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 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.
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
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Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.