 

My favorite cheap bike tool. A spoke . When it's time to replace the chain. I bend some hooks in a spoke and that holds the dreailuer cage forward so I have two hands to work the chain. 

I still carry a chain breaker . If my chain has issues on the trail I'm probably removing it . My chain breaker is integrated into my multi tools .  Three different packs so three sets of tools . 

Ever have a tight tolerance head tube? Than a headset presss is the only way to get the bitch started .  Other head tubes I can almost push the cups in by hand . 

All about the amazing lack of tolerance or quality control of these rather expensive toys.

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cheapondirt
cheapondirt
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Thanks for posting that, think I might grab a pair for my work truck. A stonemason's toolbox is a brutal place. I buy nice trowels and hammers as I use them all day every day, but for secondary tasks like replacing sawblades or bolting outriggers onto scaffolding - a knockoff knipex is perfect!

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 cheapondirt

That's a great point, I also have had friends who've had theft issues at job sites and you'd certainly never subject a loved one (even if it's an inanimate pair of parallel pliers) to either situation. I've generally wrenched in much more controlled, indoor, environments where good tools tend to last a long time.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I’m an ‘amortize your life’ sort of person. My Knipex are free at this point anyway so I don’t see any reason I’d roll the dice in a knock-off. I’m all over house brands when it doesn’t matter but I’m sceptical here.

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skooks
Skooks
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

PSA: KMS tools currently has a bunch of their Wera handtools and some Knipex stuff on sale.

https://www.kmstools.com/kmsflyeronline/#page1

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

Funny, I got that flyer yesterday and dig KMS Tools perhaps a little too much...  Just out of curiosity I looked up the Knipex flush cutters - $60!  Or 10x what I paid for my cheap ones.  I'm sure the Knipex ones are a joy to use, but my $6 ones work really well...

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earleb
earle.b
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

The patent has expired on the Knipex pliers wrench. Harbor Freight has already knocked them off. Expect to see them everywhere dirt cheap soon. 

https://www.harborfreight.com/10-in-pliers-wrench-with-comfort-grip-58200.html

https://toolguyd.com/harbor-freight-icon-pliers-wrench-knipex-imitation/

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Lu Kz

The Canadian Tire version was posted by someone above. Based on usage - amortize your life - my real Knipex pliers have cost me nothing. Not sure why I'd bother to roll the dice on something that's almost undoubtedly lower quality. I don't own a lot of nice things, and I always save on tools where it doesn't make a difference, but sometimes "buy nice or buy thrice" does apply.

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geraldooka
Michael
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

As a fairly committed DIYer I need mores tools as my father used to say “like I need another hole in my head” I did previously use tools for earning a living so I have some excuse for the overflowing capacity :) but those Knipex how did I miss those?

My peg board wall that used to hold more carpentry oriented tools has had to share space with more bike oriented tools over the past several years if I had to pick a few stand out faves they would be:

- The big (I believe) 24” breaker bar that single tool has saved much frustration and I suspect prevented injury or damage to fancy bikes

- Round head hex keys should be the standard for anything bike

- Various sizes and shapes of aluminum or hardwood drifts in combination with a large wood mallet solve many problems effectively and safely

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Velocipedestrian

Do you mean "round head hex key" like ball-ends? They have a use in speeding up work with delicate hands but if I had my way ball-ends would be outlawed. I've removed way too many bolts that have been rendered NFG by someone tightening things with a ball-end.

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geraldooka
Michael
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Derek Baker

Yes ball ends are the one! Fair enough, I haven't had that experience but as the sole bike mechanic in the house (though I am trying to teach my teenage son) my sample size is me and as a former finish carpenter/cabinet maker I'm good with delicate :)

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Michael Derek Baker

Totally understand this; it's really no different than folks installing headsets using various homespun methods. If it works for you, on your stuff, in your house then I'm the asshole for telling you otherwise. 

But, when it's out in the world below something with my name in the byline and I don't mention my experience then I'm the asshole for not saying something.

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geraldooka
Michael
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Andrew Major Derek Baker

I've always appreciated the thoroughness of your content and commitment to your audience Andrew.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Wow, thank you, Michael. I really appreciate the comment.

khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I do like the look of that Wolftooth 6Bit tool, but is anyone else offended by the fact that they want $10 for the keyring?!  @Andrew, please tell me that I'm wrong, that they machine these in house and that they're way nicer than the standard ones that come on a variety of other keyrings and can easily be found cheaply/in multi-packs...

In other news, this is an appealing offering.  I've been looking for a good solution for a while, and this seems to fit the bill nicely.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 khai

Hi Khai,

Like all things, keyring ball-locks come in different levels of manufacturing and materials. I don't know if there's a hack in there to buy the 6Bit and use a cheap one you have around, and I suppose the value of the Wolf Tooth one as an add-on is going to vary from person to person. 

I can tell you the whole thing is stainless steel - pin, ring, and spring. I haven't confirmed this but I'd bet you a fiver it's made by Halder. 

Probably more information than you were actually looking for? But, if you click HERE the link will take you to the product data-sheet! It has a max load capacity of 30N and they declare it to be free of any conflict minerals.

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khai
khai
2 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andrew Major

If that's indeed the part they're charging an extra $10 for then I stand corrected and apologize to the good people at Wolftooth.  And if not, that was an awesome rabbit hole either way.

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AndrewMajor
Andrew Major
2 months, 2 weeks ago
0

I’m certain it is, but it was a great question all the same! Didn’t even really occur to me that’s it’s an expensive widget (relative to the tool itself) until you mentioned it.

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Skeen
Skeen
2 months, 1 week ago
0

Although less versatile than the wolf tooth key chain, the (Surley) Jethro Tool deserves and honorable mention!

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