Bringing you tips on bike commuting from one dedicated rider in Portland.

Bike ToolsYou may be mechanically disinclined – toolphobic even. You can still keep your bicycle in good shape with a few handy, easy-to-use bike tools. Here’s my short list ranked in order of importance:

Tire pump –  You can’t overturn the second law of thermodynamics. Those air molecules crammed into your bike tire aren’t going to stay put even if your tubes are brand new. A stand-up pump with a built-in pressure gauge will make it easy to stay rolling on properly inflated tires. They require less strength to pump than portable styles, and they stay clamped better on tire valves. I’ve had good luck with my Topeak JoeBlow.

Chain lube – Do not let rusty orange become the new black on your bike chain. Your rust-free, whisper-smooth drive train will thank you. The best lubricant to use is surprisingly controversial among bike geeks. You’ll probably do okay with any of the brands made specifically for bike chains. Experts seem to agree that it’s a bad idea to use motor oil, all-purpose machine oil, or WD-40.

Hex keys – Most of the routine adjusting and tightening you’ll need to do will require hex keys, those little L-shaped wrenches also used to build Ikea furniture.  Seat posts, handlebars, brakes, racks and other bike components are almost always attached with hex fasteners. A set of five or six hexes in metric sizes from 2 to 6 mm is about all you’re likely to need.  You can buy a handy multi tool with the right assortment of hex wrenches that fold out like the tools in a Swiss Army knife.

Screwdriver – Although I just told you most routine adjustments require hex keys, you’re also going to need a Philips and a flat screwdriver, particularly for attaching and adjusting bicycle lights. The multi tool I bought lacks a flat screwdriver, and of course that’s the tool I’ve needed the most when out riding.

Tire levers – When you pry a tire off its rim to fix a flat, the tire has the frustrating tendency to pop back into place.  Tire levers solve this problem and make it a lot easier to remove tires. You slip the flat end of one lever between tire and rim and hook the other end onto a spoke.  Then you slip the flat end of the other lever under the tire and slide it around the rim.

Pedal wrench – If the space between your bike’s pedals and the pedal crank is too narrow to fit an adjustable wrench or an ordinary open-end wrench (and it usually is too narrow) you’re going to need pedal wrench. It’ll also have a longer handle than the typical tool box wrench, giving you plenty of leverage for the amount of tightening pedals require.

These six will take you a long way, but there is no doubt a case to be made for other tools every cyclist should have, like maybe a repair stand to elevate and hold your bike off the ground so the wheels can spin and everything is within easy reach. What tools would you put on your bare minimum list?