Topeak Joe Blow Floor Pump

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After breaking four or five “rugged” bike pumps in four or five years, I made the hefty investment into a Topeak Floor Pump four years ago, which cost about half what I had paid for the “cheap” ones before. It’s still going strong and doesn’t show any sign of wear.

As to which model to choose, it depends on the bike. For a racing bike you’ll want a pump with a small-diameter cylinder, e.g. “Topeak Joe Blow Sport II” while for a commuter bike or a mountain bike you’ll want one with more volume, e.g. “Topeak Joe Blow Max II”.

These pumps are well-built, large enough (that includes handles, too) and have a good pressure gauge. The tube is long enough. But probably the best thing is the “TwinHead”. Depending on the valve type, either side fits. One side for Schrader valves, the other one for narrow valves. No adapter, no hassle, just push on and turn the lever.

-- Bernhard  

[This tool was also recommended by Brian Singer, Alex Beard, Cynthia Norris, and Brad Evans.]

Joe Blow Sport II Floor Pump
$37

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Topeak



Park Team Race Stand

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Bicycles need routine maintenance to perform safely and efficiently. But without a bike stand you end up kneeling in a contorted position on the cement floor of your dimly lit garage. And this torture, on your knees and your back and your elbows, which no knight of the Inquisition had the genius to invent, is what causes many of us to abandon bicycle maintenance, and eventually our riding.

Serious riders get the idea. But for the rest of us more casual riders, a bike stand, let alone a Park, seems like a ridiculous expense. After all, a bike stand does nothing more than hold your bike firmly at a height and angle that is convenient for you while you work on it.

Until you’ve used a bike stand, it’s hard to communicate what a difference this makes. Your bike now moves, easily, to a position that is convenient for *you*, rather than the other way around. I think I’m an average primate, and the fact is, I’m not going to do jack squat unless it’s easy. And that’s what a bike stand does for bicycle maintenance. Once you remove the physical agony from the picture, working on your bike becomes something you actually look forward to. Would you believe that I actually enjoy cleaning my bike now? Well, you shouldn’t, because that’s crap. But I do keep my bike clean. I do regular maintenance and make significant upgrades to my bikes; all because I know that the bike I am working on is firmly held and at an angle and height that lets me work in comfort. It’s such a small thing, but it makes such a huge difference.

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The Park Race Stand was designed to be portable, but without sacrificing strength or stability. It’s equally at home in your garage or in the field. It’s moderately heavy, and a bit ungainly. Getting it in and out of your car is not difficult, but it ain’t enjoyable either. To give the unit its strength and stability, it doesn’t really fold. Instead you just lift it up and the legs sort of drop downward by themselves. There are heavy plastic clips to secure the legs, but a Velcro strap does a better job.

There are a few add-ons that make using a bike stand truly paradise:

01. Get some decent lighting where you keep your stand. A cheap, 4 foot, plug-in fluorescent fixture will give you all the general illumination that you need.

02. You also need some kind of spot illumination to make the tiny part you are adjusting visible. My current favorite is a cheap led head lamp from Home Depot, since it puts the light right where you are looking.

03. If you get a stool, preferably one with wheels, you can adjust the height of the bike to match the height of your stool and work sitting down in tremendous comfort.

04. Get the Park Handlebar Holder as well. This tool holds the handlebars of your bike steady as you are lifting the bike into the stand and also while you work on the bike. Without this tool the handlebars will rotate as you watch with fascination, and helplessness, since both your hands are usually occupied, as the handlebars crunch your fingers or swing with amazing accuracy and momentum into your crotch. After that happens a certain number of times, you buy one of these.

You now have good lighting, a bicycle that is firmly held at the exact height and angle that is convenient for you, and the ability to maintain your bike in comfort. A bike stand is a *transformative* tool. It really changes the experience of working on your bike, and the Park Race stand is the best.

-- Verner  

Park Team Race Stand PRS-20
$200

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Park Tools



Next Best Thing 2 Cassette Tool

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If you’re on a long distance cycling trip and you break a spoke (a common occurrence) on the right hand side of your rear wheel then you’re in trouble.

To replace these spokes you need to remove the cassette to get access to the hub. Normally this requires a specialized tool, a very large spanner (about 12″) and a large chain whip – all of which are heavy and unwieldy to carry. However, the Next Best Thing 2 is a small and light tool that enables you to remove the cassette using just the leverage of the bike’s chain.

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Assuming you have the correct spokes with you (as any serious long distance cyclist would) then you should be good to go again without having to limp in to the next town/bike shop – something I’ve had to do several times over the years.

This is probably in the category of “tool you very rarely use but are extremely grateful when you do.”

-- Jamie McMahon  

[Note: Instructions on how to use the tool can be found here. --OH]

NBT2 Next Best Thing 2 Cassette Lockring Remover
$30
Available from M-gineering

Sample Excerpts:

Instructions for using Next Best Thing Tool (here’s a link with pictures)

• Open the rearbrake.
• Engage first gear, eg engage the largest cog and smallest chainring. put the cranks horizontal.
• Release the QR skewer, and remove the endnut and conical spring.
• Fit the NBT2 in the lockring and put the axle back in the dropouts.
• Replace the skewernut (no need for the spring) and do up the QR tight.
• Ensure that the axle is fully home.
• Grab the cranks with both hands, and unscrew the lockring one turn. If the bike is standing on it’s wheels, it will want to ride forward.
• The face of the lockring is serrated, a load ratcheting sound is normal.
• Remove the wheel from the bike and remove the lockring by hand.

Fitting

• Take care when replacing the cogset that all cogs are fitted with the wide spline engaging the corresponding groove in the freehubbody. It is very easy to disturb the position of the endcog when tightening the lockring, and this could seriously damage the freehub. With the lockring handtight, the cogs shouldn’t wobble when spinning the freehub.
• To properly tighten the lockring, put the wheel back into the frame. Gently (the wheel is a large lever) rotate the wheel backwards to tighten the lockring. If you start with the lockring handtight, 10′ (45º-60º) is sufficient.
• Remove the NBT2, and replace the QR (the smallest diameter of the conical spring goes against the axle).
• Check the rear brake.




Sugru

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Sugru is a soft moldable material that reminds me of Fimo clay. But unlike Fimo, it does not have to be heated to cure. It air drys and is rubbery and sticks to anything. I used it to make a new button for my utility knife when the plastic one broke. I made bumpers for my cell phone. I put some on my tools so they would not roll off the table. I am still discovering ways to use the product.

– Philip Lipton

This stuff comes in tiny pouches of different primary colors. You knead a bit with your hands until soft, then you apply it where you would like an additional grip, or stop, or section of repair. It’s pretty sticky, can be worked like clay, but dries into a hard rubber. The photo shows a paring knife handle that was falling apart from years of dishwasher use. I coated the outside with Sugru and it now it feels great and is dishwasher proof. See Sugru’s website for other ways it can be used.

– KK

 

[Lots of project suggestions and how-to at the Sugru Guides page. -cc]

Sugru Smart Hacks Packs
$18 for 8 5g-sachets, multiple colors
$10 for 3 5g-sachets, multiple colors

Manufactured by and available from Sugru



Marshalltown Margin Trowel

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I was first introduced to the many uses of the margin trowel fifteen years ago on a heavy construction site. I left the job but have carried the tool on every job and project ever since. When I moved to a desk I threw the tool into my tool bucket and still use it for just about everything.

The trowel is a simple piece of flat, quality steel attached to a wood handle. You can use it to finish concrete, set mortar, sling stucco, lay tile, scrape, pry, chip, hack, or cut anything not tougher than high-carbon steel. It is especially effective for cleaning other tools, such as shovels, concrete trowels, bbq’s, and garden implements. With only a modicum of care it will last for years. If you’re foolish or careless enough to permanently bend it then shame on you, but you can get another one for about $10.

It is superior to others because it’s cheap, reliable and robust. I prefer the feel of a wood handle to rubber, although the wood handle will chip if used as a hammer.

-- Case Farley  

Marshalltown 5-inch by 1-1/2-Inch Margin Trowel
Model 54
$12

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Marshalltown



PowerLinks

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I ride recumbent bikes with very long chains. My experience with them has been that in the reclined seating position, I can put a huge amount of force on the pedals. Sometimes this can be more than the chain can handle, and a link will break.

A lot of bikes use SRAM chains, and SRAM makes quick-closing replacement links called PowerLinks for repairing and allowing quick-disconnect of your chain for cleaning. There are different sizes of PowerLinks depending on if your chain is an eight, nine, or ten speed chain. The PowerLinks are cheap ($5 for a pack of two pairs), so I keep a few pairs in my bike tool bag. It takes around five minutes to repair a broken chain on the road.

To repair a SRAM chain with a PowerLink, you still need a cheap chain rivet remover tool. You remove the broken link with the tool, put one half of the PowerLink on each end of the broken chain, and snap them together. It’s much quicker and more reliable than trying to re-rivet your chain with a chain rivet tool.

-- Scott Flowers  

PowerLinks
$5
Available from REI

Manufactured by SRAM



Lamson 3/4-Inch Bent Stiff Putty Knife

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I have pushed literally thousands of linear feet of putty in the process of window glazing, and have been using this putty knife for the last twenty years (yes, the same one).

If you really want the professional edge when glazing an old wood window then you need this tool. The bent blade allows you to point the putty exactly where it needs to be. With very little practice the tip of the blade becomes an extension of your index finger or thumb for exact setting and cutting of glazing putty.

Simple, cheap, highly effective and very satisfying. Means it’s a cool tool in my book!

-- Seamus Holley  

Lamson 3/4″ Bent Stiff Putty Knife
$17

Available from GlassWarePro Manufactured by C. R. Laurence



Maze Nails

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A few years ago, on the advice of my roofer, I bought Maze stainless steel nails to hold the cedar shakes on my older home. I found the nails to be very well made and noted with approval that W. H. Maze Company has over a century and a half in the building products business. I recommended the brand to others and in the conversations that ensued, I found that they are best known for their cut nails for hardwood flooring and also for the hot-dipped galvanized nails that they pioneered.

Hot-dipped galvanized nails are steel nails that are dipped into molten zinc. The process creates an alloy on the outer layer of the nail that makes it incredibly resistant to corrosion. Another bonus is that all of the steel and zinc used in producing Maze Nails is sourced from recycled scrap metal that qualifies them as a LEED certified building material.

Like everyone else, I buy nails by the box, but use them one at a time. And a hammered nail is often a choice that you can’t undo. It only takes a few poorly-made nails to make you question the economy of your purchase. Once you find a brand that seems right, you will seek it out.

Maze has a good website that tells the whole story of the three U.S. mills that make a broad range of standard and specialty nails. The website has helpful information on nail selection and use. I was pleased to find that there is a dealer locator widget so I can get my fastener fix locally.

Be it ever so humble, a nail is a cool tool if you have the right one for the job. Maze Nails probably makes that nail.

-- Erik Hoover  

Maze Nails Stainless Steel Siding Nail
Model #SS6WS-1 LB6D
$10 per pound

Available from Amazon

More models with varying prices available from Amazon
Manufactured by Maze Nails



SilverTool

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Here’s a tool I wish existed about 25 years ago. Silver Trucks makes this updated version of the classic skate key, with added functionality, so it works in a complete skateboard build-up and isn’t limited (as its predecessor was) to maintenance and adjustments. The SilverTool is a solid, straight, T-shaped tube that feels much better in my hand than other tools I’ve used and has more features than anything else out there on the market.

Like the old skate key tool that was the standard for years, the SilverTool has openings to adjust the nuts for the wheels, as well as adjusting the nut tensioning on the truck kingpin. What is revolutionary about this tool is that it has a reversible ratchet at one end and a removable Phillips/hex driver. These features allow me to install and adjust the hardware holding the trucks to my deck. (Rush makes a ratcheting skate tool that has a hinged ratchet socket, and a hinged pullout Phillips/hex driver. Rush’s tool is smaller than Silver’s, but I believe some stability/torque is sacrificed in exchange.)

The SilverTool is also equipped with a medium-grade file for smoothing out the grip-tape edges around the skateboard deck. This is a nice bonus, though it’s not quite enough for me to perform a complete setup. I still need to use a separate razor blade or Stanley knife to trim away excess tape.

I hope to purchase, or make, adapters for the ratchet that will allow me to use this tool for basic bicycle maintenance as well. If Silver were to think a little beyond just skateboarding, they could easily manufacture the tool of choice for those who are into both skateboarding and riding bikes.

-- Scott Singer  

SilverTool
$16

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Silver Truck Co



PU Gun

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If you ever had occasion to use expanding polyurethane foam to mount a window or the like, you may have thought like me “Great stuff, wonder what else I could use this for?”; But standard polyurethane foam cans are only good for a short while. Once used, the valve and application tube glues itself shut within a few hours, regardless of how much product was left in the can. Keeping a can around for those odd jobs and bright ideas is just not worth the waste.

Enter foam guns. The point of foam guns is right up front, so to speak. The exit valve is right up at the very tip of the rigid application tube. When you mount a can to the gun, the whole inside of the gun is pressurized with product just like the can. There is nowhere inside where the foam can expand or harden.

That’s the theory, at least. In practice it still won’t keep indefinitely. On first try mine hardened right trough in two weeks, and I had a nasty job cleaning it out mechanically. Subsequently, I have taken care to store it with the can upside down, and I tested it every few days for a while, and now it seems to keep fine for at least two weeks. Perhaps it just needed to self-seal.

I don’t have a particular brand to recommend. I just got the cheapest all-metal model on eBay at the time, which I’ve seen since both branded and unbranded, and at wildly different prices. My experience seems to indicate, though, that staying away from the plastic models was a good idea, as I had to use considerable force to disassemble the gun for mechanical cleaning.

With these caveats, I’m still pretty happy about this discovery of mine. Only this week I used it to assemble a life-size doll my girlfriend made, and fix it to its plastic pipe skeleton. It really feels like I’ve got a whole new material in my kit.
Discovering what else it’s good for is going to be fun.

-- Gaute Amundsen  

Polyurethane Foam Gun
$30+

Available from Amazon

Also from eBay