Wednesday 10 May 2017

The best value-for-money bike parts, equipment and consumables and where to buy them

Summary: If you asked a long-time utility cyclist for tips on which bike parts and equipment to buy you'd get plenty of hard-earned insights. Performance, reliability, durability, cost and ease of DIY maintenance or replacement vary considerably. Price or the most well-known brand names are often not useful guides. Bike shop salespeople are also biased to selling what they stock, has high margins or requires bike shop servicing.

In this post, I will collate my own current conclusions and decisions for reference. Note that as you gain more experience with more product types or alternatives you will continually refine your preferences, so this post will be updated indefinitely.

The best equipment is typically more expensive so actually being able to obtain it at the lowest price (including delivery) turns out to be a big factor in value-for-money decisions. For example, your local bike shop might sell Schwalbe Durano Plus tyres for $80 each which might force you to accept a lower puncture-resistant brand. But if you could get them for $40 online this changes the equation. Consequently, a key part of the aim of this post is to find the cheapest places to acquire each item.

Flickr - Nicolai Bangsgaard

Related Posts:


1. Tyres: Use Schwalbe puncture resistant tyres (ideally from the "Plus" range like the Durano Plus or Marathon Plus)

While there are likely a few other genuinely puncture-resistant tyre models from other vendors, I only have experience with Schwalbe and it is the brand used by virtually all long-distance tourers. If puncture-resistance, durability and value-for-money are your priorities then you simply don't need to consider any other tyre options. Just find the most suitable Schwalbe option (on-road or off-road, width, etc). I recommend the "Plus" range.

Direct links to the Schwalbe product pages with at least medium puncture-resistance are below:

Schwalbe Tour
Flat-less tyres (general info)
Marathon Plus 25-47mm width for large 622mm BSD (inner size) rims
Marathon Plus Tour 37-47mm width for large 622mm BSD (inner size) rims
Marathon GT
Delta Cruiser Plus
Energizer Plus 32-50mm width for large 622mm BSD (inner size) rims
Big Apple Plus 50-55mm width
Big Ben Plus 50-55mm width

Schwalbe Road
Durano Plus  23-28mm width for large 622mm BSD (inner size) rims
Durano DD

Schwalbe Offroad
Marathon Plus MTB 54-57mm width for small, medium or large rims
Smart Sam Plus

Where to buy:

I typically buy Schwalbe tyres from Chain Reaction Cycles or Ribble as they are always available at near the cheapest price. I buy Durano Plus or Marathon Plus for about $40 each.

Chain Reaction Cycles
Schwalbe tyres - 700C

> Schwalbe Tyres

Occasionally the Australian retailers listed below will offer Schwalbe tyres at a competitive price:

Cell Bikes
> Tyres - Schwalbe

Cycling Express
> Tyres & Tubes - Schwalbe

Comments on other tyre options:

Tubeless Tyres
- These are almost never useful for utility cyclists as they are much more complicated, expensive and specialised to manage effectively. Expert enthusiasts may benefit in narrow circumstances. If curious, see the Schwalbe Tubeless guide.

2. Tubes: Use Schwalbe tubes

As I almost never get punctures (1 nail in 5 years), it makes sense to opt for higher quality tubes that will last at least several years. As Schwalbe tubes can be had anytime for $10 each ($6 on sale) this is the option I have chosen.

Remember to get the correct size to match tyre width, valve type (Presta or Schrader) and valve length (deep dish rims require a longer length).

Where to buy:

Chain Reaction Cycles often sells Schwalbe tubes for as little as $6 each. Otherwise I use Cell Bikes at around $10.

Chain Reaction Cycles
> Tubes - Schwalbe

Cell Bikes
> Tubes - Schwalbe

3. Locks - U locks, Chain locks, Frame locks and other useful types

Never use cable locks. You can read detailed reasons for only using high-quality U locks and chain locks as the primary lock to secure your bike in these blog posts:
How to prevent your bike being stolen
What type of bike lock should I buy?

Avoid U lock and chain lock models that use combination mechanisms and ones with known flaws.

Make sure your U lock or chain lock has sufficient reach to enable locking around all common bike hoops and street fixtures. Mini U locks are often too small.

Some secondary locks are also useful like frame locks (e.g. AXA Defender around the wheel) and more secure equipment for wheels, saddles and other equipment.

I personally use:
- Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 U lock
- OnGuard Bulldog U lock
- I also plan to add an OnGuard Mastiff 8022D chain
- I also plan to add an OnGuard BullMastiff padlock for adding security to wheels or accessories
- I sometimes use the OnGuard or Kryptoflex steel cables that come with U locks as secondary locks in Low Risk situations

Where to buy:

Common, value-for-money U locks like OnGuard are best had from the cheapest Australian retailers.

Cell Bikes usually sells OnGuard U locks (Bulldog, Pitbull, Brute) at the cheapest prices available anywhere.

- Reid Cycles sometimes sells OnGuard Bulldog locks for $28. E.g. OnGuard Bulldog Mini DT U-Lock 2016 (plus cable). This may be a special in-store only price.

Cycling Express often has cheap prices on Kryptonite U locks
> Locks & Security

Ultra Cheap Options:

Tonyon TY325 12mm U Lock - $6

4. Chains and Chain Devices

KMC chains (single speed are 1/8"; geared are 3/32")
> - "kmc chain" reliably sells them for $4 to $8 depending on quality
- I buy the Z410 or Z410RB ("rust buster")

Chain Tugs (tensioners that affix between axle and dropout)
> -.DMR Chain Tugs

5. Helmets

For an ultra-cheap safety-compliant helmet you can get Melbourne Bike Share helmets for $5 from vending machines or at 7-Eleven stores. Or sometimes for free on bikes in the city.

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy quality helmets is: - helmets and protection

Quality helmets can be had on special for ~$20 including occasionally from fashionable brands like Nutcase.

6. Lights

I recommend getting USB-rechargeable ones that have robust, flexible attachments. At the rear, not just to the seatpost, but to a saddle bag or rack (whichever is extending furthest).

Use recent reviews to assess best performance. Remember there is a tradeoff in brightness versus how long a single charge lasts.

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy lights is: - lights

At around the $20-30 mark there are high quality USB rechargeable lights on special that usually retail for double or more.

7. Electronics (Bike Computers, GPS, Mounts, etc)

A cheap wired bike computer (~$15) will perform all essential functions (trip and overall distance, speed, etc) and can be permanently left on your bike (no-one will be bothered stealing it).

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy bike electronics is: - electronics

- Mounts for bike computers, GPS devices or cameras are often heavily discounted for less than $5.

- It can be the cheapest place to get proprietary accessories for electronics.

8. Saddles

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy saddles is: - saddles

There's usually a brand on special for less than $10. I've bought the Citi Bicycle Saddle for $3-5.

9. Gloves

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy gloves is: - gloves

Quality gloves can be had on special from $5 - $25. I bought waterproof, winter gloves for $25.

10. General Clothing and Apparel

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy clothing is: - cycle clothing

Quality jackets, jerseys, shorts, arm/leg warmers, shoe covers, caps and more can be had on special for $5 - $25.

11. Shoes

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy shoes is: - shoes

E.g. Louis Garneau Ventilator 2 Road Shoes for $20 (normally over $100).

12. Kick Stands

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy shoes is: - kick stands

13. Bottom Brackets

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy bottom brackets is: - bottom brackets

The Shimano BB-UN26 68x110mm Bottom Bracket for my single speed was $17.

14. Chainrings, Cassettes, Sprockets and Drivetrain

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy drivetrain components is: - drivetrain

E.g. Quality chainrings can always be found on special for less than $5

15. Handlebars, Grips, Bar Tape, Stems, etc

The reliably cheapest place in Australia to buy handlebar and related "cockpit" components is: - cockpit

16. Fenders and Mudguards

Unless buying a road bike (where this is difficult), if fenders or mudguards are a priority then ensure the bike you choose has sufficient clearance and attachment points for the type that best suits. Some cyclists will prefer permanently-attached and full-coverage fenders, others will prefer mudguards which may only provide partial coverage (e.g. protecting mostly clothing/shoes) but can be readily detached when not needed or swapped between bikes.

I prefer detachable mudguards.

For the rear the best I've found is the Zefal Swan. It mounts on the seat post and can tilt into the desired position.

For the front my main priority is to protect the spray area between 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock. If mounting a guard on the downtube, then the Zefal Croozer, SKS X-board or similar is worthwhile. Mounting the front mudguard on the wheel is better though, so consider Zefal or SKS products that mount to the fork and fit your bike.

SKS X-board

> Zefal - Mudguards
> SKS - Mudguards
> Zefal Swan (CRC $11.50)
> Zefal Croozer (CRC $11)
> Zefal Swan and Croozer Set (CRC $16)
> Zefal Trail Front and Rear Set (CRC $12 for both)
> SKS X-board (Ribble UK)
> SKS Velo 42 (CRC $22 with U stays)
> - 13 of the best mudguards for any type of bike

17. Brake pads

> Trivio Brake Pads 50mm (Ribble ~$4 per pair)

17. Waterproofing

Waterproof spray for shoes and clothing.
Waproo Water-proofer spray - $8

Kiwi Camp Dry

18. Bicycle Touring and DIY Equipment

Duct Tape

19. Bike maintenance tools

Best Value Toolkits

Buying the more complete, value-for-money toolkits (aka "Advanced") on sale will provide many of the most common tools at a far cheaper price than buying them individually. Then you just need to fill the gaps for specialist tools you actually need.

Single Tools

I use the Park Tools website categories and tool reference numbers as the reference. But I often buy cheaper toolkits or versions of the tool.

The main websites I use to buy cheap tools on sale are:

> - workshop

There are hundreds of bicycle tools but below I will maintain a list of only the most commonly-needed ones.

*Denotes preferred or recommended option
^Denotes tools I have (I often have a non-Park cheaper version)
!Denotes tools I plan to get when needed or available at a decent price

A good way to check common tools is by reviewing the list of 65 tools included in the Park Tools Professional tool kit: PK-2 Professional tool kit

Park Tool - Tools

Cassette & Freewheel

Cassette Removers
FR-5G Cassette lockring tool with 5mm guide pin*^ or FR-5.2 Cassette lockring tool
- One of the most common cassette removal sizes

Freewheel,  Fixed Gear or Sprocket Removal
FR-6 Freewheel remover*^
- This type fits the greatest number of current single speed/BMX freewheels. It is easy to find cheaper versions.
- When buying freewheels if possible get ones using this remover. Avoid freewheels that have zero, shallow or only 2 notches for removal tools as these have to be dismantled to be removed or are a hassle to remove.
- Some freewheel manufacturers make their own proprietary freewheel removal tool (e.g. Sturmey Archer)

TLSF2 Sturmey Archer Freewheel removal tool
- Still need a cheap source for this tool
- This only fits Sturmey Archer freewheels. I recommend Sturmey Archer as cheap single speed freewheels available in all sizes from 16 to 22 teeth.

FRW-1 Freewheel remover wrench!
- Costs $60 so makes sense to use a standard 1 inch wrench (even a 15/16 wrench will fit the 1inch nuts on the freewheel remover tools). Best to buy a standard long-handled wrench (25cm+) or one you can add extra leverage to (e.g. pipe extension). Or get the 1inch wrench with SR-1 which includes a chain whip.

Rubber Mallet (not a bike specific tool)
- For any removal that requires extra leverage I often use a rubber mallet. A couple of hard taps on the end of the wrench are worth a significant amount of additional leverage.

HCW-17 Fixed gear lockring wrench*
- Lockrings can be removed using a large flat screwdriver in the groove and mallet to knock the lockring clockwise to loosen. However, if you remove fixed gear lockrings often then an inexpensive tool is useful. This can be had for $16 from Chain Reaction Cycles or Ribble

SR-1 3/32" Sprocket remover and chain whip*^
- Works on 5-10 speed cassettes with 3/32" size. Includes 1 inch boxring wrench to fit standard freewheel and lockring removal tools.

SR-18 1/8" Sprocket remover and chain whip*!
- Same as SR-1 but for fixed gear/single speed sprockets that are 1/8" size. You can remove a fixed gear sprocket by keeping the chain attached and using a mallet on the pedals. But freewheels need a chainwhip that fits. A DIY alternative is to double over your actual chain and use it as a chain whip (see YouTube).

SPA-2 Pin spanner!
-  Pin diameter is 2.3mm.Will fit many crankset and freewheel cones or retaining rings. You can use a hole punch and mallet but if doing this often a pin spanner is easiest. $13 from Ribble.


CN-10 Professional cable and housing cutter*^
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.


CC-3.2 Chain checker*^
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.

CT-3.2 Chain tool*^
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.

MLP-1.2 Master link pliers
- Used for effortless removal of master links when changing chains. However, standard pliers will do the job so a specialist tool is not necessary.


BCB-4.2 Bike cleaning brush set
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.

Crank and Bottom Bracket

BBT-18 Bottom bracket tool
- For Shimano Octalink and ISIS Drive bottom brackets

BBT-19.2 Bottom bracket tool
- Used to remove and install external bearing crankset bottom brackets

BBT-29 Bottom bracket tool
- Double-ended bottom bracket wrench designed to fit 16-notch bearing cups with an outside diameter of 39mm (e.g. Shimano® Dura-Ace® 9000 series and XTR® 980 series) as well as 16-notch bearing cups with an outside diameter of 48.5mm (e.g. FSA® MegaEvo®).
- This is often included in Advanced bike toolkits.

BBT-69 Bottom bracket tool
- Installation and removal of 16-notch external bearing bottom brackets

BBT-9 Bottom bracket tool
- The BBT-9 is used to remove and install external bearing crankset bottom brackets. One end of the BBT-9 securely engages the 16 notches of the bottom bracket cups. The other end of the tool engages the 8 internal splines of the crank arm adjustment cap.

CCP-22 Crank puller
- Fits all cranks using 22mm x 1 threads and square, tapered bottom bracket spindles

CCW-5 Crank bolt wrench
- The CCW-5 features both a 14mm socket and 8mm hex wrench. Is not necessary if you have a range of hex and socket wrenches in your toolkit.

CNW-2 Chainring nut wrench*^
- Double-ended to fit most slotted-type nuts and hold them while the bolt is tightened or loosened.

CWP-7 Compact universal crank puller*^
- Standard puller will remove both square taper and splined (ISIS Drive, Octalink) crank arms. The CWP-7 is made for the 22 x 1mm threading in the common cranks.

General Shop Tools

PAW-12 12 inch adjustable wrench
- A large adjustable wrench is always useful. It doesn't have to be a pricey Park one though.

MW-SET.2 Set of wrenches (box and open ends)
- A set of wrenches from 6mm to 17mm is needed. They typically don't come with most bike toolkits but can easily be had as general workshop tools.

NP-6 Needle nose pliers

SP-7 Side cutter pliers

RP-SET.2 Internal retaining ring pliers set
- These pliers are used to remove the circlips ("snap rings") or "internal retaining rings" that hold on parts like sprockets. However, you don't need them and a small, flat screwdriver can easily be used to lever out any sized circlip.

SBS-1 Socket and bit set
- Set of 3/8inch drive bits and sockets. These are useful general workshop tools and can be had cheaply from hardware or auto retailers.

Nut, bolt and component sizing references
- It's useful to keep a set of the standard size nuts, bolts and other equipment handy. E.g. M4 to M15 and the common imperial sizes.

Super Cheap Auto Tools
SCA Caliper Vernier - Plastic, 150mm

Best Buy Socket Set - 1/4"/3/8" Drive, 40 Piece

ToolPro Breaker Bar - 1/2" Drive, 600mm

ToolPro Single Socket - 1/2" Drive, 1"

ToolPro Spanner - Combination, 1"

SCA Work Gloves - Latex, Large, 40 Pack

ToolPro Adjustable Wrench - 12"

Valvoline Valplex EP Grease Tub - 500g

SCA Duct Tape - Black, 48mm x 30m

Tesa Threadseal Tape - 12mm x 10m

SCA Kerosene - 1 Litre

Cable Ties
- Various attachment uses such as tying cables to frame or providing accessory fixing points


HCW-15 Headset wrench*^
- Standard 32mm and 36mm head wrench.

Hex & Torx Compatible Tools

HXS-1.2 Professional L shaped hex wrench set*^
- 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10 mm sizes with a ball end on the long arm (exc. 10mm) for hard to reach bolts and a straight end on the short arm for high torque applications

Hub & Axle

SCW-SET.3 Cone wrench set *^
- Cone wrenches from 13mm to 28mm size.

SBC-1 Spoke, bearing and cotter gauge
- Aid is ideal for sizing spokes, ball bearings and crank cotters

Lubricants & Compounds

GG-1 Grease gun

ASC-1 Anti-seize compound
-  Reduces friction in threaded and press fit connections for easy assembly and disassembly. Ideal for bottom bracket and pedal threads, pressed headset cups, seat posts, quill stems

CB-4 Bio chainbrite (degreaser)

CL-1 Synthetic blend chain lube

HPG-1 High performance grease

PPL-1 Polylube lubricant


MTB-7 Rescue Tool


PW-3 Pedal wrench
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.


PMP-4.2 Mini pump

PFP-8 Floor pump

Tube & Tire

TL-1.2 Tire lever set
- All decent bike toolkits will have one of these.

-Useful for tyres that are very hard to get off.

TR-1 Tire and tube repair kit

Wheel & Spoke

SW-7.2 Triple spoke wrench

To be continued...

Axle Nuts
- Front 9mm or 5/16"
- Rear 10mm or 3/8"
- Ideally both fitting 15mm spanner (fixie)

Pump Floor HP Steel 160Psi W/ Guage White Universal Single Pump Head

Rim Tape

Valve Adaptor

Further Info:
> Equipment

Do It Yourself

Evans Cycles
Shimano Nexus Sprocket

Bicycle Parts Wholesale

Park Tool

Axle Release
> Axle Size Help