The new year is almost upon us, and as I was taking advantage of a rare opportunity today to slow down and clean and organize the work area, I began thinking about the new tools and products I've been enjoying over the past year. So I thought I'd share. Some of these might be appropriate gifts for your favorite enthusiast mechanic, while some are more suited to the people who wrench on bikes every day. Regardless, they're all things I particuarly enjoyed using over the last year. Maybe you'll find something cool in this list that you weren't clued in on before.
Maxima SC-1 Silicone Polish
So I guess the mountain bros have known about this stuff for a while, and use it on their stanchions. This stuff is seriously slick--way better than other frame polishes I've used. That said, it's not really 1-step. You definitely have to clean the bike first, then apply the SC-1, let it sit for a minute, then rub it in vigorously. It's totally worth the work though, and it even kept Andy's notoriously filthy bikes much, much cleaner over the course of the season.
Hayes Feel'r Gauge
This is one of those tools that I would see in the tool catalogue but never actually tried. It's actually a very effective little tool (assuming your disc mounts are faced properly). The two little metal spacers go on either side of the rotor, so it's better at centering the caliper than just squeezing the lever, as it eliminates the problem of uneven piston travel.
This is a tool for the pro mechanic. Anyone who's ever tried to remove a plastic-cupped Shimano pressfit BB knows that it's hard to get it out of the frame without damaging the plastic housing, potentially to the point where a new BB must be fitted. Well, this tool solves that problem. I wish it worked with more bottom brackets than just the Shimano PF-86 (most others it ends up popping the bearing out of the housing), but damn does it work well on those. You can pretty much knock out a bottom bracket in a hammer blow or two (or 3 if Loctited) without any damage. While it's a bit expensive for what seems a relatively simple hunk of steel, it only takes saving a couple bottom brackets to make up for the cost. It's also surprisingly pleasurable to use.
Motorex Bike Grease 2000 and Carbon Paste
Motorex is synonymous with high-quality Swiss-made lubricants and other maintenance products. I've really been digging this little grease pot as well as the carbon paste, both of which come with built-in brushes in the cap. The grease looks very much like the Shimano stuff, both in terms of color and consistency, and is great as an all-purpose grease. The carbon paste interestingly does not contain any abrasive particles, so it won't scratch up your seatpost. It's worked just as well as the Fiber Grip I've used in the past, but doesn't require me to spread it around with my fingers. Good stuff.
Shimano TL-SR23 Chainwhip
So I broke my chainwhip earlier this year and needed to get a replacement. I was looking at this one, and it was definitely a bit more expensive than some of the others. "What the hell," I thought, "treat yo'self!" Well, I'm glad I did. This chainwhip is super-satisfying to use. You really don't know what you're missing until you've used this one, and I know that sounds weird talking about a chainwhip. It's hard to explain. It's just solid, with a good balance and geometry, and the little doohick on the end of the chain is a magnet that will stick to the cog, keeping a good chainwrap and never popping off like some chainwhips do when you're putting the torque on it. 10/10 would buy again.
Park Tool DSD-2
This screwdriver falls under the same category. It's expensive (for a screwdriver) but oh so satisfying to use. It's a JIS screwdriver with the express purpose of fitting Shimano derailleur screws, which I realize are now moving to hex head, but there's still a lot of use for this guy. It's nice and long for plenty of torque, fits the derailleur screws perfectly, and has a nice heft and balance that inspire confidence. A screwdriver you can pass on to your grandchildren.
P&K Lie Spoke Tension Meter
I saved the best for last. This little beauty is truly a work of art. It's machined in Germany by Phil and Karen Lie, who also make an absolutely breathtaking truing stand (if you have a couple $k burning a hole in your pocket), is available with either analog or digital gauge, and a variety of colors. The spoke rests roll on needle bearings for maximum accuracy, and it comes with tension charts for all Sapim and DT Swiss spokes, in addition to a calibration test stick to make sure your gauge is reading accurately. The precision of the beautiful Kafer gauge is amazing--a huge step up from the cheap tensiometer that I used for so many years. For those who build a lot of wheels, you owe it to your customers to build with the level of accuracy and precision this tool affords. And you owe it to yourself to have a tool that's such a pleasure to use! Another heirloom-quality tool for sure.
Anyway, those were a few of the highlights over the past year. Thanks for reading, and happy wrenching in 2019!