By Paul de Valera
Not to say a disparaging word about any contemporary bike shop, but it is just my perception that “back in the day” there was more of an inclination for repairing things rather than just being a glorified parts swapper. Sure, bikes have become more complicated with a myriad of component and frame materials and the next “new standard” ever looming on the horizon. Still, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to take a bicycle that needs repair and being able to reverse the damage. And a lot of old bikes from the 60’s through the 90’s still roll through my doors all the time. Are you going to remove that cottered crank with a hammer? Do you even know what that is? At their rudiments, a bicycle has functionaly changed little in the last 100 years or so, it’s just that the details of that function have been altered. Here are some cool tools that I’m glad to possess. Several of them come in handy more often than you’d think.
First, some homemade goodies…
I usually wind up using simple homemade tools a lot in my daily wrenchings. The first one here is just a tube that I cut out of a Murray for added leverage in getting stubborn bolts and pedals off. I simply slide whatever wrench I’m using into the tube and apply Archimedes basic theory of leverage that would give even some chicken-armed roadie gain the strength of a titan. You can also use it to straighten out a bent crank arm. I also use the bar that I bolt by back door as a big lever when faced with really stubborn stuff, which is always a fun one for people to watch. “Is it going to come out?” they ask. “Does this look easy to you?” I blurt out between deep breaths. A good lever is an asset in the bicycle mechanics’ arsenal.
Another homemade tool is an awl that you can use to hog out the ends of a freshly cut cable, fish out a small objects, and other forms of small, detail work. Made from a spoke and piece of cable housing, I wind up using this tool all the time every day. You can make one by filing the end of the spoke into a sharp point and then sliding the housing over it. Simply bend the spoke so the J bend of the spoke catches the housing in a loop configuration. A free tool that will serve you time and time again.
Next, we move onto some old school tools that as far as I know are no longer made. Like the Brute.
I love this tool! It is a modified bumper jack that is used to straighten forks. You place one end on the bottom bracket and the other in the front wheel and just like a car jack, one clicks away until you get the fork straight again. You typically have to go one past where it looks straight as the metal will flex back some. Best to make sure the fork is not cracked anywhere and you can’t fix any fork that has a creased tube, but for those run into curb head-on type of scenarios this thing will save the day. I have saved so many forks with this tool; it is surprising that no one makes it still.
Flat spot pulling tools.
Made by the Overland Inc, a company long gone as a far as know, this tool is designed to pull a flat spot out of a rim. You loosen the spokes in the damaged area and then place the fingers in the worst part and tighten the clamp against the rim. These tools work ok. I have made many a 1970’s BMX rim much better than they were with these tools. You know you can’t always expect it to be 100% again but you can make a wheel that was crooked as a politician useable once again. I’d say a wider area where the tool contacts the rim and longer handles would make a better tool but this one’s a good idea none-the-less.
Bottom Bracket Removal Tool
Made by Kingbridge. I use this tool so much I made copies of them. If you have a stubborn or cross threaded bearing race in your threaded bottom bracket (remember those?) This tool will be essential in getting it out. How it works is you’ll have to first get one side of your bottom bracket out and then insert the tool in the shell. Then taking two wrenches, tighten it against itself as tight as you can, see the leverage bar above if you need more gusto. Then, using a large wrench you can break the stubborn shell free. Sometimes I’ve had to whack the wrench with a hammer for an impact wrench type effect or use a giant bar to break loose some Walschwinn factory installed cross threaded mess. Generally, the tool wins. I’ve near worn mine out I’ve used it so much and I gather it is older than I am and was used when I got it, such a good durable tool, if you could only say the same thing about that 1000 dollar fork you just bought…
Cottered Crank pin removal tool
Made by Park, tool #4 I think if I can make out the number on the casting. Here’s the deal with cottered cranks: They work. They work ok. I had a 1950 Olmo with cottered cranks that I rode to the top of every mountain with some heavy ass steel cottered cranks so I know they can take a beating. There are lots, I mean LOTS of different pins and crank pin hole diameters, angles etc. being this crank interface has been used and is still in use near a 100 years or so, not 100% sure once again did not “google it”, so forgive the blurry line on that one. The tool allows you to press out the pins on a cottered crank without damaging them so you can reuse them. I have a whole box full of pins and still get bikes in with pins that are different than what I have. One just lines up the tool to press out the pin and it pops out like magic. I think someone is reproducing this sort of tool again but not sure on that. Hope you enjoyed and will perhaps look to fixing things on your bicycle before replacing them next time around.
Paul is the proprietor of Atomic Cycles, publisher of Chicken Head Records Zine, promoter of the Coaster Brake Challenge and purveyor of cruiser bits at genuinebicycleproducts.com. This all takes place around the San Fernando Valley in southern California.