5 DIY Bike Hacks to Avoid Buying More Tools

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There are a lot of highly specialized tools used for working on bikes. The shops have them, and they’re slick, but you use them rarely enough that you don’t want them sucking on your wallet or filling up your shop.

A little creativity and bike know-how can help you design or build these bike hacks as workarounds. Here are five that could save you some money, and keep you from having to visit the bike shop.

Photo: Kristofer Henry, 44 Bikes
Photo: Kristofer Henry, 44 Bikes

Nipple Driver

Kristofer Henry, the owner of custom manufacturer 44 Bikes designed these custom tools from old spokes, including a pin spanner for removing cranksets, an all-purpose pick, and a nipple/spoke driver. Read Henry’s tutorial on the nipple driver to see how to make it yourself.


Headset Press

I admit to installing headsets with a hammer and a block of wood. It’s not what you’re supposed to do, but I also didn’t have access to a rather expensive and highly specialized headset press. I wish I’d known about this hardware hack. A piece of wood or metal or acrylic on either side of the headset, with a long bolt and nuts to tighten it down can give you the sustained force needed to place the headset evenly.

Spoke Wrench

Spoke wrenches are neither bulky nor particularly expensive, but if you’re trying to cut weight, or just be super efficient, it’s relatively simple to cut one into another tool, like Mad Mac did here. Mac is a motorcyclist, but motorcycles often have similar spokes.

“The beefy 24mm axle wrench had nothing going on at the other end,” explains Mac. “I clamped it in a vise and used a 10″ mill file to create a notch. The file used must be narrower than the spoke nipple. Once the desired depth is reached, carefully widen the notch, keeping the sides as square as possible.”


Car Rack Bike Stand

Bike stands are big. If you have a sturdy workbench, you can mount just the clamp on there, or you can make do with a padded vise, but beyond that, you’ll likely find yourself flipping it upside down to work, or lifting the back end to spin the pedals.

Using a car rack to hold your bike while you do fine tuning — brakes, derailleurs — can be a good in-between option. It’s not sturdy enough for real torquing, but sometimes a free-spinning wheel can make simple tune-ups a little easier.


Cassette Removal

Removing a cassette is not a trivial repair. And there are several tutorials for DIY chain whips (really just a lever attached to some chain, to grip the gears). But, as pointed out here, you don’t always have access to the tool, so it’s handy to know how to remove it without. Basically, you secure a length of chain to the wheel, and it holds the cassette in place while you wrench it free. Be advised, you still need a cassette lockring tool to make this work.

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Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

View more articles by Nathan Hurst


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