My great-grandma Beatrice is continually lauded for making the bread our hamburgers bled into and the cheese melted on top of. If it could be DIY’d she did it at home, and nothing was half-assed. We can’t all dedicate time as Granny B did, but learning to repair some stuff at home can be as satisfying as it is frugal. We want to share some favorite home bike shop tools and a few methods we use to organize the chaos.
Maintenance and repair supplies to have on hand
Once you have all of the usual tools around it can be good to fill the workspace with some essential supplies to reduce those trips to the bike shop. We’ve all been in the middle of a repair on Saturday evening with an exciting ride planned the next day and had to phone a friend for small parts. With a little preparation, you can be that friend with a trove of tiny resources.
Lube, grease, and thread treatments
The first item I stock up on is a variety of grease and lube options. Not all parts need the same friction reducer, so keeping a general-purpose grease, a tube of waterproof or marine grease, and a freehub-specific paste will take care of most lubrication needs that chain lube can’t cover. In addition to those, some of the Shimano and SRAM component-specific greases can be nice to have, and some fiber grip is a good addition to your liquids kit. Plumber’s tape (PTFE) isn’t a lube per se, but it does similarly belong between two parts to keep them from making noises and warring together. I like to use PTFE around baggy headset bearings that don’t quite fit tight enough in the frame or cups.
On the flipside of greases, it’s helpful to keep some superglue, epoxy, and Gorilla glue in the shop to hold things together and help with DIY repairs in a pinch. Some Loctite is an essential addition, and I typically have the blue and red bottles on hand for different applications. You can read even more about lubes, greases, and thread treatments here.
All the bits between your shifter and derailleur, or dropper and remote, are also good to keep in stock. I like to keep a 40-meter box of Shimano SP41 housing around, replacing it when there is just enough length left for one full bike repair. The SP41 housing seems to provide smooth shifting for a long while, and it was recommended to me by the veteran mechanics who I learned from as the best housing in the biz. In addition to the housing, a box of your favorite shift cables, some ferrules, and a pile of cable crimps will keep you steadily wrenching along.
Over to the stopping end of things, I like to have a pile of brake hose olives and barbs around, a large jug of oil for bleeding, and all the caliper spacer sizes I could ever need. Most brakes will last all season, but when something does need attention it can be a hassle to find the correct parts. I prefer to have them at the ready and to replace the stock as it runs low. Worst case scenario you can just use them to fix a friend’s ride. A towering pile of brake pads is an obvious addition, and I also keep an uncut rear-length brake hose coiled up just in case. Hoses don’t break loose as often these days, but it’s sweet to have one around when you want to swap a brake to a different size frame. Brake levers from some brands require occasional master-cylinder rebuilds and replacement, so be sure to have those bits around if your brakes fall into the finicky category.
Further down the line, a variety of cartridge bearings (or in some cases bushings) to fit your wheels, pivots, bottom bracket, pedals, and headset can prove a huge asset. There have been multiple mornings over the years where I pulled my bike out of the house to find that my crank or bars wouldn’t turn freely and needed a fresh set of rollers. Maintenance is rarely a perfect science, and a stock of bearings can save rides that would otherwise be wasted on the one thing you forgot to clean and re-grease.
There’s a good chance you only have one or two forks and shocks around the house, so keeping the right oil, seals, and wipers around to refresh them is an easy ask. Add some Slick Honey or similar suspension grease to the lineup and you’ll be set to keep the squish healthy all season long.
Keeping an organized box of spare bolts and hardware in your shop can help in several ways. You’ll have the fasteners you need when something breaks or wiggles lose, and you’ll also have spares in case you can’t find the one that fell behind the table and you don’t have time to sweep. Like a hungry barn cat, it will come back at some point.
There’s also a pile of what I call junk drawer supplies, which includes but is not limited to rubber bands, sandpaper, tape of all sorts, zip ties, more zip ties, other zip sorts of ties. I have a few random chunks of wood in mine that are used to push and pull on things that I don’t want to scratch. What’s in your junk drawer?
While most bearings can be cleaned and reinvigorated, it’s good to keep a spare bottom bracket on hand in case you don’t have time. A chain, spare quick links, a derailleur clutch rebuild kit, one rear rim, and the appropriate spokes and nipples for your wheels should have most home repairs covered. You may also want to pick up spare presta valves cores and various size spacers for your steerer and bottom bracket. I like to keep this stuff stocked like a convenience store, stopping at the local bike shop to restock it once a month or so.
A quick checklist of the above suggestions
- Lubes: general purpose and waterproof grease, freehub grease, Shimano or SRAM-Specific greases, fiber grip, plumber’s tape
- Lockers: Superglue, epoxy, Guerilla glue, Loctite
- Shifter/Derailleur: Housing, ferrules, cable crimps
- Brakes: Pads, olives, barbs, spare hose, and caliper cleaner
- Bearings/bushings: BB, headset, pivots, pedals
- Suspension: Oil, seals, wipers, Slick Honey
- Spare hardware: all common bike sizes, but mostly M5 since they fit a lot of things
- Junk-drawer: rubber bands, sandpaper, tapes, zip ties, buffer wood, spacers, shims, etc.
- Consumable bike parts: Bottom bracket, chains, spare chain links, valves, derailleur clutch kit, spokes, nipples, a rear rim, and all of the etcetera you have space and money for