How to set up a home bike shop

Setting up a home bike shop makes it easy to perform basic maintenance on your bike. Having the right setup even makes working on your bike, dare I say,enjoyable. Of course, you may not have the space to dedicate to a full-fledged shop, but there are still options. I’ve been there myself – I started riding when I lived in a 600 square foot apartment on the 3rd floor of the building and space was at a premium! There’s also the fact that some bike tools are expensive, and you may not want to spend a lot of money on tools you’ll only use once a year. So here are a few different set-ups and some additional tips for setting up a shop to work with whatever space and budget constraints you might have.

The “Just the Essentials” Set Up

You need very few tools to do basic maintenance on your bike: adjusting shifting, installing a new chain or shift cables, adjusting fit and control positions, changing tires, etc. An allen wrench set, adjustable wrench, pliers, chain tool, floor pump, and tire levers will take care of most needs. A small toolbox will easily swallow all of that, is nice and portable, and doesn’t take up much space. Also, tackle boxes work really well and are often cheaper than proper tool boxes.

My old “shop”. Not much to it, but it got me by for a few years.

The 95% Set Up

A few additional tools will take care of 95% of the work you might do on your bike. Some bike-specific tools like cone wrenches, bottom bracket wrenches, cassette lock ring sockets, and a chain whip will take care of almost everything your bike could need, including swapping entire drivetrains, changing fluid in suspension components, hub overhauls, etc.

My garage. I can do most of the work on my bikes, but there’s still a few things (like installing headsets) I take them to the LBS for.

Park Tool SR-1 Sprocket Cassette Cog Remover Chain Whip Lockring Fits 5-10 Speed
$20.90    ebay   AD 

The “Better Than Most Real Bike Shops” Set Up

Some folks are dedicated enough to go all out, and set up an at home shop that rivals most actual bike shops. They have all the tools, even the ones very rarely used. They can build a complete bike with no trouble, everything from facing headtubes and installing headsets, pressing bearings into suspension linkages, building wheels, and trimming brake hoses to fit – they can do it all. This isn’t the sort of shop you put together in a weekend – it’s something a person builds up over the years. A shop like this is kind of like a boat or a pool – you may not have the budget/space/desire to have your own, but it’s good to have a friend who does! 😀

Singletracks member azdrawdy has one of the nicest home shops I’ve seen.

A Few Other Tips

A proper work stand will make your life much easier when working on your bike, especially anything related to drivetain work. However, work stands do take up a lot of space, and they’re certainly not cheap. If you’re handy you could always build your own and if space is at a premium, look into the various folding models that are on the market. If cost is an issue, you could use a storage stand (like one of these two I reviewed recently). You can also just flip the bike upside down on the seat and bars.

Park Tool Replacement Clamp Covers
$4.76    Amazon   AD 

Peg boards (or nails in the wall) are a great way to keep tools organized and have easy access at the same time.

Keeping your shop organized is important. Whether your shop consists of a single tool box or an entire garage or basement, every tool should have a place, and you need to always put it back in its place. That way you spend your time using the tools instead of looking for them. Using a peg board to hang up your most often used tools is a good way to keep them both organized and readily available. When it comes to buying tools, remember: they’re an investment, so buy the quality stuff so you only have to buy it once. Quality tools will last you a lifetime, and it’s cheaper in the long run! Many tool manufacturers sell kits that come with a bunch of different bike-specific tools. These kits are a good option and although they are not cheap, they’re generally cheaper than buying each tool individually. Most come with a nice case to keep everything organized and easily portable so you can take them with you on your next mountain bike trip. You can check out all the tool reviews here on Singletracks to make sure you’re buying good quality gear.

Park Tool PK-2 Professional Tool Kit
$653.63    Tree Fort Bikes   AD 

azdrawdy has pretty much every tool that might be needed, and his work bench is highly organized.

What kind of home shop do you have? Tell us about it in the comments below and include a link to a photo if you’ve got one!

# Comments

  • Jeff Barber

    I’ve been thinking about how to organize my parts and repair stuff and these pics have given me some good ideas. Right now my “shop” is sorta spread between my home office and the basement, though since I’m building up a bike right now my stand and tools are in the office. Between the two spaces I guess I have the 95% set-up but it seems like I’m always looking for tools and parts.

  • maddslacker

    For transporting your basic or “field” kit, a tool bag like this is a great choice:

    One thing I have noticed is that my LBS has a la kart pricing on all jobs that require a specific tool, and the price it typically within $2 of the cost of the tool. I fall for this almost every time and just let them do it. 😀

    And finally, no home shop is complete without this tool:

  • dgaddis

    You’re right madd, the cost of the tool is usually about the same as the job. I’ll buy the tool, if they have it in stock. There are some exceptions though, like headset press ( http://www.amazon.com/Park-Tool-HHP-2-Revised-Hanger/dp/B000R2JJLW/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1323282059&sr=1-1 ). They ain’t cheap, but many shops will install the headset for free if you bought it from them. It only takes a few seconds to do it…if you have the tool.

  • RoadWarrior

    Yes madd that tool is essential, especially when you drop that itsy-bitsy screw on the carpet. Grabed the 3rd beer, and magnetic retrieval tool. Found the screw, and finished the beer at the same time.

  • chukt

    One tool that I find essential, and not seen in the above images, is a Truing Stand.

    The closest Bike Shop to me is about 100 miles so this tool is a must. I have always struggled with how much benchspace they take up and they are cumbersome if not permanently mounted.

    The solution was to build a ceiling height cabinet with an open bay for the drawer mounted True Stand. The True Stand pivots on a bolt once the drawer is pulled out for wheel truing.

    The side of the cabinet has pegboard for tools and metal strips w/ magnets for maps. The upper and lower cabinet space store tubes and lubes and stickers etc.

    I am not at all organized but this Cabinet helps a ton w/ the clutter. It was made from salvaged cabinet doors and scrap plywood…old bike parts make great cabinet hardware too.

    Check the photos…

  • brianW

    note to self: stay friendly with dgaddis and azdrawdy 🙂 I plan on building a bench during Christmas break, maybe even a dyi work stand. good article.

  • mtbgreg1

    @chukt, that’s a pretty sweet stand!

    I personally mainly own just the essentials, plus a couple more specialized tools like a chain whip and casette lockring tool and a few others.

  • element22

    I gotta take some pics as post my set up one day….Great article…

  • azdrawdy

    @chukt: Yes, a truing stand is a must. That white cabinet to the left of my bench holds a bunch of items like a TS-2 truing stand, bleed kits, extra bottom brackets, cassettes, chains, spokes, nipples, rolls of shifter cables/housing, etc. Don’t want to leave everything out in the open gathering dust.

  • Bongdu

    You all got a very ideal in-house work shop though all has its own expressions and taste. but in my opinion i can make myself more productive if music runs over my working area. i may say that sound system (i.e. 25 RMS output) maybe enough to add oil to our brain to think because i believe that music is the soul of the our living spirit, “Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent.” which is why music will always be with me, in my head, heart, and hands while my body moves…hehehe!

  • Don Sunderland

    I am an assembler and mechanic with 20 years in shop experience and have been a rider for over 40 years. I have a wheel building service on Facebook, #BridgeCityWheelWerx and keep a simple “home shop” in my garage at my home in Portland OR. I have a Wrench Force portable work stand & tool boxes, a crap load of Park tools including the professional truing stand, whatever specific tools for my MTB and a Roll-a-way full of Snap-on and Craftsman tools. I routinely service others bikes as well as my own and there isn’t anything I’m not able to handle.

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