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Which ratchet wrench?

Old 11-16-18, 02:16 AM
  #1  
jonahmano
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Which ratchet wrench?

Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of investing into a good ratchet wrench set and I have options of 1/2" socket drive, 1/4" drive socket drive. Which one would be better for bicycle repair like opening up the bottom bracket bolts, hub nuts etc.

Thank you
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Old 11-16-18, 04:32 AM
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I'd go with 3/8" if I could only have one ratchet.

This kit has a ratchet and some other tools that could be useful on bottom bracket bolts and hub nuts, etc.
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Old 11-16-18, 05:30 AM
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I've had this Stanley 60-piece socket set for over 5 years, and it's one of the most suitable small sets I've owned. 1/4" and 3/8" drive sockets, nut-driver set, extensions. This one's about $15 cheaper than other stores, and a deal at $30.

​​​​​​https://www.walmart.com/ip/STANLEY-S...l-Set/21950037
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Old 11-16-18, 07:19 AM
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I'd also go for a 3/8" drive. Get the best set you can afford. Your knuckles will thank you. You pay for tolerance, wall thinness, and alloy quality.

Now for unsolicited advice: A socket set is needed for many things, but bike repair isn't really one of them. I used one recently when I misplaced the 14 mm crank bolt wrench, but that's very seldom. I would invest in a nice set of T-handled ball-end Allen wrenches for bike repair.
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Old 11-16-18, 07:39 AM
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Frankly, I don't use ratchet / sockets much when working on bikes. The vast majority of fasteners on all but the cheapest kid's bikes are usually Metric Hex Socket screws / bolts. Get a couple nice sets of 'Allen' hex keys. Get one 'L' set and one T-handle, both types have their advantages.

For opening up headsets and wheel hubs, a ratchet and socket are pretty much useless. For hub cones and lock nuts, you will need a set of Cone Wrenches, which are stamped-steel crescent wrenches with very thin (~2mm) jaws, since hub nuts are about 1/3 the thickness of a 'normal' nut. You can buy them in sets or individually, 15mm and 17mm seem to be what every thing in my fleet has.

For older, threaded headsets and BB's a 10-12" Thin-Jaw Adjustable works well. Park Tool makes a specific-size headset wrench, but if you're dealing with older / cheap / kid's bikes, you may run in to non-standard sizes.
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Old 11-16-18, 07:49 AM
  #6  
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I agree that:

1) There is little need for a ratchet and sockets for bike work. A driver for older style crank bolts and cup-type bottom bracket tools being the most likely use.

2) If you buy one, get a good quality 3/8" drive along with a 3/8"-1/2" and a 3/8"-1/4" adapters and use the same ratchet for everything.

3) A high quality set of metric Allen keys will be far more useful.
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Old 11-16-18, 08:41 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
A high quality set of metric Allen keys will be far more useful.
If you are new to working on bicycles you will be utterly amazed at how much you can do with just a 5 mm Allen key. Next in importance is a GOOD QUALITY cable cutter.

Don't cheap out when you buy those tools and don't expect them to last forever. As soon as they start to show signs of wear, throw them away before they start to round out your fasteners. A cable cutter that cuts all but one strand is a PITA.

When I was doing shop work I used to replace my Allen wrenches every year but I still have a cable cutter that's probably 50 years old and still cuts cleanly. Good quality tools might have you thinking twice the day that you pay for them but they will minimize your aggravation from there on out.

Bicycle specific tool needs evolve through time. I've got a collection of threaded headset wrenches that I'd gladly give to anyone who still needs them. Freewheel remover tools are vital but only if you have a bicycle with a freewheel that they'll fit. Crank and bottom bracket tools are another constantly revolving category. I'm still using my Park chain breaker from 20 years ago but, with ever narrowing chain widths, it's days are numbered. That $15.00 chain quick link plier was a smart purchase.
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Old 11-16-18, 09:14 AM
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As others said. Aren't too many uses for a full socket set on many bikes, Usually you're using, 4MM.5MM & 6MM allen wrenches. And 8MM 9MM & 10MM likely the most common bike fasteners. I'd get a larger comfortable open end wrench for removing free wheels and cassettes. A chain whip. You can use a Dremel for cutting cable housings, on the brakes & derailer cables,(the wire). Along with a floor pump,, tire levers. The large "Y" 4MM 5MM & 6MM allen wrench is nice to have too. Drop bar brakes, have their anchor bold inside that opening. Years ago bike usually used a flat blade screwdriver there. take care,,,
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Old 11-16-18, 01:01 PM
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If you want to use a ratchet for "speed" because you are in a "production mode", you'd probably be better served sticking a socket on a nut driver handle.
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Old 11-16-18, 02:08 PM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by jonahmano View Post
Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of investing into a good ratchet wrench set and I have options of 1/2" socket drive, 1/4" drive socket drive. Which one would be better for bicycle repair like opening up the bottom bracket bolts, hub nuts etc.

Thank you
Between those 2; I'd go with 1/2" drive. Better to have both(1/2 + 1/4); best to have all 3(1/2 + 1/4 + 3/8).
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Old 11-16-18, 04:56 PM
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I own all 3 sizes. The one that I tend to grab the most often is 1/4". Very few things in my life require big sockets or big torque. My most frequent use is the car, followed by stuff in the house such as getting into hard-to-reach locations in appliances. I use a lot of the 1/4" handle, 1/4" socket, and a philips screwdriver bit in it.

Before committing to a size, I suggest checking the availability of hex and torx sockets, and a torque handle.
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Old 11-16-18, 08:24 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by jonahmano View Post
Hello everyone,

I'm thinking of investing into a good ratchet wrench set and I have options of 1/2" socket drive, 1/4" drive socket drive. Which one would be better for bicycle repair like opening up the bottom bracket bolts, hub nuts etc.

Thank you
1/2" drive is overkill for bicycle work, but a 1/4" likely isn't up to the bigger jobs like installing BBs, cassettes, etc. A 3/8" set is all you need.
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Old 11-16-18, 10:23 PM
  #13  
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Ok, so I'm a tool geek and a while back bought an old Salesman's sample case full of Sturtevant-Richmont torque wrenches. So I have 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch drives. I just grab what I need, but your question made me curious. Here are some approximations

Drive ____ Max T ______Max T _____ Max T _____Max Bolt size, inch _____Max Bolt size, metric
1/4 _____ 200 in lb ____ 17 ft lb ____ 25 Nm _____ 1/4-28 SAE Grade 8 ____ M8-1.25 Grade 8.8
3/8 ____ 1000 in lb ____100 ft lb ___ 100 Nm ____ 7/16-24 SAE Grade 8 ___ M14-2 Grade 6.6
1/2 _____2500 in lb ____250 ft lb ___350 Nm _____5/8-11 SAE Grade 8 ____ M20-2.5 Grade 6.6

The max torque values were taken from the max values given in a Snap On catalog. The approximate bolt sizes are from various tables on that interweb thingy. Certainly a lot of bike bolts are M8 or smaller, and the 1/4 drive is what I use most. That said, as bolt strength rating goes up the torque required goes up. So for an M6 bolt the (approximate!) torque requires goes up from 11 to 19 Nm (for dry use - lubricated bolts go from 9 to 15 Nm) when we go from a Grade 8.8 or 9.8 bolt to a 12.9. Many bolts in bikes are high-strength, but still, the 1/4 drive would seem to suffice for most bike use. I did, however, recently use a 1/2 drive to install the Shimano bottom bracket (BSA threaded) in my Lemond Zurich. But, because accuracy is usually expressed as a percent of full range, the smaller wrenches will likely be more precise than would be the next size larger.

The other issue is availability of proper sockets (and hex keys - you need hex keys to do things like torque pedals and make sure your chain ring doesn't creak). This is where the 3/8 seems to have the better coverage for bikes, at least for those hex keys.

Having said all this, I use a pre-set fixed hex key T-handle gimme (a Bontrager) torque wrench for most routine (seat post, stem bolts holding handlebar) stuff.

I have Proto and (I think, IIRC) Utica 1/4 drives, along with a number of Sturtevant-Richmont from 1/4 to 1/2. If I had to have one, I'd be sure I could find 1/4 drive hex keys and get a 1/4. More accurate in the lower range, and probably a bit cheaper. I'd take the bike in to the LBS for torqueing larger stuff like BBs.

Last edited by WizardOfBoz; 11-16-18 at 10:54 PM.
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Old 11-16-18, 10:57 PM
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In re-reading everything above, I'm amazed at how much agreement there is. Retrogrouch's 5mm hex key is what I was mentioning. But the comments of others, integrated together, form a pretty good set of wisdom and advice.
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Old 11-16-18, 11:07 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by Litespud View Post
1/2" drive is overkill for bicycle work, but a 1/4" likely isn't up to the bigger jobs like installing BBs, cassettes, etc. A 3/8" set is all you need.
That's funny, I have several 1/2", 3/8", and 1/4" drive ratchets sets and about the only one I use on bikes is the 1/2" drive. Usually it's a breaker bar with a 1" socket for all the lock ring, cassette, or the occasional freewheel removing tool. Otherwise I have no other use for sockets on a bike.
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Old 11-17-18, 11:29 AM
  #16  
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OTOH, only external bearing BB ,
has a torque spec beyond a 3/8" beam torque wrench, scale..

so once I peg the needle it's Good.
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Old 11-18-18, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by RGMN View Post
I have several 1/2", 3/8", and 1/4" drive ratchets sets and about the only one I use on bikes is the 1/2" drive. Usually it's a breaker bar with a 1" socket for all the lock ring, cassette, or the occasional freewheel removing tool. Otherwise I have no other use for sockets on a bike.
+1.
One of my older bikes has 8mm and 10mm cable anchors and 15mm crank bolts, but most modern road bikes have only allen bolts. Allen keys are cheap but the Park Y-wrench is easier to find in my toolbox and easier to use.
I also like 4mm and 5mm Bondhus ball end wrenches with screwdriver handles for brake levers and bottle cages. Those and the Park wrench are almost the only wrenches I use.

OTOH I have a nice Snap-on ratchet that I look for reasons to use. I also have a Harbor Freight 1/2 inch ratchet that I bought for one job and haven't touched since.

mm

Last edited by eddy m; 11-18-18 at 12:52 PM.
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Old 11-18-18, 11:52 PM
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For bicycle work I use a 1/4" socket set and a 1/2" breaker bar for a few large sockets. like a 24mm for my bottom bracket tool.
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Old 11-19-18, 03:56 PM
  #19  
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I bought this for about 85 euros locally:




It's good. There are better, more expensive, but this one is usable - ratchets work fine (better are more "precise", not sure how to explain the feel), but the socket tollerances are fine, they are strong and you have a full set for whatever comes along. In time, I'll most probably just swap the bits that get wrecked - or a ratchet that's stopped working. But it's good to have it all in one place, sorted. For bicycles only? Especially if it's just your bicycle? I guess not worth it. But if you do any sort of "handyman"stuff, this is something "every house should have". Seriously. Having a "full set" is also good for further combinations - get a torque wrench and use adapters and bits from the set with it, even if the wrench doesn't come wit hall the needed bits.

The main downside of this particular set is the box - it doesn't seem very durable for regular carrying.

A thing to note: do not use the ratchet for loosening very tight bolts - you can damage the mechanism. Use the bars (this set has them) for the initial loosening.

As far as bikes go - I use all the three sizes, depending on what I'm working on - 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2" (for bottom brackets and similar).

https://www.kstools.com/en/products/...et-set-195-pcs

Found it on Amazon, seems to cost a lot more:

https://www.amazon.com/SK-Hand-Tool-...=ks+socket+set
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Old 11-19-18, 05:51 PM
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So all of your metric sockets and bits have SAE attachments? I guess I never really thought about that before. Must be annoying for people outside the US to have to use inches.
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Old 11-20-18, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
So all of your metric sockets and bits have SAE attachments? I guess I never really thought about that before. Must be annoying for people outside the US to have to use inches.
Depends. "Old" standards in plumbing and mechanics for example were often in inches only (we even have a local name for an "inch" - "col", in addition to the official "inč").

So no problems with inches for measurements that are (have been) expressed in those. However, going imperial for things usually expressed in metric locally - like gallon for example, or giving height/length in inches - that's a bit of a problem. But it's almost never needed.

On the other hand, for things expressed in imperial, like ratchet wrench socket attachment size, it would be awkward and take some thinking to figure if you saw it expressed in millimetres for example. I have no idea without calculating how many millimetres is 3/8". But I can tell 3/8" socket when I see one.
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Old 11-20-18, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by TireLever-07 View Post
...You can use a Dremel for cutting cable housings, on the brakes & derailer cables,(the wire).
I started out using a Dremel for cutting cables and housings, but having finally switched to a proper pair of cable cutters, I can't believe how much time I was wasting. Perhaps I wasn't using the best cutting disc (disk?), but for housings it would often melt the outer later as I was cutting, and it was always tricky trying to keep the cables from fraying while cutting. Plus you have to be super careful not to let your hand slip and let the tool nick the bike. Plus you need really good eye protection (with cable cutters I can just turn my head the other way during the final squeeze).
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Old 11-21-18, 10:46 AM
  #23  
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My go to ratchet & sockets are 1/4" drive, all are Snap-On but I am sure now there are others like it, the ratchet is a little longer and has a plastic handle and the sockets are six point med depth,metric & standard. I already had my tools from when I was a head mechanic at a big equipment rental outfit & then my own place. I used this tool the most when working on small engines and it is stronger then the 3/8" Craftsman ratchets which I used to break all the time. in the 30yrs I've own this ratchet it has been rebuilt maybe 4 times, twice it was broke by my brother working on a diesel. I liked this setup so much I bought two so I had the same tools at home & when I closed my shop I got more then what I originally paid for it when I sold all my duplicate tools.

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