We have all used wrenches before. These are usually crescent-shaped tools that come in all sorts of designs and sizes. Depending on the size and design, they all have different functions.
But we are here to talk about torque wrenches for bicycle maintenance. Now you might be thinking what are torque wrenches?
A torque wrench is a specialized wrench that can check and adjust the tightening torque of different nuts, spark plugs, and screws.
It is especially important for bicycle clamping. Bicycle clamps are made from lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber to reduce weight. A torque wrench ensures that the clamps are not damaged due to overtightening or under-tightening a nut or bolt.
In this article, we will focus on how you should use a torque wrench to fix bicycles.
How to Use a Torque Wrench for Bicycle Maintenance
Before we get into the details of the different steps of using a torque wrench, it’s important to know about the types of torque wrenches. There are more than 20 types of them.
Needless to say, you won’t be needing the large ones for bicycle maintenance. There are 4 different torque wrenches suitable for small-scale usage. They are – a deflection torque wrench, dial indicator torque wrench, clicker torque wrench, and a digital torque wrench.
Here we will discuss these four types along with the answers of how to use a torque wrench for bicycles for maintenance for each type.
The Deflection Torque Wrench
Deflection torque wrenches are also known as beam torque wrenches. It is essentially a mechanical wrench that doesn’t use any type of electrical counter.
There is a standard shaft for tightening the nut or screw. There is a beam corresponding to the shaft which acts as the torque indicator near the base handle of the wrench.
The counter has readings in both foot-pounds for the US users as well as Nm for the metric users. The counter goes both ways so reverse tightening can show the torque level as well.
Generally, every bicycle manual comes with the ideal torque count for each clamp. Just make sure to match the counter reading with the manual and you’re good to go. Now let’s dive into how it actually works, step by step.
Step 1 – Use the Correct Tool Head
The shaft head has a holding position for the correct wrench size. Depending on the clamp location, the size of the nut or the screw will be different. Get a corresponding wrench head and attach it with the shaft head.
Step 2 – Place the Shaft on the Nut and Turn
After securing the shaft head with the proper wrench head, all you have to do is position it on the clamp nut and turn.
Step 3 – Check the Reading on the Counter
The corresponding beam will move on the counter as you turn the shaft. Check for the correct torque level.
There you go, the clamp should be perfectly tightened.
Dial Torque Wrench
The dial torque wrench is much smaller in size compared to the deflection torque wrench. As the name suggests, the torque counter here is a dial that shows the torque level as you tighten a nut.
But there are some tweaks and steps you should follow to correctly use it. The basic steps are as usual. You get the matching socket or wrench heads to connect to the shaft for the desired clamp. After that follow the below steps:
Step 1 – Set the Outer Dial
The dial itself has two moving parts – the outer mover and the inner mover. Use the outer mover to set the torque indicator hand to zero. This will basically reset the torque wrench.
Step 2 – Set the Inner Dial
There is an additional hand inside the dial for the desired torque level. All you have to do is use the center switch on top of the dial to set the other hand on the desired torque level.
This will help you to determine the correct torque when the indicator hand aligns with the desired torque level hand.
Step 3 – Place and Turn
The next step is simple. Just put the socket on the clamp and turn. Once the two internal hands on the dial align, you know that you have reached the optimum torque level.
Clicker Style Torque Wrench
But still, some prefer to use them for clicking accuracy. Here is a step-by-step process of using a clicker-style torque wrench.
Step 1 – Set the Torque Limit on the Base Handle
The base handle can be unlocked by turning the screw at the end of the counter. The handle itself has etched torque levels in both foot-pound and Nm.
All you have to do is turn the counter on the base handle to align with the desired torque level. Once it is aligned, use the base screw to tighten the counter and fix it in position.
Step 2 – Set the Socket and Turn
The next step is to set the socket. Once you have the desired socket, get on with the turning.
Step 3 – Listen for the Clicks
The key with the clicker style torque wrench is the clicking sound. Keep turning the handle until the clicks stop. The clicking will stop at the set torque limit beforehand.
Digital Torque Wrench
The last one that works for bicycle maintenance is the digital torque wrench. It is probably the latest and the easiest in line with different torque wrenches.
There are different digital torque wrenches depending on their usage. Large automobile uses digital wrenches that go up to 1000 foot-pounds. But for bicycles, small 100 foot-pound torque wrenches are enough.
Step 1 – Set the Torque Limit
The first step is to turn on the wrench and set the torque limit on the digital display. Just match with the torque limit of the clamp from the manual and use the pushers to set it.
Step 2 – Fix the Socket and Turn
Next fix the corresponding socket head to the clamp and turn the handle. This is where you need to be careful. Since it is a digital torque wrench, it will beep and show a green light when it approaches the desired torque limit.
Once it reaches the torque level, it will flash red light. That is when you know you have reached the correct torque limit.
Tips for Using Torque Wrench for Bicycle Maintenance
As you can already tell it is fairly easy to use a torque wrench for a bicycle. However, there are still some aspects you should be careful about.
Choosing the Right Socket
Make sure you have the correct socket to fit on the clamp. This is a basic precaution and, in most cases, you won’t even be able to use the torque wrench without the correct socket. But it is better to double-check beforehand.
Ignore the Margin of Error
Torque wrenches are mechanical devices. So, it is natural for them to have standard error limits. But the margins are so small that they can be ignored. Do not get ahead of yourself and overdo the turning.
Always Reset the Torque Wrench
This is something most people miss. It is important to always reset the torque to zero for analog ones. Or else it might mess with the intended limit.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are some common questions associated with torque wrenches. We will try to answer some of them here.
1/ Do you need a torque wrench to assemble a bicycle?
Answer: No, you don’t. Torque wrenches are specifically used for certain clamps on the bicycle. Most bike manufacturers already assemble those clamps before shipping them out. So, you will not be needing a torque wrench to assemble a bicycle.
2/ What torque should pedals be?
Answer: Any standard pedal should have a 360-inch pound of torque.
3/ Where is the torque wrench needed in a bicycle?
Answer: Torque wrenches are used in systematic clamps of a bicycle. These mostly include front and rear axle, pedals, and brake systems.
4/ How to maintain your torque wrench?
Answer: Torque wrenches are built to last. So, you won’t have to do anything extra to take care of the torque wrench. Just make sure the wrench is kept away from grease and oils. If it’s a digital one, make sure to keep it away from magnets as it might distort the torque limits.
Torque wrenches are absolutely necessary to maintain a bicycle for long-term usage. While they might function like any other wrench, the precision is what makes them a perfect choice for delicate clamps.
There are mainly 4 different torque wrenches for bicycles as we have outlined in this article. Make sure to follow the step-by-step guide while doing maintenance work and you should be fine.