Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Recently, I’ve assembled several new road rockets and was happy (and impressed) to see that almost all of the components have the torque (proper tightening specifications) etched right into the parts and in conspicuous places so you can’t miss them. Such as, on the bottom bracket cups and the hydraulic brake hose connectors.
This is super helpful for ensuring that mechanics get things tight enough and also don’t overtighten, which can and does lead to broken components. My training partner, Jeff, for example, once went to raise his seat mid ride, cranked too hard and broke the seatpost binder bolt in half. This was before cellphones so we had a good laugh as he rode all the way home while standing.
Get the Tight Right
The other thing that labeling parts with torque specs does is encourage home mechanics to get the tightness right, too. Because the number is staring you in the face and there’s no way to tell if you’re anywhere near the specified torque by feel – even more so with carbon components.
Before torquing was the norm, you could learn the feel of metal components and how tight was right. Also, you could twist parts without damaging them in most cases, to tell if the part was tight or needed a bit more. But, with carbon there’s no reliable feedback from the components or the bolts. And, if the bolts are titanium, it’s even worse because it stretches. Also, it’s best not to risk twisting carbon parts because it can score or scratch the carbon, which can lead to them breaking.
Tools for Torquing
So, with torque becoming so mainstream, I wasn’t surprised to receive a question the other day for a roadie named Matt about what to get. He asked, “What’s the best click-type torque wrench for the light home-wrencher to cover a reasonably full span of torque settings needed on bikes? I need something decent but nothing as heavy duty as you would for example.”
First I should explain for those unfamiliar with torque wrenches, that there are two common types. The click-type that Matt asks about is called that because to use them you first set the wrench to torque for the component you’re working on. Then, when you have got the bolt to the proper torque, the wrench makes a click noise and usually the end of the wrench on the bolt releases so that you don’t tighten anymore.
The audible and tactile feedback makes it highly unlikely you will damage a component by overtightening. In contrast, there are what’s called beam-type torque wrenches. You don’t preset these and they don’t provide audible or tactile feedback. Instead there’s a gauge with an indicator and you watch the reading and stop tightening when you reach the right torque number on the gauge.
Since Matt asked for click-types, that’s what I told him about and what I’m focusing on here. But, if you’re interested in a beam-type (which tend to be less expensive and work fine, too) I reviewed a nice portable one from Prestacycle a while back. Here’s that story: Prestacycle TorqRatchet Deluxe and T-Handle Ratchet Review.
Lots of choices
Back to Matt’s interest – click-types torque wrenches, I told him that there are many options. And that what to get depends on what you want to be able to torque, too.
What I found is that as I used one tool to torque things perfectly, I enjoyed knowing things were tightened to exact spec so much that I wanted to be able to torque everything. And, for that, I needed more torque wrenches and all the drivers/bits and sockets to fit every part on the bikes I work on.
This resulted over the years in quite an assortment of torque wrenches and tools for them in my shop and traveling toolbox. But, to simplify and because Matt wasn’t asking for a pro setup, I told him that I use these three most of the time with the assorted bits, sockets and drivers for the parts.
Park Tool’s TW-5.2
⅜ inch drive; range 2-14Nm
Park’s full write-up with video is here.
Park Tool’s TW-6.2
3/8 inch drive head; range 10-60Nm
Park’s full write-up with video is here.
1/4 inch drive head; range 3-15Nm
The ¼ drive on Pedro’s tool comes in handy because its head is a little smaller to fit into tight spaces. Also, for me I have accumulated quite a few ¼ inch drive sockets and bits.
Here’s Pedro’s write-up and product page.
Here’s my review of the three Park torque wrenches I like and mention here and their drivers/bits and sockets set, too.
Another of my torque wrenches that sees lots of use is an Effetto Mariposa GiustaForza. It’s also ¼-inch drive and even smaller than the Pedro’s. We reviewed it in RBR here: Effetto Mariposa GF Torque Wrench.
Here’s the write-up on the USA distributor Cantitoe Road’s site.
Tip: One of the fun things you can do as you add more torque wrenches to your bike fixing arsenal is to dedicate them for specific uses. That way you only need to set the torque on the tool and get to work instead of having to first change out the tool to the right bit. I have ones with 4mm, 5mm, 6mm allens and T25 torx bit at the ready.
Preset Tools are Handy for Basic Torquing Needs
If you only want to torque common things like stem and seatpost bolts, cable anchor bolts, stuff like that, a preset wrench comes in handy since the setup is so easy. For this I like Park’s ATD-1: https://amzn.to/2Xx4IuB.
It has a T handle, a ¼ inch hex drive and a 3, 4, 5mm and T25 bit are stored in the handle’s cap. The torque presets are 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, or 6 Nm. You twist the end of the handle to choose.
This is a heavy duty tool with a really solid click when you reach your torque setting. Last I knew Park was making it in house here in the USA. The quality is very nice.
Park’s full write-up and video is here.
If you like the idea of easy-to-use preset torque wenches, Prestacycle has the widest selection I’m aware of. Check it out: https://www.prestacycle.com/product/prestacycle-torqkey-t-handle-torque-limiting-bits-tool-kit/ .
If the prices for the Parks and Pedro’s seem high, you can find alternatives on Amazon for non bike brand tools. I have bought a couple different ones for use in my travelling toolbox for working on my RV, from a company called Tekton. One of these I use to torque the lug nuts which is way more torque than any bike part.
But, I haven’t used and abused these tools as much as I have my bike-spec torquers so I don’t know how long they’ll last.
Readers, if you have a favorite torque wrench you’d tell Matt to buy, please share it in a comment.
Ride total: 9,618
Speaking about torque wrenches, what about the rather inexpensive 1/4 in. drive click type from Harbor Freight? Any feedback?
Tom, it appears to be a great value but the only problem is based on the PDF of the manual, it appears to only be in inch-pounds and not Newton-meters, which are the metric units of torque for bike components. I suppose you could convert but I’d rather have the correct units on the tool.
Great article on a tool that all cyclists should have. Some bikes (with my two old steel LeMonds being examples) used to come with an owner’s manual that included the recommended torque in inch-pounds for every nut and bolt on the bike. That information is even more important on bikes with carbon fiber frame and with handle bars, seat posts and other parts of the same material. Good luck on digging up torque info for them.
Another article on recommended torque range for various nuts and bolts on a bike would also be of interest. It would be different for carbon fiber, steel and aluminum parts.
I also prefer the click-type torque wrench and have been using one bought at Sears many years ago
Bruce Ross says
I like the Shimano Pro Torque Wrench Precision Tool, adjustable from 3 – 15NM. It has a 1/4″ drive and comes with a Hex 3, 4, 5 and 6MM and Torx T25 and T30 plus an adapter – all mounted in a very nice plastic case. Presumably since it is made by Shimano this Torque Wrench is cycling specific.
Stephen Turk says
I also have a PRO torque wrench. It looks identical to the Pedro’s Demi shown above except that, as you note, the PRO comes with several drivers and the Demi does not. Probably made on the same production line, maybe in Taiwan., and sold under different names.
I am certainly happy with my PRO – what makes it “cycling specific” is that the range of 3 – 15 NM is appropriate for almost all bike components.
Park Toll 5.2 and 6.2 torque wrenches are made at the same Taiwan production facility as Pedros, Pro, Neiko, and a number of other generic torque wrenches. The wrench internals are identical. The only differences are small external handle differences, paint, and logos.
Will Haltiwanger says
I have purchased a Pro Bike Tool wrench and bits, but it is difficult to find torque values. As mentioned above a chart of typical torques for various components and/or bolt sizes would be greatly appreciated.
Stephen Turk says
Will – always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the component. Torque values are usually specified. For general guidance, Park Tool has a useful chart that you can download from their website: https://www.parktool.com/assets/img/repairhelp/torque.pdf
Will Haltiwanger says
Thanks Stephen, That is still a lot of info to try to sort. We have 5 bikes with another on the way. and some are 20 plus years old so any instructions are long gone and there are lots of replacement parts and different manufacturers. I am looking for something simple that should get me in the ballpark like:
Stem to Steerer Tube
Stem to Handlebar: 2-bolt, 4- bolt, Aluminum, Carbon
Or just a chart for acceptable torques for each size bolt:
3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm etc.
I have worked by feel for almost 30 years without a problem so maybe I should have left this can of worms undisturbed.