If you're a regular rider and, like the rest of us, don't want to spend heaps of money on repairs at a bike shop, you can save yourself lots of time and money by getting a torque wrench.
Although a torque wrench might sound like some sort of sophisticated gadget used only by seasoned mechanics, it's actually a relatively simple tool that the average Joe like you or me can put to good use. Here is a quick rundown on the utility of a torque wrench and how to use it:
What it does
A torque wrench, as the name would suggest, is a tool that is used to apply a specific amount of rotational force, or torque, to a fastener like a nut or a bolt. The torque wrench allows the user to tighten whatever mechanism they are working with to an amount that is appropriate to that application. As you tighten the bolt or nut, a gadget inside the wrench will make a clicking noise when it's reached the correct tightness.
Listening to the gauge inside the torque wrench is important because having bike parts too tight is just as bad as having them too loose. The instinctual thing to do when there is an issue with bike mechanisms is to tighten them, but sometimes that isn't the right course of action.
How to use it
On your bike, there will be a key -- usually on the stem -- that indicates the level of torque for your specific bolts, which is called the torque spec. Depending on the specification, select the right torque wrench -- an adjustable one works for most specs -- and insert the wrench's bit into the socket or the bolt and twist the wrench in a circle until you hear the "click." This is your cue to take the bit out.
The frequency with which you use your torque wrench to tighten your bolts depends on the type of bike you have and what you use it for. Off-roading and mountain biking are more strenuous on the bicycle, so they will generally require more maintenance than your typical road or street bike. Off-roaders should try to adjust their nuts and bolts weekly, while road bikers can do with a monthly check-up.
Which torque wrench to use
If you're only looking to adjust your cockpit and/or saddle height, you can purchase a cheap basic preset torque wrench for less than $35.
If you want a torque wrench that can cover a limited range of decent-sized bolts on your bike, go ahead and look for a basic adjustable torque wrench. These will be in the ballpark of $60-70 and will serve most of your needs when it comes to adjusting your bike mechanisms.
The best, most all-encompassing wrench to get is more pricey compared to the basic versions, but it's still going to save you tons of money down the line. Look for an adjustable ratcheting torque wrench to cover the entire range of bolt specs. It will cost you around $250, but compared to going to a bike mechanic for multiple visits it's a heck of an investment.