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What are the basic tools I'll need no matter what bike I pick up? Brand recommendations are also welcome.
 

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Allen wrenches
socket set
screwdrivers
torque wrench
wrench set
Rubber mallet

I would get them from Harbor Freight using 20% off coupons from moto mags and DIY mags. They are average quality with lifetime warranty. There are even coupons for free screwdrivers and multimeters.
 

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Elbow Grease is Cheap
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I'll add to what Mike posted.

First thing, concentrate on metric tools.

Whatever torque wrench you buy, calibrate it. pretty simple to do just need a bolt that won't turn and a something of a known weight. 10 lbs or so should be fine(barbell, gallon of water, etc.) you can find out the details of the math on the net or youtube.

Breaker bars. get a 3/8 and 1/2 in drive. ratchets shouldn't be used for loosening stubborn bolts as it can wear out or break the ratcheting mechanism.
Ratcheting wrenches aren't a necessity, but come in handy. Especially in tight spaces.
T-handle allen wrenches with the little ball on the end.
allen sockets. especially for the larger allen bolts(8mm and up)
Soldering iron.
Loctite. not a tool, but very useful.

I love me angle grinder :robssmilie:
 

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Littering And...........
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Yeah what these guys said. Pretty much everything you need>>>HF. That'll pretty much take care of every tool you need without killing your wallet. And for the most parts the tools are good. I haven't had any issues except with their grinders. I've gone through fucking 3 of them.
 

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Watch the world burn
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You'll need a multimeter to chase electrical gremlins and some electrical tape. One of those $5 1-man brake bleeder kits, and a good tire pressure gauge.
 

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I have had good luck with their grinders. $8 on sale with a coupon. I beat them up good, drop them, attach homemade bits, run out of balance wire wheels, etc. I have two, one with a cut of wheel and one with a grinding wheel.

I had a Dewalt that I used for 30 min straight and it bled all its grease out and died.
 

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HF is good for most tools, though I would recommend buying a quality ratchet/socket set. Get one from Craftsman or Kobalt (Lowe's), you can get a nice set for around $50. They won't break the first time you slip a cheater bar over it, have a smaller ratchet swing for tight spaces, and generally just work better.

Get a set of metric 3/8" drive hex keys (4-5-6mm takes care of probably 95% of needs)
Set of metric "L" hex keys

Set of metric end wrenches

Multimeter (HF gives these away with a purchase and coupon, and they work fine)

Smallish channel lock pliers
Needle nose pliers

Swingarm stand, as most sportbikes don't have a center stand. ebay one for like $40.

For basic maintenance and mods that's all you need.
 

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Elbow Grease is Cheap
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forgot to add:

Toolbox. I've actually got a few of them.

Dental picks. great for various reasons and cheap as well. Have used these more times than I remember.

telescopic magnet tool.

circlip pliers. there's only a couple of places on a bike that have circlips. Brake master cylinders and some wheel bearings. Without the special pliers, you won't remove or replace them easily (without alot of cussing and/or throwing random tools)

Get a pair of the combination circlip pliers, as they'll work for internal or external circlips.

Also, some newer bikes have some Torx head bolts. you can just get some bits for a combination screwdriver or ratchet.
 

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You'll need a multimeter to chase electrical gremlins and some electrical tape.
Allen wrenches
socket set
screwdrivers
torque wrench
wrench set
Rubber mallet

I would get them from Harbor Freight using 20% off coupons from moto mags and DIY mags. They are average quality with lifetime warranty. There are even coupons for free screwdrivers and multimeters.
I can second the multi-meter. Even a very cheap one is totally worth it.

And I've gone without any sort of hammer other than a claw-hammer for years and years. But MikeGyver is spot on. On the recommendation of a friend I bought a small-ish hammer, one face plastic one face rubber. It has revolutionised my ability to Do Work on old crappy bikes, I can't recommend it enough.

Everything else in this thread is a good idea for sure, and available fairly cheap. I think I am right in thinking that in American English "wrenches" are what British English speakers call "spanners" the type with an open end at one end and a ring at the other are essential on bikes as there is often not enough room to get a socket and ratchet on a nut, due to such compact designs.
 

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think I am right in thinking that in American English "wrenches" are what British English speakers call "spanners" the type with an open end at one end and a ring at the other
Correct.

When you are working on vehicles do you say you were "spanning" cause we say we were "wrenching"?
 

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Correct.

When you are working on vehicles do you say you were "spanning" cause we say we were "wrenching"?
"Spinning Spanners"
 
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