Working on a BMX bike is one of those things that regardless if you like it or not, it’s completely necessary to either keep you riding your best or to keep the parts on your bike from failing prematurely due to improper maintenance, installation or upkeep. Working on a bike can be easy if you have the right tools, or complete hell if you don’t. Stripped out bolts, a messed up chain, blown out bearings or just the fear that your bike is going to blow out at any point in time sucks, but having the right tools for the job can prevent a lot of headaches and can save a lot of time in the process.
We figured it would be a good idea, especially with the holidays coming up, to put together a list of the tools worth having to make sure you can get your bike dialed in and keep it that way! Most of this will be pretty obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to put it all together. Let’s do this…
We’ll go somewhat from what you’ll use the most down to the least. Starting things out, I think it’s safe to say this was one of the most obvious ones. The socket wrench, extension and 17mm socket are something you’re going to need in that tool box of yours. Although female axles are becoming more common, the trusty 14mm male axle with the 17mm nuts are still the most common. The 3/8″ axle bolts are a little less common, but I’m sure there are a good number of you still rocking a male axle up front still.
These can be picked up at all hardware stores, along with local shops, or for around $27.99 for a starter set. Here’s a few good examples — Compact Socket Set
Next stop on the obvious train, the allen keys. This one is tied for the top spot with how important it is to keep these with you at all times. The most common sizes, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm, are used almost everywhere on your bike from stem bolts to the compression cap on your fork, seat post clamp, cranks, seats, pedals, brakes, brake pads, removable brake mounts, cable hangers, axles and even some bar ends. Obviously with a lot of riders going brakeless, there’s a good number of bolts eliminated. Something like the Park Tool folding Hex set is always something good to have with you just so you have a good mix of sizes just incase you get a weird bolt size. It’s also good to have some longer allen keys, like the 8mm for example if you have female bolts and pegs or need a little more torque to get a bolt tight or loosened up.
The AWS-11 allen wrench set is available for $12.56 on Amazon or through your local shop that carries Park Tool.
The chain is one thing that you always want to keep an eye on, because like it or not… Eventually you’re going to break one when you’re out riding. Having a good chain breaker can be the difference between getting pissed and a quick fix to get back to riding. The standard size for “freestyle” chains is 1/8″, which is a little beefier than the traditional 3/32″ chains we find on other bikes, and come in full and half-link sizes. We have two chain breakers because there are some differences. The Park Tool CT-3.2 breaker is one of those that works with pretty much all chains, full and half-link. However, The Shadow Conspiracy have their tool that is specifically designed to work with their Interlock half-link chain that is one of the most commonly used half-link chains out there. I personally have both because I’ve ran a few different chains over the years and I know I’ve been able to help out a handful of riders with broken chains because I had both in the tool bag. There are a few other styles of chain breakers with more compact designs that do work well, but I personally recommend these two.
The CT-3.2 chain breaker is available for $34.16 on Amazon or through all shops that carry Park Tool.
The Shadow Conspiracy Interlock chain breaker is available for $20.99 on Dan’s Comp or you can have your local shop get ahold of Sparky’s Distribution to get one ordered up today!
Tire levers are one of those things that are always worth carrying regardless of how frequently they get used. Although it seems like you can go months without getting a flat, it seems like once you get one, you’ll get two or three shortly after like some sort of crazy curse and having these can make it way less frustrating. Tire levers come in plastic, which are lighter weight and a little more forgiving on the rims, along with metal versions. The plastic ones work well, but I’ve seen them get broken pretty easily from a stubborn tire that doesn’t want to come off, so I’d recommend metal ones if you want something that will last. Personally, my tool bag has two flat head screw drivers that I use as tire levers, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’ve switched out your fair amount of tubes. It’s easy to pinch the new tube or scuff up and scratch rims if you aren’t careful… But it does work.
You’re going to need a pump to fix that flat, right? There are a bunch of different styles of pumps from the traditional floor pump, to the small hand pumps that can get the trick done, but with a lot of tires with 100 PSI ratings, it can be pretty beneficial to pick yourself up a good floor pump for the shop or to carry in the trunk of your car. A good pump with a gauge makes it a hell of a lot easier than trying to fumble around with a small hand or foot pump. BMX tires use the standard Schrader valves, but a lot of pumps also have a Presta valve conversion for those of you who also ride road and mountain bikes.
This pump is available through all shops that carry Park Tool pumps or for $34.16 on Amazon.
Regular Bicycle Pumps are bulky and not ideal for carrying around, especially when you’re out riding street, bouncing around spot to spot without a car. If you’re looking for a more compact option, these smaller hand pumps can be a great tool to have. They’re a little more work than a regular pump and can sometimes hold you back from filling your tire up to a high PSI due to how much work goes into pumping up a tire to 90+ PSI with one of these. These are ideal for if you catch a flat mid-session and need to get fixed up quickly to keep moving, though.
These style pumps are available through Bike Shops, larger retailers and AMAZON for around the $10 – $20 range.
If you’re going to be pumping up your tire, there’s a good chance you will need to get some patches for your tube. Although we suggest carrying an extra tube, carrying one can be a pain and add up in costs real quick if you’re having a bad day. It seems like every time you get one flat, you end up getting a few more before the curse goes away, right? There are a lot of options out there for bicycle tube patches, as you might have learned by now, you get what you pay for. Luckily even the higher quality kits are inexpensive and well worth having around!
You can find tube patch kits for a dollar or two, but you can get bulk packs for more. Check out a few of the different options on Amazon. Every bike shop and most big box stores like Target or Wal-Mart will also have patch kits… But we suggest going to a bike shop over those options since a shop will carry the good stuff like the one above.
The one pictured here is available starting at $1.99 on Amazon.
We also put together a video a while back — How To Patch A BMX Tube
The pedal wrench, one of those tools you don’t think you need until you’re stuck trying to fit your crescent wrench or pliers between the pedal and crank arm to get your pedal off. Some of you might be able to get away without one of these, but having a 15mm pedal wrench on hand can make it a lot easier to get those pedals on and off without too much of a fight — other than the pedals that have decided they don’t want to come off after months or years of not having to come off. Don’t forget that your left pedal is lefty tighty, righty loosey.
This pedal wrench is available for $10.99 on Amazon.
Having to true your wheel is an inevitable thing when it comes to BMX from all the heavy landings from every direction, your wheel just won’t stay straight. Truing a wheel is one of those things that takes a bit of practice and can be really frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, keeping your spokes tight and your wheel straight isn’t that hard. The spoke wrench is one of those tools that is always good to have in the tool bag just incase you need to replace a spoke during a session or get some side to side wobble sorted out to keep the session going. When it comes to hops, heavy side to side or building up a new wheel, it’s best to let the professionals at your local shop take care of it if you aren’t familiar with how the process works. I’d suggest one of these keys with multiple nipple sizes because there are a few sizes that work for BMX even though the standard spoke size is 14 gauge.
This round Spoke wrench is available for $2.08 on Amazon or through any bike shop.
For those of you with a better understanding of how to true a wheel, it doesn’t hurt to have your own truing stand in your garage. Long term this could save you a bit of money if you frequently blow out spokes or beat on rims. There are a few different styles of stands with a range of prices based off the quality out there, but I personally use one similar to this one from Park Tools. This stand has arms on both sides of the rim which allows you to get your wheel straight down to millimeters, as well as the ability to check for hops in the wheel. Truing wheels is tricky and requires a bit of patience, I’d recommend taking your wheel to a shop if you aren’t willing to spend the money on a stand or take the time to learn how it’s done right.
Can’t afford a truing stand? How To True A BMX Wheel Without a Truing Stand
Thanks to integrated headsets, Mid and Spanish bottom brackets, installing bearings have become much easier than the old days when you had to first get your cups pressed into the headset and bottom bracket. However, it’s still not a bad idea to have a bearing press on hand for when you need to swap out your bottom bracket or press some new bearings into your hubs. You can make one of those at your local hardware store with a few big washers, a long bolt and a nut to tighten it all down with if you are working with a budget.
The Bearing Press from Park Tools is available for $72.99 on Amazon or through your local shop that carries Park Tool products. There are more affordable options and you could easily build your own DIY cup press using a long bolt and a couple of oversized washers and a nut.
Now, this is one of those tools that I think can be recommended for pretty much any job. Having a hammer (I’d suggest one with a rubber head) on hand isn’t always a bad option. Although a bearing press is suggested, it’s not too hard to get bottom bracket bearings seated in properly with a hammer and can make the process move a little quicker. Plus, getting the bearings back out will require a little love from a hammer. The socket extension from up top can work well as a punch if you were curious. You can pick a rubber mallet up for $8.95 on Amazon.
Another one of those tools that can be handy to have, but not exactly recommended is a flat head screwdriver or two. As I mentioned above, I use these guys for tire levers and it works well if you’re careful. Other than that, there aren’t too many uses for a flat head screwdriver on a BMX bike, but can come in handy to pry things out or work to clean out grease in a tight spot with a rag around it.
Like we mentioned at the start, multi-tools are great options for easy carry tool kits to keep the session going strong. There have been a handful of multi-tools that have popped up over the past few years and they have all proven to be pretty handy. The Shadow Conspiracy‘s Multi-Tool and DK Bicycles‘ Random Wrench are good examples of just what you can easily haul in a small kit. They have included pretty much everything we listed above into this guy except for a pump. Animal and Eclat also offer similar tools.
The DK Bicycles Random Wrench features a Tire lever, 15mm pedal wrench, 6, 8 and 10mm nut cut-outs, 15 and 17mm deep sockets, 5 and 6mm hex bit drivers, 3/8” extension for pegs and a Spoke wrench “stowage” end cap
The Random Wrench from DK Bicycles is available for $47.25 on Amazon or your local shop can find one of the different multi-tools pretty easily, as well.
Even more simplistic is the Merritt Trifecta tool that offers a 17mm socket, 6mm and 8mm hex heads.
This tool is available on Dan’s Comp for $34.99 or through shops that carry Merritt.
If you aren’t looking to run around and pick up each of these tools individually, you can always pick up one of the basic tool kits that should help you get a good start for what you need.
Here are a few examples on Amazon.
Now this is one piece of all tool kits that you’ll always want to have on hand. Grease. When you’re doing maintenance on your bike, you’ll want to add a dab of grease on your bolts all over your bike, headset bearings, bottom bracket and hubs to help ensure everything is threading in smoothly (and not rusting out, keeping you from getting them out) or to keep things spinning smoothly.
A tube of this Park Tools Polylube 1000 goes for $7.49 on Amazon or can be picked up through any Bike Shop that carries park tools. There are a ton of other options available out there, but we are using Park Tools for examples in most of these, so why not keep it going? Here are a ton of other options — Bike Grease.
That pretty much wraps up the key tools you will need to keep that bike of yours dialed in! You can pick up most of these tools through your local shop that likely carries Park Tool products. If not, a local hardware store should have some of the key items like socket wrenches, allen keys, etc. or you can find something online.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!