To buy or not to buy

Buying bike tools is kind of like stocking your kitchen with cooking supplies. There are cer­tain tools you’ll need no matter what. If you’re cooking, one of the tools you need is a spatula. But when you’re buying a spatula, you have lots of options. You can buy a cheap, plastic model, knowing that you’ll save some money — even though it may not be the most comfortable to hold and probably won’t last very long. Or you can invest a little in your purchase and buy a spatula that’s ergonomically designed for your hand and made of material guaranteed to last and covered by a long-term warranty.

The same is true for bike tools. A full spectrum of options is available, ranging from cheap, all­purpose tools (which you can adapt for use on a bike) or custom-made, high-quality products designed specifically for working on bikes.

Obviously, cost is a major consideration when buying tools. A number of companies — includ­ing Park Tool (www. parktool. com) and Pedro’s (www. pedros. com) — make high — quality bike tools. They offer products made of durable materials that are comfortable to use and designed to work with high-end bicycle components. There’s something to be said for investing in quality tools that will last — not the least of which is impressing your buddies.

If you’re on a budget, however, you can buy many brand-name tools on the cheap from bike-tool manufacturers such as Spin Doctor,

Performance, and the extremely inexpensive Chinese-made Lifu tools, which cost from $30 to $200. If you need basic tools like screwdrivers, wrenches, or pliers, you can find them in the hardware section of stores like Wal-Mart.

Keep in mind that working on a bike doesn’t mean going to the toolbox, grabbing whatever looks handy, and giving it a try. Although some of the tools that you may have in your house today will serve you in certain jobs (such as a screwdriver, adjustable wrench, and pliers), a number of bike parts require specialized tools. To find and purchase these tools, you can visit the manufacturers’ Web sites and see where the products are sold, or visit your local bike shop.

Some tools are designed for particular jobs that you may perform rarely or never at all. For example, if you plan on doing a yearly overhaul of the bottom bracket, you’ll need specialized tools that can’t be used for any other purpose. Most of the year, they’ll be sitting around in your workspace gathering dust.

If you join a local bike club, you’ll find lots of opportunities to borrow the tools you need, saving you from having to buy tools that you won’t get much regular use out of.

Start by acquiring a basic set of tools. At a later date, if your goals become more ambitious, you can always add tools as needed.