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Old 05-16-09, 08:31 AM   #1
Spasticteapot
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Where do you buy your tools?

There are several major manufacturers of bike tools out there - Park Tools and Pedros come to mind first. However, all of them spend huge amounts of money on advertising, team sponsorship, and other forms of corporate brand-building which drive up the price.

At the moment, I'm looking to buy a few tools - a crank puller (preferably one that can do both splined and square cranks -I'm told that the square pullers will do splined with an add-on adapter?), a set of tools for unlocking cassettes, and one of those doohickeys for cleaning a chain while it's still on the bicycle. Is there a "generic brand" that does the same job without the hefty pricetag?

I've also noticed that some tools seem needlessly specialized. For example, a complete set of cone wrenches from Park Tools would cost me over $50, but I seem to have good luck using some very small adjustable crescent wrenches I bought from a garage sale for $4. Is there any reason I shouldn't be using them?
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Old 05-16-09, 08:43 AM   #2
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Most of the cheap generic tool sets sold in online shops for $40 or less will have what you need.

As per why one would want quality tools over cheap ones...I'll leave that for the individual to decide.
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Old 05-16-09, 10:09 AM   #3
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Buy what you need, don't bother with complete sets unless you need them.

Kmart. . . . Oh .... I mean Sears Craftsman. Ooops ..... Kmart own Sears. Anyways, you can get a few tools from them.... like Allen wrenches.
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Old 05-16-09, 10:35 AM   #4
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Ooops ..... Kmart own Sears.
I think you mean that the other way around.

OP... I've been buying my tools as I need them from local shops. Buy local!! But I think I'll order my digital calipers from Harbor Freight Tools. Even with shipping they'll be about half the Park model.

http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=47257
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Old 05-16-09, 10:45 AM   #5
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There are companies that have tools on the market that do not do much advertising...but the cost of these tools (in my opinion) is not significantly less than anything else on the market unless you score an incredible deal from the shop or online retailer. My swag is that most people who maintain their own bikes don't put enough wear and tear on their tools for the brand to matter much. The counter-argument to this that some will state is that a low quality tool is most likely to break at the most inopportune time, and may damage what you are working on in the process. I don't necessarily equate price with quality...so buy quality tools that you need, at decent prices.

An argument for buying name brand tools like "Park" is should you decide to sell them down the road, you will most likely be able to get more money than an unknown brand tool.

If the mini crescent wrenches you have fit the jobs you are performing then go ahead and use them...there is not much wrong with that. I personally hate adjustable wrenches and much prefer using the correct size wrench for the fastener I am working with...but that is my personal opinion based on many years of experience.

-j
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Old 05-16-09, 11:09 AM   #6
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ALL companies spend lots to advertise and market (esp. place) their products. Bike tool manufacturers are selling into a specialized market. For a specialized market they have to develop specialized - and relatively low-volume - products. Such development is expensive so the the specialized tools tend to be expensive. The volume is low so the margin must be high. Some advice:

There is a LOT of re-branding and foundry sourcing in the market. The foundries - e.g. Lifu - make pretty darn good tools and you will pay a lot for them under a well-known brand. Instead, look for "house" or discount brands and you will likely get the same tools a lot cheaper. Spin Doctor (Performance) is a decent house brand. Even the Harbor Freight bike tool kits are pretty decent.

Don't buy the un-specialized tools like digital calipers and torque wrenches from "bike tool" makers (or marketers). They use the implication that their versions of these tools is somehow superior in the specialized application. They're not; they are the same tool with a hefty margin. For instance, I recently compared a Nashbar 1/4" torque wrench to the Harbor Freight version. Nashbar was pushing it as a "house" alternative to the even more expensive Park Tool wrench and had it on sale for about $60. The Harbor Freight version at $20 was the exact same tool.

One unfortunate side-effect of "buying from your local bike shop" is that the brands offered are generally uniform if there is a large selection, or if non-uniform like a small shop stocking what they think is the best the selection is pretty small and generally limited to tools for "modern" bikes. I'll buy local if I can find a good deal, but now that I'm not looking for basic tools, I more often go to BikeToolsEtc where the selection is much broader and includes stuff you'll never see in local stores.

To get started, buy a small Spin Doctor Essentials kit or the equivalent. (Warning: This advice depends on the vintage and type of bike you're dealing with.) For more generic stuff, go with the level of quality you are comfortable with: Harbor Freight/Craftsman/Snap-On. If you have tools that work - like the little crescents you mentioned - then by all means use them. Certain jobs you don't want to use non-specialized tools for. A pipe wrench will "work" on a bottom bracket - maybe even twice. A Stilson #10 might get that freewheel off, too. But short of driving into a concrete abutment it's also a good way to ruin the bike. More experience - and advice - will steer you around those boondoggles.


P.S. I don't mean to diss brands like Park Tool. PT in particular does excellent product development. They often have a 'better' version of a classic tool. Go for these like they have boobies. Just don't assume that all tools with that "really good" brand are Miss California.
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Old 05-16-09, 11:10 AM   #7
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After rereading your post here are some more thoughts:

How many tools do you plan on buying to remove cassettes? If you have a shimano equiped bike you only need the one for that, and the same for if you own a campy equiped bike...if you desire both for versatility in case you are working on someone else bike that is setup different from yours then you can buy both for less than $20...thats not very much for a couple of tools that will last well past your lifetime. The only other thing you will need is a chain whip....this can be fabricated very inexpensively with a spare piece of chain, flat metal bar, and a drill... no need to spend big bucks on a commercial chain whip. But a park chain whip can be had for $15 online and should last your lifetime as well...I have a chain whip that I still use that was purchased in 1988.

You don't need a full set of cone wrenches. Figure out what size cones you have on your hubs and buy the two that you need...most likely 13 (front) and 15mm (rear). It is nice to have two of each size but totally unnecessary.

For removing cranks, you can buy a square taper crank arm remover for less than $10 and the newer ones for $15 or less. Again these tools should last the home mechanic their lifetime.

The chain cleaner device you mention is nice but unnecessary, there are alternate ways to clean the drive train that are as or more effective and use less degreaser.

There are surprisingly few specialized tools (bike specific) that a home mechanic needs to completely build up, tear down, or maintain a bike.

-j

Last edited by Greenfieldja; 05-16-09 at 11:15 AM.
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Old 05-16-09, 11:13 AM   #8
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Kmart bought Sears in 2004. http://money.cnn.com/2004/11/17/news...ex.htm?cnn=yes
Called a "Merger". . . but shopping Sears tells me who's wearing the pants.

It may be called "Sears Holdings", but considering the customer service has gone down the toilet, along with quality of goods.... not to mention the Kmart return policy...... the shopping experience is pure Kmart. Craftsman tools, and their once gold standard in return policies, has gone downhill and one must be a lawyer to understand the policy regarding their tools now.
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Old 05-16-09, 12:45 PM   #9
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Does anyone here have any familarity with Avenir, Raleigh's house-brand tools? They look to be reasonably well made, and most of them are quite cheap.

http://www.amazon.com/Avenir-Chain-W...2501488&sr=1-1

It would seem that some tools require especially high strength or low tolerances. This $14 Pedro's multipurpose crank puller appears to replace $35 worth of Park Tools crank-pullers I was eying at the LBS. Considering that the Pedro's product is far better rated and costs less than half the price, it would seem to be a perfect solution - but I figure I should double-check exactly what it does before I bought it. Could someone verify that these will do square, octalink, and ISIS cranks?
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00..._luc_sbs_02_02

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OP... I've been buying my tools as I need them from local shops. Buy local!! [/url]
Of the five bike shops in town, two have tried to upsell me while denying th existence of a cheaper alternative, I've had a terrible experience with a bike mechanic at a third, the fourth is for people who have more money than sense, and the fifth doesn't really sell them at all (they rent workbench space - but only to friends of friends.)

All the local stores tend to have two examples of a given product: The Park Tools version and the nasty generic brand. A Park Tools chainwhip, for example, is $22.50 plus tax at the cheapest local bike shop, and the nasty generic brand is $17. Amazon sells a pretty nice looking Raleigh-branded chainwhip for $10 - and shipping is free.

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I think you mean that the other way around.
But I think I'll order my digital calipers from Harbor Freight Tools. Even with shipping they'll be about half the Park model.
http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/cta...emnumber=47257
I've used 'em. The watch batteries go quickly, but aside from that they work pretty well.

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Old 05-16-09, 01:07 PM   #10
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I buy what I need as I need it, from the local bike store(s). They stock Park tools, and the ones I've bought seem to be fine quality tools.

I've already got standard wrenches, ratchets, etc. It's just the odd stuff like cone wrenches, spoke wrenches, crank puller that I've bought.
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Old 05-16-09, 03:04 PM   #11
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Kmart bought Sears in 2004. http://money.cnn.com/2004/11/17/news...ex.htm?cnn=yes
Called a "Merger". . . but shopping Sears tells me who's wearing the pants.
I stand corrected

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Of the five bike shops in town, two have tried to upsell me while denying th existence of a cheaper alternative, I've had a terrible experience with a bike mechanic at a third, the fourth is for people who have more money than sense, and the fifth doesn't really sell them at all
Bummer about your local shops. I've had good luck with a small seasonal shop only 7.5 miles away. They don't have the greatest selection but this time of year they're ordering a few times a week so I just call 'em with my exact need and it's there within a day or two.
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Old 05-16-09, 04:41 PM   #12
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Harbor Country Bike www.harborcountrybike.com seems to have the best prices I've found, and they offer free shipping for orders over $49.

This is probably what you want for the crank: http://www.harborcountrybike.com/PED.../tool13019.htm
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Old 05-16-09, 09:21 PM   #13
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I checked those digital-calipers (Amazon has 'em for $9.99 sometimes) with my fancy-shmancy set of dial-calipers (very accurate & expensive) and was surprised to see that the cheap-o digital's were right on the money. I normally avoid Harbor Freight like pneumonic plague, but this appears to be one exception.

As for batteries, I suggest Battery Bob out of Florida. Best prices and free shipping.
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Old 05-17-09, 12:12 AM   #14
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Buy decent ones as you need them, my park tools, crank puller, cone wrenches are pretty nice, seem like they will last forever. As everyone else mentioned, get the open end wrenches, etc, from Sears or whoever has decent ones for cheap.

Also, look out for "substitutions" . . . that is tools that can replace a specialized tool. For example I use a vise-grip with a rag as a substitute for a lockring wrench, and a needle nose pliers for a pin spanner. I think the vise-grip works even better than the lockring wrench since it allows accurate adjustment, and stays clamped to the lockring throughout the adjustment, and so far, no damage to the lockring.
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Old 05-17-09, 03:18 AM   #15
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I don't see the use of a towel-wrapped pair of vice-grips being a good idea. Those lockrings need a pretty high Nm torque. How does one measure this without a torque-wrench with a scale on it? I suggest that budding bike-mechanics familiarize themselves with the use of torque-wrenches. Same with us old phartz. We'll be seeing more and more components coming to market with specific torque settings. This is a legal issue as many have remarked - you didn't install the *Bling 1200* with a torque-wrench? Now YOU are responsible for the failure of this part! That's the paranoid part. The other part is the company that makes the *Bling 1200* put the bugger through extensive testing - so they should know what torque setting is right and proper. Now you are absolved from legal implications when the *Bling 1200* bursts in flames and kills the paperboy.

Buying and using the best tools available is the best way, in my book, to approach acquiring a tool-collection. As well as buying as needed. Forget the tool-sets sold by lower-tier companies. You'll wind up with crappy tools - including a selection of tools that you'll never use. For things like box/open-end wrenches, ballpean-hammers, screwdrivers, etc - head to SEARS. The lifetime replacement warranty on Craftsman Tools is unbeatable.

Use that now rare-commodity: Common Sense.
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Old 05-17-09, 08:43 AM   #16
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I agree with buying as needed and not buying a tool set. If you buy as needed then you have just the tools you need and not some you'll never use, plus you can get better quality from individual tools.

Good place to get basic hand tools is Sears Craftsman which are good, not the best but good enough for the average joeblow; and you get the luxury of returning them should they fail for a full hassle free replacement regardless if you have the receipt or it's rusted etc. BUT the same is true for Lowes Kobalt series, and theirs are a bit less expensive then Craftsman and equally as good; the Kobalts are actually built by the same company that builds Snap-On so I think Kobalt is better then Craftsman! By the way, those Snap-on and Mac tools are great tools but they cost an arm and a leg (mostly because they do inhouse financing for mechanics), and if your not a mechanic trying to find one of the trucks to return a broken tool could be a huge hassle.

Using a tool on a bike is a lot less stressful on the tool then using it on car by the way, thus buying the best probably doesn't make sense unless your also into car mechanical repair. And Harbor Freight tools are pure crap.

Then do the same thing for bike specific tools (like the crank puller), buy only when you need it so you don't end up with a pile of tools you'll never use. I buy Park because that's what the LBS's sell mostly (and they use mostly), thus returning them should they break are a lot less of a hassle.
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Old 05-17-09, 09:26 AM   #17
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I buy nothing but quality tools, but I get a lot of them used on eBay. That's the only way I could afford to own tools like my VAR lockring pliers.
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Old 05-17-09, 09:29 AM   #18
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I am 100% on the side of buying a quality tool that you will use a lot. I had a cheap chain tool. I started buying bikes to flip and cutting a lot of chains. The $10 chain tool was not up to it and stripped the threads on it.
I got the Park tool. It cuts the chain like butter and should last a while I think.

Someone said you can buy the cheap tool, over and over again.
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Old 05-17-09, 10:06 AM   #19
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I don't see the use of a towel-wrapped pair of vice-grips being a good idea. Those lockrings need a pretty high Nm torque. How does one measure this without a torque-wrench with a scale on it?
How would you use a torque wrench on a bottom bracket with an adjustable cup (pin spanner style) and a lockring? How would you hold the adjustable cup? The lockring wrench doesn't have any way to measure torque, and I would say I can get it just as tight with the vice grip. That being said, I do have a lockring wrench, and do use it, but you could avoid it for a few times a year bottom bracket overhaul.
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Old 05-17-09, 10:15 AM   #20
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For a ice old square-taper loose-bearings BB - then a torque-wrench won't work. That's done with finesse rather than torque - of course.
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Old 05-17-09, 10:25 AM   #21
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While I agree with the buy local comment up top, Sette makes some good quality tools at a much lower price than Park (Park headset press=$100, Sette=$50)...

check out pricepoint.com
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Old 05-17-09, 10:40 AM   #22
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I checked those digital-calipers (Amazon has 'em for $9.99 sometimes) with my fancy-shmancy set of dial-calipers (very accurate & expensive) and was surprised to see that the cheap-o digital's were right on the money. I normally avoid Harbor Freight like pneumonic plague, but this appears to be one exception.
This is good info. I think I'll drop the ball and order them today. I'm broke but I see calipers as a must have.
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Old 05-17-09, 10:55 AM   #23
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A different perspective: I'll go against the grain and say buying a bike-specific tool set was a good investment. It is so nice to start a new project and, as if by magic, already have the tool(s). I have used enough of the tools in my 40-pc set that I think I got a good deal too. But even with a set that size I still had to buy additional tools.
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