Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Workshop

Some years ago I discovered I really enjoy doing my own bicycle maintenance and found I could do a good job as long as I didn't hurry. Today I do all my bike maintenance, bike assembly, and much of my own wheel building. Someday when I have more time I may even get into frame building, but not right now.

Until recently I worked out of a large roll away and a few odd toolboxes. This was acceptable when I had just two bikes, but with the addition of 3 others using varied types and makes of components it was time to setup a proper workshop. Additionally some friends and co-workers have started seeking me out to work on their rides, so all the more the need for a well equipped workshop.

The tools were the first thing I decided to upgrade. Choosing Park for the specialized tools and Craftsman for the general purpose tools seemed to me like the no-brainer approach to ending up with a quality tool collection. Luckily I had a budget to match and could afford all but a few of the really big ticket specialized tools.

With the additional tools and goal to improve ease of access to them I considered upgrading to a much larger roll away tool chest, but decided on simple pegboard because it offers the most cost-effective solution.

Mallets have always been part of the bicycle mechanics toolbox and they will continue to be in the foreseeable future. Sometimes things just need a bit of gentle persuasion. I decided on a small mallet with one head being rubber and the other a somewhat harder plastic. These are ideal for giving things a little tap without leaving a mark.

In contrast, something relatively new to the toolbox and absolutely necessary is the torque wrench. Actually you may need two; one for light torque and one for those things that require a bit more. Why is this tool so important? Over-tightening of fasteners like bolts and nuts on super light weight components can ruin them or even result in their catastrophic failure during a ride!

Cable cutters from Park also do a fantastic job of cutting cable housing without crushing the ends.
Note the various large wrenches for bottom brackets, headsets, and pedals. A spoke tension meter is necessary when building or truing a wheel, especially one with a low spoke count. You might notice that I cheaped-out with the cone wrenches and bought a set of store-brand ones.

Nut drivers, screw drivers, open/box end wrenches, and allen wrenches are the basic general-purpose hand tools. Putty knives are handy for scraping off built-up gunk on clogs. They can also be wrapped in a shop towel clean between cogs and chain wheels. Not very visible at the botton of the picture is a couple of small single-hand trigger clamps I use as third hands when adjusting brakes. The scratch awl is great for opening up cable ends after being cut to length

The T-handle allen wrenches look pretty cool and if you need to put some serious torque on something they work pretty good. However, I will probably be replacing them with ones that have small "L" shaped handles, because the T-handles don't fit into tight places well.
A small grease gun that can be operated with a single hand is just about as handy as you can imagine. The correct amount of grease in the correct place is much better than too little or too much all over the place. The lube gets put where it needs to be and everything else stays grease-free. The bubble-level is for setting up bars and seats, but mostly seats. I like my seats flat and the level makes it easy. The tape measure is also for bike setup. Just visible at the bottom of the picture is a Park dishing tool. Don't dish a wheel without it!

Here's my truing stand. I don't have it permanently mounted, but instead I clamp it into my bench vise when needed. This allows me to maximize the use of my small workbench. I have a magnetic parts tray attached to the back of the wise to hold nipples and other small parts. On either side of the truing stand I have adjustable lamps to illuminate the rim and gauges. This makes truing a bit easier and also allows me to inspect the rim for damage from impact or fatigue. Inspecting for damage is especially important when working with high zoot low spoke count wheels!

A bike stand is a must for holding the bike while being worked on. I am currently using a portable stand because I can move it out of the way when not in use. However, I am considering switching to a stationary stand. This is because the portable stand is just too easy to tip over. This can be minimized by putting a couple of sandbags on the legs, but they tend to get in the way. A small air compressor is needed to blow the gunk out of bearings and components. It is also handy for doing a light dust off of the bike. I don't use the compressor for inflating tires, but instead I do this by hand which provides more control.

For my floor pump I decided to go old-school and get one from Silca. They have upgraded this basic pump over the years, but it still sports a retro wooden handle and it is still built to last. If the gauge were at the top of the pump it would be perfect!

Lastly, I setup a series of hooks to store my wheels and tires. That bright glow is from a Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire that has a super-reflective side wall. It is a great tire for commuters, especially when you are riding at night.

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