The Best Tool for the Job

Rule #94 and The Evolution of the Pedal Wrench

Rule #94 and The Evolution of the Pedal Wrench

by / / 105 posts

Given the fact that everyone over-tightens their pedals to the crank arms, one needs a long lever to get too much torque. Rule #94 decrees using the correct tool and using it correctly. While the proper tool has always been available, it is up to us to evolve, to understand the difference between right and wrong, between vice-grip and open-ended wrench. And to understand that there is a large gulf between the right tool for the job and the best tool for the job.

Early in the Velominatus life cycle, the bicycle and its pedals arrived as one, fully formed. We were not removing and rebuilding our tricycle pedals. Our first “starter bike” ten-speed also came with “starter” pedals but the pedal, as an obvious point of contact with the pavement, might have demanded replacement. Replacing a pedal would happen long before rebuilding one. Removing the ruined one would only require a wrench and assuming the V-father was not a mechanic, the  adjustable wrench was the only tool in the box. Here the Pedalwan uttered his or her first curse words. The jaws of the adjustable wrench may have been a bit too fat and a bit too loose to do the job. Turning the left pedal ever tighter (the wrong direction?), instead of looser, a wrench might slip, a pedal surface damaged and perhaps blood was spilled. What better reason to curse your god? What better reason to wonder about a better tool while holding your bloody hand under the faucet?

If you had a savvy father who owned a set of open-ended wrenches and entertained the possibility that a pedal could be reverse-threaded, you were of the chosen few.

The correctly sized open-ended wrench is the right tool for the job.

Campagnolo made a bottom bracket fixed cup/pedal tool. Though not their most beautiful one, it was the right tool. When over-torquing a pedal, one gripped the fixed cup end of the tool. Biomechanically, it was imperfect. Park Tool improved on it by including a comfortable and longer hand grip for efficient over-torquing. Not unlike General Motors, at some point Park Tool quietly modified their pedal wrench. I don’t think they came right out and said “For the unfortunate many who now have permanent scarring on their right hand from driving the big ring teeth deep into your flesh, we are sorry.” If the Velominati were still “saving themselves” from using the worst kind of anglo-saxon curses uttered in their lives, misusing the Park pedal wrench would guarantee a trip to Father Flavin’s Confessional Booth. “For fuck’s sake Father, pardon me Father, but I’ll have a greasy tattoo scar across my knuckles forever because of this shiet, pardon me Father, wrench”.

Incorporating a beer bottle opener into various tools did not occur to the engineers at Park Tool. And this is why we love Lezyne so much. Yes, it is more expensive and yes, it is a better pedal wrench and yes, they mill a beautiful bottle opener into it. To hold it is to love it. It is Rule #94. It is not just the right tool for the job, for there are many functional pedal wrenches available but it is the best one for the job. Even without the bottle opener it would still be the best pedal wrench. Its handle and heft make it an item one would happily wield to slaughter the advancing hoards of the undead. If, in the slaughtering, either the handle or the business end gets worn down, it comes apart and one end or the other could be replaced. When the slaughtering is done, at least for now, (because that job is seemingly never really done), one can open a fine cold beer with it and debate if this tool is the correct one for this job.

// The Rules

  1. @Mikael Liddy Ah, ok thanks, thought it might have been reference to the swill brewed under licence in Australia…  A mate and I once spent an evening going through every bottled beer in a local pub and real Peroni came out as one the top few in the refreshing beverage stakes.

  2. Pedals on a normal roadie don’t need to be pit on too tight, as they continue to tighten themselves as we ride.  I  spin em on, then give them a quick nip.

    On a fixed track bike, different story, as you might need to slow suddenly on the first lap.

    For removal, getting the crankshaft in the right position os at least as important as using a good tool.

  3. After taking skin off knuckles with both the chain ring and the front mudguard (on my commuter bike), I have started using a standard spanner and my foot to loosen pedals. Arrange the crank so that the spanner is below the chainring, and also so that applying downward force doesn’t move the cranks backwards. Apply the rear brake, then apply gentle force with your foot. The pedal loosens nicely, and no stripped knuckles, or any danger of banging your face off the frame (hasn’t happened to me, but I could see it happening if applying force with my hands….)

  4. @tessar

    Stand over the top bar, tranquilo.

    To loosen, the key is coming up when the pedal is forward.

    Hold the key in both hands, push down with the foot (gravity and guns combined) and bingo. Rotate cranks and do the other pedal.

    Works every time.

    No possibility of hitting hands on anything.

    Lots of force if you need it, not that you should.

    But obviously not as good as the Speedplay system.

  5. @ChrisO Might try that once to see then.

    However, I’m sticking to my Ultegra SL – shiny silver, bulletproof, and with wrench flats. Can’t see a reason to replace them (though I did manage to get the cleats gunked up when I stepped in rotten dates by accident – I’m sure you’re able to picture that).

  6. I personally like my Time RXS hex key attachment method.  I, too, never thought about the chain in the big ring – doh!

    As far as bottle openers, I use the Wisecracker on my MTB (rigid SS).  In the shop (my basement), I use a bench mounted opener.  A buddy has a crank bottle opener and I want one bad, just haven’t gotten around to getting an old crank and slicing it up.

  7. @Ken Ho

    For removal, getting the crankshaft in the right position os at least as important as using a good tool.

    This.

  8. Who would have thought a German/US cross could produce so many superb tools? I blame the brain drain after ww2.

    I own a number of Lezyne products as they all work so well, and look so damn fine.

    Btw in Roma Peroni comes in a brown bottle, and tastes just fine, even if I do prefer birra Moretti.

  9. @tessar

    P.S: Garmin’s Vector pedals rely on being torqued properly – that’s 34-40Nm. Quite high for a plain short hex key.

    If they rely on being torqued properly, you shouldn’t be using a plain short hex key, you should be using a torque wrench.

  10. Here’s another well thought out option from Abbey Tool Works. I have a growing number of their tools….

  11. Hmm…let’s try that again…

  12. Well..I am gonna have to give my computer a little Rule #5 smack down as it doesn’t want to up load the pic so here-

    http://www.abbeybiketools.com/collections/all-products/products/pedal-wrench

  13. @Haldy Got it. Abbey will notify when the tool is available. Used their Crombie last week to remove cassette — unfortunately the Crombie doesn’t measure 40 Nm.

  14. @Haldy

    Well..I am gonna have to give my computer a little Rule #5 smack down as it doesn’t want to up load the pic so here-

    http://www.abbeybiketools.com/collections/all-products/products/pedal-wrench

    Wow, that is nice. The one wrench that would shut everyone up. That is a clever design. And I guess a bottle could be opened with it too. And Abby Tool makes the Crombie! Clever buggers.

  15. @Haldy Abbey’s stuff is tits.  I hadn’t seen that one yet.

  16. @Gianni

    @Haldy

    Well..I am gonna have to give my computer a little Rule #5 smack down as it doesn’t want to up load the pic so here-

    http://www.abbeybiketools.com/collections/all-products/products/pedal-wrench

    Wow, that is nice. The one wrench that would shut everyone up. That is a clever design. And I guess a bottle could be opened with it too. And Abby Tool makes the Crombie! Clever buggers.

    I have the dual sided Crombie here at the the shop…the VMH got it for me as a Christmas present. Best tool I have hands down. The beauty of it is that it fits over the qr nub…no need to pull the qr to change cassettes…that saves an amazing large amount of time in the life of a shop mechanic!

  17. I agree the Lezyne is nice looking, but I contend that a cast Snap-On combination wrench, polished to mirror shine, is an object to be far more desired.  I was one of those fortunates who had a tool-savvy father.  As an example, at age 15 I sandblasted a frame down to bare metal, welded a fabricated piece onto the chainstays for a bottom-mounted caliper, and sprayed the whole thing with a coat of white pearl before re-assembly.

  18. @Haldy

    Well..I am gonna have to give my computer a little Rule #5 smack down as it doesn’t want to up load the pic so here-

    http://www.abbeybiketools.com/collections/all-products/products/pedal-wrench

    Dammit! At least I know what to add to the Merckx-mas wish list. This sport, and this site, are terrible for my financial self-control.

  19. @ChrisO Nice, I have evolved to a similar technique by Tria

    @ChrisO

    @tessar

    Stand over the top bar, tranquilo.

    To loosen, the key is coming up when the pedal is forward.

    Hold the key in both hands, push down with the foot (gravity and guns combined) and bingo. Rotate cranks and do the other pedal.

    Works every time.

    No possibility of hitting hands on anything.

    Lots of force if you need it, not that you should.

    But obviously not as good as the Speedplay system.

    Nice …  I landed on this technique through trial and error over 25 years, I was doing it subconsciously but never realized it until I read your post…  On another note my brother used to work a large bike shop and used to have people coming in with broken cone wrenches demanding free replacements almost everyday, to which he promptly replied “you weren’t by chance trying to take your pedals off with it were you?” ….

  20. Cheers @Gianni – this article brought a welcome blast of mirth and some pleasant musing at the end of a very long working day. Great stuff!

  21. Damn, I feel as if I’m late for the big spring kickoff party! Beers, tools, bottle openers disguised as bike tools…

  22. My Shimano set (pic hopefully posted successfully) is more than a uni-tasker but evolution means that I don’t have the opportunity to work on threaded headsets or cup and cone bottom brackets very often at all. The pedal spanner is the only one that gets much use. I’m still looking for that humungus beer bottle that will be opened by the closed 36mm end. Crank position key to keeping knuckle skin intact. There are many more suitable tools in the shed for dealing with the undead. Like a ladder. Zombies can’t climb can they?

  23. @DeKerr

    @Haldy

    Well..I am gonna have to give my computer a little Rule #5 smack down as it doesn’t want to up load the pic so here-

    http://www.abbeybiketools.com/collections/all-products/products/pedal-wrench

    Dammit! At least I know what to add to the Merckx-mas wish list. This sport, and this site, are terrible for my financial self-control.

    Tell me about it…I plan on getting the Derailleur alignment gauge sometime soon. I have the BB tool as well.

  24. @ChrisO

    8mm hex makes so much more sense – it’s a common tool which you probably have on a set with other keys used elsewhere on the bike.

    If you need more leverage it’s because you over-tightened them or didn’t grease them.

    I find this Speedplay love quite fascinating – it’s more of a series of excuses. No you can’t walk on them but I like that, yes they wear out but you can rebuild them, OK they don’t work if a speck of dust gets in but you just carry a Dustbuster in your pocket, and by the way you need a special tool with no other purpose apart from opening beer (because those are hard to find) and killing zombies (because we do a lot of that) just to remove the fuckers, during which process you may gouge your hand to the bone, but it’s character-building.

    Have I missed any of their other special advantages?

    They must suck if Cancellara uses them to crush his enemies and to hear the lamentation of zee women.

  25. @ChrisO

    8mm hex makes so much more sense – it’s a common tool which you probably have on a set with other keys used elsewhere on the bike.

    If you need more leverage it’s because you over-tightened them or didn’t grease them.

    I find this Speedplay love quite fascinating – it’s more of a series of excuses. No you can’t walk on them but I like that, yes they wear out but you can rebuild them, OK they don’t work if a speck of dust gets in but you just carry a Dustbuster in your pocket, and by the way you need a special tool with no other purpose apart from opening beer (because those are hard to find) and killing zombies (because we do a lot of that) just to remove the fuckers, during which process you may gouge your hand to the bone, but it’s character-building.

    Have I missed any of their other special advantages?

    For consideration, would there be a use for teflon thread tape on newly installed pedals? And here is another character-building tool/activity — and the tool itself has character.

    .

  26. @unversio

    Why seal pedal threads?

  27. @DerHoggz Not seal. Create separation as the pedal tightens — acting like grease, but won’t migrate out over 2 or 3 years.

  28. @DerHoggz Previous Mavic (8mm hex) pedals were in for 2 years. Once removed (forcefully) could see plenty of white grease at the edges but not so much on the threads. Guessing that it migrated out ??

  29. @ErikdR

    Cheers @Gianni – this article brought a welcome blast of mirth and some pleasant musing at the end of a very long working day. Great stuff!

    Cheers yourself. Glad someone sees some mirth there. I’ve been waiting to introduce Father Flavin for quite some time.

  30. I got me one of these, it’s called a popener.  If we throw a picture of the Prophet on it we could call it a Merckxener.

  31. Damn it. My phone didn’t post the picture. Google “popener” to get the idea until I figure it out.

  32. I really should have learnt, after all these years, not to eat and read this site at the same time.
    Still, a wet-wipe will sort out the evidence currently deposited on my desk.
    Genius!
    David

  33. @Rhodri

    If you’ve ever used a torque wrench on a hex Pedals do require quite a few Nm, wouldn’t be surprised if there’s plenty of people who under-tighten their’s probably as a result of using a shiny undersized bottle opener ;)

    Nah really I imagine most pedal wrenches are so long for getting the damn things off. Putting the chain on the big ring helps the knuckles.

    @unversio

    @tessar

    Also, it’s far more difficult to reach the inside of the cranks than the outside, and I still managed to bash myself on the chainrings.

    After scaring my hand this past week my mechanic politely informed me “Oh yes forgot to tell you to put the chain on the big ring.” Why did I not see? I was blind.

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

  34. @Ccos

    I got me one of these, it’s called a popener. If we throw a picture of The Prophet on it we could call it a Merckxener.

    I read the first syllable as “pop” and couldn’t imagine wtf it could be. Quite a different thing when pronounced correctly!

  35. @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s  to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

  36. How much leverage do you need?

  37. @ChrisO

    @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

    Similar method to a torque wrench — don’t leave a forceful setting that was used when putting it away — set it lower to relieve tension.

  38. @Marcus the only problem with that photo is the Italian beer.

  39. @ChrisO

    @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

    I don’t buy it.  As long as you aren’t putting the RD springs past their plastic deformation point (and there is no way that is happening), it shouldn’t matter.

  40. I’ve spent most of my life thinking I was the only person alive who loves Conan, Over the Top, The Warriors, Red Dawn, and a few other 80s gems. But nope, the Followers/Keepers also love Barbarians! And Destroyers!

    Thanks be to my older brother! I was listening to AC/DC and watching the movie “Colors” when I was all of eight years old. Nice!

  41. @Tartan1749

    @ChrisO

    @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

    I don’t buy it. As long as you aren’t putting the RD springs past their plastic deformation point (and there is no way that is happening), it shouldn’t matter.

    Nor should it matter if your valve stems are not aligned with your tyre labels, your bike is burdened by an EPMS and your stem rises priapically.

    See where I’m coming from here?

  42. @ChrisO

    @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

    I have so much to learn. And more to unlearn.

  43. @ChrisO

    @Bespoke

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because you’re supposed to leave it on the small ring-biggish rings when not riding.

    IIRC it’s to do with derailleur tension or something like that but I’ve never seen a controlled experiment in a peer-reviewed journal so it could be load of bollocks.

    I do this but I put it in the little ring and little cog.  That’s where the rear mech is in its most relaxed position.  Easy enough to remember on Campagnolo: press both thumb levers down all the way.

  44. Other tools that fall in the same category as the pedal wrench (i.e., otherwise useless tool whose existence is owed to specifics of bicycle mechanisms) are the chain whip and lock ring tool.  You can get the lock ring off without them, but fuck if you won’t lacerate your hands and ruin your clothes while doing it, while considerably expanding the sailor vocabulary of your nine-year-old (who, unbeknownst to you, is listening with rapt attention in the next room).

  45. @TheVid

    @Ken Ho

    For removal, getting the crankshaft in the right position os at least as important as using a good tool.

    This.

    This squared.  I find putting the bike in a trainer works best, especially when the pedals have been over-torqued.

  46. @Bespoke

    @Rhodri

    Putting the chain on the big ring helps the knuckles.

    And why, pray tell, is the chain not on the big ring all the time?!

    Because it was someone else’s bike. Honest.

  47. I am in love….

  48. @VbyV Tool savvy father is spot on.

    I have stuff I inherited (snap on amongst others) that is 40 years old and as good as when it was made.  My dad taught me nothing about bikes and everything about bikes because he taught me understanding of mechanics and appreciation of good tools.

  49. My Dad taught me that any nut can be loosened using a Sidchrome ring spanner slipped into  a suitable length of  2″ water pipe for added leverage.

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