Part One

It just occurred to me that the title for this post could be taken to mean a number of things. Having just been at the co-op a few days ago, the first thought that comes to mind is that of parting out a bike. As luck would have it, that’s actually not too far off the mark. This post is the first installment in a five part series on “Ten Common Substitutes for Bike-Specific Tools”, and it’s brought to you by guest contributor, Daniel.

I’ve got to give Daniel some serious props for a few of these tips, because they are right clever. The only concern I have is that my wife will read this post, and I’ll have a heck of a time ever convincing her I need to buy tools again.

Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m always happy to share the press with anyone who has something to say on the topics at hand. Meanwhile, many thanks, Daniel.


If you’re like me, you are struggling with the winter blues of cycling.  My name is Daniel, an avid reader of “Hadrian on a Bicycle” and a person with a passion for bicycling.  The Village Scribe has graciously allowed me to post some maintenance tips that might help you in this off-season (unless you are one of those that either 1) braves the salty cold winter roads or 2) can afford an indoor trainer.) I’ve been riding and working on bicycles since my youth so I’ve figured out how to maintain them with the few tools that were available at my discretion.  I never got “in” to cycling until about a year ago when I discovered that there were multiple bicycle specific tools that make maintenance easier and sometimes even more fun, but they are not always necessary.   I thought I’d share some of those maintenance tips in hopes that you may find them useful, or at least entertaining.  So without further adieu, I present to you my “top ten common uses for bike specific tools.”  Starting at number 10:

10. Use of a tape measure to see how worn out a chain is.

I know Park Tools makes a tool to show how worn a chain is; I get along fine ensuring the rivets line up with the inch marks on a rule.  If they start to skew further and further away from the inch marks around the 1 foot mark, the chain needs to be replaced. (This picture doesn’t show it too well but this chain is severely worn.)

9. Use of clothespins, mini-clamps and crayons for truing wheels.

If you don’t own a truing stand (which I didn’t know existed till last year) wheels can be trued using the brake pads of a bike while the wheel is mounted in the dropouts in place of the guide calipers of a traditional truing stand.  This works great if all of your bikes are multi-speeds; trouble is, most of my bikes are single speeds without external brakes.  The method I’ve found that works is setting a pair of clothes pins or mini-clamps on the frame of the bike as your mock calipers and using a crayon to mark the out of round spots (thanks for that one Dad!) will tell you exactly where you need to wrench on your spokes to get the wheel back in true.


11 responses to “Part One

  1. Remember kiddies, it’s not if it’s the right tool for the job that matters.

    It’s how well it works for you that counts …

  2. Daniel,

    These are great suggestions and I’m looking forward to trying them out, especially the truing stand. I too have just “gotten in” to cycling and have been spending the majority of my funds on gear (i.e. clothing, bike accessories, etc.) and not tools. As I’m sure you’re aware a truing stand alone cost upwards of $85 making it a lower end priority for me. I’m excited about this series of posts as they go right in line with my goal for the year. Any chance we could get video of you demonstrating some of these makeshift tools?

    Lastly, regarding the type of crayon that you use for marking bump-outs, do you suggest Crayola or would any brand do, say like Roseart? (:))

  3. RE: Truing stands, alas, as with most things, you get what you pay for. My truing stand was around the $85 price point (maybe $10 less), and it’s a piece of garbage — difficult and inefficient to use, and not very precise.

    As for crayons, I can only guess, but knowing Daniel, I suspect he makes his own out of self-harvested and self-processed bee’s wax and coloring distilled from crushed local flora.

  4. @nathan- pictures and descriptions of my repairs are free, videos will cost you. 🙂

    @the village scribe- any crayon will do, as long as it marks where your wheel is out of true and can erase somewhat painlessly. For what the cost of a crayola is, I usually don’t manufacture those. I like to leave bees alone.

  5. Cool ideas, looking forward to seeing the other 8. I have a good homemade tool for removing Schwinn kickstands. It involves a C clamp and a piece of old seat post. I think the Park tool for this is like $30.

    • Let’s see a picture (or pictures), and the step-by-step procedure.

    • Too lazy, but here are someone else’s photos: I did not have luck trying channel locks, but the modified seat post / C clamp method pictured at the bottom works fine. These are the Schwinn style kickstands that have the housing welded to the frame. The kickstand is held in place with a strong spring and a lock pin called a sprague. You tighten the C clamp to depress the spring, then remove the sprague and the whole thing will slide out of the housing.

  6. I know there is a way to remove a kickstand with a large pair of slip joint pliers (like channel locks) and I’m sure dave is talking about the welded on kickstands. I’ve tried taking mine off but been unsuccessful; then realized I really didn’t need to remove it anyway.

  7. When Daniel told me about the chain/ruler trick I was very surprised. I had no idea that chains could stretch. Us Glinskis might not be the richest folks but we sure know how to figure stuff out. lol

  8. Chains don’t actually “stretch” per se, but all the linkage wears out after miles of use, therefore the chain appears to have stretched.

  9. Paul H Downs

    An old set of forks with brakes n pads still mounted on it welded (or other mounting method) makes a great truing stand and cheap as well. I used to use a pair of v notched 1×4’s nailed to 3 2×4’s for a base. Served me well for 4 years on my old road bike.