Have you ever wished that you had just tightened that loose Allen screw before you left the trailhead? Or that you had packed your tire levers? Or your chain breaker? A breakdown on the trail is guaranteed to ruin your ride if you do not have the tools for the job.
Mountain biking is an arduous sport that demands a huge effort from the rider and places a great deal of strain on their equipment. Some several tools and accessories are essential to ensure that your mountain bike functions at peak efficiency before, during, and after a ride.
So, you have the bike, you have a place to ride it, you have the helmet, the gloves, the skin-tight “mountain bike specific” cycling shirt, the clip-in shoes, the gloves, and the MTB shorts. The following are the must-have tools you will need to keep you out on the trails.
Essential Tools for Your Home Workshop
No matter what level of Mountain Bike rider that you are, before you start shredding the trails, you are going to have to perform some sort of basic maintenance on your bike. To make sure this necessary upkeep is a pleasure rather than a pain, you should really consider having these tools at home:
If you can afford to shell out for a few different pumps then get a decent track pump, a mini-pump, and a shock pump. If you cannot quite justify buying a track pump, then a quality mini-pump will serve you well. The shock pump, however, is an essential piece of equipment that regulates the amount of air in your shock and your forks. Too much air and you will find yourself over the bars in short order. Too little and you will bottom out regularly, damaging the internals of your shock or your forks.
With a set of these, you can adjust your gear limit screws, tighten your frame hardware, adjust your headset, seat post, saddle height, and your brakes, tighten your disc rotors, fit a fork, adjust your handlebar controls and brake lever reach. You can service your pedals… The list of things you can maintain or repair using Allen keys and torque wrenches is vast.
Cable Cutters and Side Cutters:
Huge amounts of trail muck will accumulate in your brake and gear cables. Replacing these cables from time to time, especially if you ride in a particularly muddy area, will transform the way your mountain bike performs.
Why go to a bike shop every time you need to change your cables? However, ensuring that this is an easy operation at home will necessitate the use of a good quality bike-cable cutter.
A normal set of pliers will not “cut it”…. certainly not after the first attempt anyway, as the steel used in normal pliers is too soft and the cable will damage the cutting section. Likewise, a good set of side cutters will keep all the cable-tie ends fastening all your gear and brake cables neatly shortened.
While you can certainly get away with using the chain tool you have included with your trusty trail multi-tool for splitting your chain, it is very much easier to perform basic maintenance using a dedicated chain splitter or breaker.
A bonus to owning one of these tools is that taking the chain off to clean it properly is so simple a matter that you’ll willingly do this messy task without the usual reluctance.
A clean bike will not only perform well, but it will also ensure everlasting approbation and envy from your riding partners. There is no excuse whatsoever to show up on a dirt bike. Get yourself a proper bike cleaning kit. Your bike will love you for it.
Tools to Take Out on Every Ride
Pack these essentials into your saddlebag, or slip them into your hydration pack:
- Cable Ties: Cable ties fix everything. Well, not quite, but I’ve seen many cyclists come limping back to the trailhead with a broken hanger still operating with the aid of a cable tie or two, or with their brake levers held in place with the judicious application of these wonderful fasteners to make sure they made it back home. I’ve even seen a broken frame held together, albeit temporarily so that the rider could bring his steed back to the stable.
- Inner Tube: Most serious mountain bike riders are using a tubeless setup in their tires. And this is definitely the most efficient way of ensuring your tires remain inflated. Until that sidewall is perforated that is, or the hole in your tire is too large for the mixture to seal. That is where a spare inner tube comes in very handy.
- Multi-Tool: The MacGyver of tools. An essential tool out on the trails for tightening loose bolts and screw heads, breaking a chain, and refitting a master link. Some even come with a spoke nipple wrench.
- Tire Levers: Extricating a tire from the bead of your rim is not a task you would wish to take on with just your bloody-mindedness and your bare hands. A few lacerated fingers and a broken nail or two will have you begging passing bikers to borrow their tire levers. Sure, if you have the hand strength of The Hulk you could peel off a tire by stroking it gently off the rim, but for the rest of us mere mortals, pack a set of these in your trail kit.
- Mini Pump: This is pretty self-explanatory. When, and for whatever reason, your tire releases its air back into the atmosphere, you are going to need something to put it back. A compact mini pump that you can strap to your frame or slip into the back pocket of your shirt will do this for you.
The saying goes that “only a rich man can afford to buy cheap tools”, and in my experience, the best approach to purchasing tools is to buy the best quality tools that you can afford. Shopping for poorly made tools is a false economy as you will end up buying them over and over again.
Acquiring the tools we have listed from a reputable manufacturer such as Park Tool will give you the peace of mind to get out there and ride without the nagging thought that your mountain bike will fail on you, or that you won’t be able to repair your bike in the event of a “mechanical”.
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I started mountain biking many years ago to improve my overall health state. After my first ride, I fell in love with the sport. Now I spend dozens of hours a week researching and training to compete in local XC and Enduro events.