Parts washer

How many tools are too many?

Sockets, spanners, screwdrivers, pliers and hex keys are all standard fare for the fettlers amongst us. Some mountain bikers will also use the occasional hammer, but only very carefully of course, and all of us need the one specialist tool that we do not have or has just broken.

Changing a bottom bracket, old or new, requires at least two specialist tools, removing a cassette needs a special socket and a chain whip and hubs and linkages may involve a combination of tools as well as three hands.

Some tools make life easier and these include tiny grease guns that deliver a mini amount of grease in exactly the right place and a little bit more just on your trousers. The most useful tool is undoubtedly a hose but these do not work at all unless you have special brushes shaped like witches hands.

You will need a proper toolbox after a while so you are forced to go to Halfords and compare the feel of drawers fitted with roller bearings with the expert air of a wine taster. You then immediately need to buy more tools to fill it that are all more expensive including different sizes of torque wrenches, a tap and die set, tiny screwdrivers, some needle files, some ratchet spanners and more specialist tools. You have room for a brake bleeding kit and at least one tool needing a battery. This should really be a digital vernier for a tenner but that does not make a noise so a Dremel at eighty is obviously better value. You might not be sure why you need this but polishing tiny bits until they shine is almost an art form. A small lithium ion screwdriver can take off brake discs in a jiffy and is only fifty quid. Hundreds of pounds disappear in less than half an afternoon.

Something that is really useful is a bike-stand but do not skimp on this as a cheap one can be more of a problem than a help. If you have a shed or a garage then you have room for big toys; racks and shelves, a vice, a proper workbench and maybe a few things to impress the visitor.

You can true a wheel in a vice with a pencil but a dedicated unit bolted to the bench shouts expert. A digital scale hung from a hook implies a hidden advantage and a table top jewellers scale betrays a secret vice.

You do not need an air compressor even though inflating tyres would be easy, drying off bearings a breeze, your chain could be cleaned, dried and re-lubed with certainty and you could even justify an air tool. This would make a special noise. But you do not need this. Alec has a compressor but I am not envious. At all.

Instead I spent the money on a parts washer and it is cheaper and smaller to store. It was less than forty quid and is essentially a pump and a filter. Items are cleaned under a stream of cleaning fluid which works well but not like magic. Water based rather than the solvent of old it should be safe for everything on your bike but dismantled assemblies clean easier. Other costs are a tub of expensive liquid cleaner, but it lasts for months, and a few pennies a day in electricity. Maintenance is low but it needs the filtered bits cleaned out and occasional emptying as if left unused mould grows in great clumps.

Overall it works quite well but you could easily make do with a bowl and some elbow grease so it is not recommended as an essential item but it is a nice extra. It does help with chains and cassettes but they need careful rinsing and drying before re-use so it would work better with a compressor alongside.

So add it to your list for a full bike shed outfit but buy the compressor first.