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Torque in Bike Maintenance – Why it matters

What is torque?

The simplest definition of torque is ‘a measure of rotational force about an axis’ – Torque is a twisting force that causes rotation. When you yank on a wrench to tighten or loosen a bolt, you are applying torque.

 

Torque is measured in Newton Meters (Nm) or Foot Pounds (Ft-Lb), with 1 Nm converting to 0.74 Ft-lb – or 1Ft-Lb working out at 1.36 Nm.

Why is torque becoming more important in bike maintenance than ever before?

The majority of recent developments in cycling technology revolve around using lighter and stiffer materials in bike frames and components that boost performance and cut weight. Carbon fibre is now more commonly used in bikes than it ever was thanks to advancing technologies and the proven performance benefits of carbon fibre.

However, as high-end carbon fibre parts become lighter, stiffer and stronger, they also become more prone to damage. While frame tubes and clamping systems are becoming stronger, they’re also becoming more brittle – they need to be installed and maintained within certain guidelines or they can crack or get compressed.

All modern bike components come with recommended torque settings at fastening points – think stem faceplates or seat post bolts for example. These are the recommended values that should be applied when working on that part of the bicycle that meets the required torque for safety but prevents any risk of over-tightening and damage.

Take a look at your bike – if you have any carbon components, there will be a recommended torque printed in small numbers on it somewhere.

CREDIT: Road Cycling UK

CREDIT: Thomson

Many riders and mechanics claim that tightening bolts ‘on feel’ is sufficient when they maintain their bike, believing they can ‘feel’ the difference between, for example, 4Nm and 6Nm. However, this is far from likely to be the case day-in-day-out. People’s perception of strength varies by the hour, and what feels like 4Nm at the start of a long maintenance session can feel very different to when you reach the end of that piece of work.

And this is why you need a torque wrench!

What is a torque wrench and how do they work?

Quite simply, a torque wrench is an investment that will save you a lot of money in the future. They’re precision calibrated instruments that measure rotational force and indicate when a set torque has been reached.

There are various types of torque wrench, all which operate slightly differently. PRO BIKE TOOL torque wrenches are designed so that they ‘click out’ at the torque that you have set them to. This means that a click is emitted and can be felt in your hand when you reach the torque that has been specified. The wrench momentarily releases pressure passing through the handle and into the head and you can feel the shift in momentum.

At low Nm settings under 5 Nm the click can be ‘subtle’, which is normal for all click torque wrenches. We, therefore, recommend operating the torque wrench in a quiet environment. The click will feel and sound ‘stronger’ when used at a higher torque.

At the point where the wrench ‘clicks out,’ you must stop tightening straight away to avoid over-torqueing a component.

What torque wrench options are available to me?

PRO BIKE TOOL produces three types of torque wrench:

2-20Nm Torque Wrench Set

This 1/4” drive wrench set is an absolute must-have for all riders – a staple piece of maintenance equipment no matter what your discipline or level of experience.

This set covers the torque ranges most commonly used all over the bicycle, from stems and shocks to seat posts and saddle rails. The set includes a range of 11 Allen and Torx bits to cover all eventualities, as well as a 100mm extension bar to get into those tricky areas.

10-60Nm Torque Wrench Set

This 3/8” drive set is for the heavy-duty jobs on your bicycle such as when maintaining the bottom bracket or cranks. It’s also a great choice for work on cars, motorcycles or scooters.

This set is every bit as precise and well-made as our flagship 2-20Nm set, only with BRAWN! It includes two different socket adapters and an extension bar, so you’re ready for anything.

Adjustable Torque Wrench

A lightweight, portable and easy-to-use tool that’s just as useful in the home workshop as it is in your bag when traveling with your bike.

The adjustable wrench can be used at 4, 5 and 6Nm, and includes four essential tool bits for everyday maintenance of your bicycle. It’s all worked into one easy to use gadget that you’ll use all the time!

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