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One of the things I'd like to do in the year ahead is travel with my bike more. To save some money and make it easier on myself, I'd like to learn how to take apart my bike and put it back together. Right now my tool box consists of a lonely hex wrench set. I don't want to get a whole shop-style tool setup, but what are the must-have tools I'll need?
Thanks much!

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How stripped down do you want to go? Hex wrenches and an adjustable wrench, maybe some vise grips, and screwdrivers are all you really need to get a bike ready to be boxed.
Yeah -- get your bike box first. I have one that looks like a big suitcase. For my bike to fit, I take off the wheels [no tools] and deflate them, take off the pedals [a pedal wrench or an allen wrench, depending on your pedals], take off the handlebars [allen wrench] -- which stay attached by the cables, but can be folded down onto the frame -- remove the seat post with seat still attached [allen wrench]. Some people also unhook their deraileur, but my frame is small enough, I don't have to do that.

Easy peasy. You can get a good set of allen wrenches at Performance. The only problem I ever have is getting that second pedal off.

If you're going to be doing a lot of traveling, think about investing in a good bike box - the carboard ones will disintegrate pretty quickly. There are all sorts of bike cases -- Nashbar and Performance have sales all the time.
I'd look into getting a set of t handled hex wrenches. I picked up a decent set at Sears for about twenty dollars or so. I haven't had any complaints and although it might not be as nice as a set by park tools, they've worked fine for replacing various components on my bike.


or

i believe in saying "screw that!" to the overpriced bicycle tool industry. You can get the same quality, cheaper, from Sears Craftsman or at your local neighborhood hardware store.

I don't travel without:
3, 4, and 5 mm allen keys (with rounded ends!)
15mm wrench or 6mm allen key, depending on your pedals
Phillips head screwdriver
Pump (I prefer the Topeak Road Morph)
Tire levers
Spare tubes n' patch kit
*Bottle o' lube (I prefer Pro Link)
*Grease (I prefer Phil)
Rags (for protecting your bike's paint AND for cleaning it!)

* note, if you're traveling on an airplane, certain chemicals and solvents are not allowed. I usually go with the least environmentally-destructive stuff, so I rarely have a problem. I know that tubular glue is pretty much verboten for airplanes, as are several cleaning solvents and degreasers.

If you want to go a little further, there's always...
Crank puller
Spoke wrench
Extra cables and housing with crimpees and fereules
Cable cutter
Spare brake pads

...and from there you get to silly things like cone wrenches and bottom bracket/headset tools, which, if you need them, you're having a pretty bad day.

NOTE: travel is hard on your bike. You'll be pulling it apart and putting it together in less than ideal conditions, and you'll probably let maintenance and proper lube/grease/clean rituals fall by the wayside from time to time. Make sure you schedule a time to really work on your bike and get it back the way it should be!
Leah,

stop by Open Shop at WTB sometime and I'll go over how to pack your bike most effectively and what tools you'll need. See you soon...
Pleeeeeeeze go to westtown. They will seriously get you squared away!
Having done several boxings, I concur with HNK (and apparently so does Bicycling): hex wrenches and a pedal wrench are the bike-specific tools you need. (Oh, and whatever tool you need to remove your wheels -- I have locking skewers, so I need the "key.") A big huge pedal wrench (mine may be heavier than my computer) makes moderate work of removing a pedal. A tiny, non-pedal-specific 15mm cone wrench, while cheap and pocketable, can result in considerable pain and suffering.

My mnemonic for remembering how the pedal wrench turns: the right pedal goes the right way, the left pedal goes the wrong way.
I never leave the house without my Gerber Multitool. It is not as good as the proper tool, but will do in a pinch. If I go on a ride thats any longer than just running errands, I always have in my backpack, My C-Wrench, Vise grips, offset screwdriver, and a small driver set with multiple bits. As well as some lengths of wire, zip ties, and Gaffers tape.
Almost every mode of transportation I have owned has always been just shy of falling apart, so I have become good at jurry-rigging all sorts of stuff.
One of the best tool purchases I have made is a pair or torque wrenches.

One is for 0-60 inch pounds (for adjusting more delicate stuff like headsets, stems, carbon seat posts, etc.)
The other is for 0-600 inch pounds (for less delicate stuff like pedals, cranks, non-quick release hubs, etc.)

The higher-quality components almost always give you torque specs (typically in newton meters, but most torque wrenches read in both inch pounds and newton meters).

If you under tighten something, it can come loose when you're riding (very bad). If you over tighten something, you can ruin the part (also very bad). If you use a torque wrench, you're never guessing.

If you're traveling with the bike and frequently taking it apart and putting it together, using the proper torque can help lessen the wear and tear on the threads.
My friend Laura introduced me to this tool last weekend:


It comes in super handy! It's also nice and small, so it easily fits into your bag, and it's only $4.99 with free shipping on Ebay.
Grease pencil for marking seatpost height, handlebar centering and elevation.

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