You Say You Want a Revolution?

By Ray Birks

A 3-D printed wall mount in action.

This past year I’ve had a good friend with a 3d printer and a willingness to print anything I send his way and it’s made me think differently about tools and accessories for biking, specifically what I can 3d print to save some money and what’s out there that others have already designed and made available to print.

If you don’t quite understand what 3d printing is about, a simplistic explanation would be that you’re heating up a plastic-like filament and then putting down layer upon layer to shape whatever tool or accessory you want. Many files for items are available to download for free online or you can purchase some of the plans, which is cheaper than buying the actual item at the store or online. For example, there are many free plans for printing water bottle cages and although the initial cost of a 3d printer isn’t a pittance, once you have that purchase out of the way the cost of printing things comes down to cost of the filament.

The easiest way I’ve found to locate what I need is to use Google but there are many sites that host 3d files including these four which I’ve used in the past:

https://thingiverse.com/

https://cults3d.com/en

https://www.yeggi.com/

https://www.stlfinder.com/

Bottle holder or narrow water bottle holder.

I’ve found many useful tools and accessories that are made specifically for cycling and bikepacking. I’ve compiled a list below along with my review on the durability and ease of use compared to a tool or accessory purchased off the shelf.

Tools

  • Valve stem nut tool – This little tool can be chucked in your riding pack or toolset in order to loosen (or tighten just a little) those valve stem nuts. This is especially useful for situations where your tubeless setup needs a little help sealing, and tightening the nut sometimes does that trick. Note: don’t over tighten this nut because if you are out on the trail and need to remove it with your fingers it can be a painful experience. Thus, the need for this tool in your pack. It works well to tighten and loosen the nut but sometimes it’s hard to tell if the nut is actually moving inside the tool.
  • Brake piston spreader – This is an easy and fast print that makes a shim to put in between your brake pistons for when you remove your wheel for travel. It’s not a hard print and does what it’s supposed to do.

    3-D printed tire iron.

  • Tire irons – I’ve been skeptical to use mine because I’ve read reviews from other people that say if your tires are hard to get off the rims that the levers can break. But if you have a setup that is easy to remove, then 3d printed tire levers might work for you.
  • Wall mount – These are a very popular print for making a quick way to attach a bike to the wall to keep it off the floor and out of the way. This would be good for an office, garage or apartment setup where space is at a minimum. I never used mine because I have a bike rack but it’s another small print that may give big returns.
  • 5ml measuring cup – When I service my fork and change the oil I need to measure out small amounts

    The 5ml measuring cup.

    of fork oil, in some cases as small as 5ml. It’s tricky with a syringe as the amount of fluid is so small sometimes it’s hard to get an accurate reading. But this little measuring cup gives me the perfect amount I need, plus it’s darn cute!

  • Chain breaker – I had my doubts with this print because it seemed to be only useful to take apart a master link and not join one. I didn’t even get to test it out because it snapped when I was trying to remove the master link. I’ll stick to my Wolf Tooth Pack Pliers.
  • Bike chain multitool – This tool is supposed to check the wear of your chain when you place it in between the links. Two things I didn’t like about this were that

    The bike chain multi-tool, worth the print? You decide.

    I didn’t trust the tolerances of the tool to give an accurate reading and it was tricky to figure out which distance was the 0.50” and which was the 0.75”. It did work well to take the tension out of chain so I could attempt to use the chain breaker, but I prefer my modified coat hanger piece instead.

Bikepacking Accessories

  • Fork mount cage – I printed a few different types of these cages to go on my bikepacking bike and my first concern was that they would not be rigid enough to support a loaded bag. They passed the initial flex test in my hands when they first came off the printer and seem to hold up the same as ones I’ve purchased.

    The tested sporknife. This may be one to avoid making.

  • Handlebar roll cage – This print goes on the front of your handlebar and gives you a base to attach a roll bag, tent or some other item that just needs a little backing to keep it secure. It is rigid and works well.
  • Sporknife – This one didn’t work out so well because if you are eating something warm or stirring a hot beverage, the plastic tends to soften. Plus the printed surface is not as smooth as ones you can buy in the store and feels rough in your mouth.

Customizations

I haven’t 3d printed any of these items but they are some of the most popular ones available for cycling.

  • Valve stem caps – if you like to customize your bike, printing your own valve stem caps with a particular style or color is an easy and fast thing to print.

    A unique alternative valve stem cap. A Star Wars storm trooper.

  • Water bottle cages – I rarely carry water in a cage because I use my bags but this is another easy thing to print and there are a lot of styles to choose from, even one that holds two bananas.
  • Cable guides – printing your own colored cable guides is another small customization item.
  • Bottle holder – Best for cruising around town to a social engagement, this one fits on your handlebar. Instead of an adult beverage it can even hold a narrow water bottle.

Mud guard – This is another easy and quick print that will pay dividends the first time you need to use it.

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