Every cyclist needs bike tools for day-to-day maintenance and the occasional roadside or trailside repair—but this doesn't mean you need a workshop full of expensive hardware. Over the years, I've made it a point to peek into the toolboxes and scan the workbenches and peg boards of pro mechanics I know and trust. Along the way, I've learned that their choices aren't always the most expensive or exotic tools. They are simply the best at getting a job done, and done reliably, every time. I've distilled their selections to these essentials.
1. Chain Checker
As cassettes have gone from eight speeds to nine, 10 and 11, chains and cogsets have become increasingly expensive. So improperly judging wear on these parts carries painful financial consequences. With the likes of Park Tool's CC-2 ($27), you can accurately gauge your chain's life in real terms so you don't toss one that still has miles to go—and you don't keep using one so worn that it starts eating your cassette cogs alive.
2. Torx Keys
Someday, every piece of hex hardware on every bike is going to be a Torx bolt. There: That's my prediction. Disc-brake-rotor hardware is nearly all Torx already, and Campagnolo uses Torx on many of its newest components, as does SRAM throughout its XX group and FSA for chainring bolts. Three sizes will cover everything you need (at least until the takeover is complete): T-10, T-25 and T-30. Park Tool makes a folding set (the TWS-2, $19) that has these sizes and more.
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3. Floor Pump
This is obvious—but which one to get? No one on earth pumps more tires in any given season than SRAM Neutral Race Support's Jose Alcala. The man is present at more than 100 race days a year with no less than 36 wheels—and usually more. And every tire is topped off every morning before the first racers arrive to sign in. Alcala uses an SKS Airbase Pro pump ($80). End of story.