Brett’s Apron

Did you ever wonder what items you do and don’t need to carry in your apron at a bicycle service department? Brett Flemming has been culling his apron tools since 1979.




This is the Bike Gallery apron, it says “go by bike.” It’s made by Jandd with some modified upper slots to hold the long thin items.


This is a cool little micrometer pin that I bought on eBay. I just like to put it there as a reminder that I’ve trained myself to be a machinist. I’ve really looked up to machinists since I discovered that machinists existed. The more I studied the world the more I realized that people like that are the folks that have built the modern industrial world. Virtually everything we touch is a result of machinists work or involvement.


A brass name badge. I didn’t do that for vanity, I did that because every other kind of name badge gets snagged and ripped-off as it tries to travel through the atmosphere attached to my body. This way I will always have a nametag while I’m working.


A piece of spoke bent into a configuration to hold two ends of a chain while the fastening operation is being accommodated. I just put a little mandrel in the vise and bend it around the mandrel so I have a nice looking coil, and bend the ends so they’re symmetrical. If I was really making it right I would de-burr the ends of the tool so that it wasn’t sharp. That one looks like it was one I made in a hurry – sometimes I give mine away and just make another.


Gingher three inch scissors – made in Germany.


A tire lever that’s becoming my favorite – the new Bontrager tire lever. I really like the shape of it. I only need one in the apron.


Magnetic pick-up with a small head that couldn’t be more than 5/16” in diameter. The small head is nice for going down into hubs and picking up bearings more easily. The tool is telescoping and will easily reach items lost under your bench.


English made tire gauge – it goes up to 120 PSI. It’s not exactly the greatest thing in the world but I keep it on hand. I hardly ever use it because I make inflators. It just makes me feel good knowing it’s there with a properly adjusted presta valve adaptor. That brass presta valve adaptor is actually shortened so that when you use that pressure gauge it presses down on the presta valve to allow the pressure to be measured. A lot of people don’t study how most presta valve adaptors have never been the correct length for years and years. Nobody ever looked at that. Its funny – about every one you buy is incorrect if you ever wanted to measure pressure.


Poker-Ace multi-tool from EVT with a bend left over from something I was doing with it


Bondhus metric hex key set from 1.5mm up to 6mm. Bondhus has the best metallurgy – the best everything. A lot of wrenches try to copy that multi-angle entry and rotation but Bondhus just really delivers the torque even at an extreme angle much better than anything I’ve ever tried.


Bic ballpoint pen.


Of course, the ubiquitous Sharpie pen.


Shimano TLCN 23 10 speed compatible chain tool with a custom extended brass handle. The handles they come with are too spindly and short so I put on a longer handle.


Starrett metric English tape – measure 3 meters or 10 feet.


Shimano TLFC 16 dust cap remover for the Hollowtech-2 crankarm.


8mm-9mm-10mm Y-wrench just handy to get some fasteners tight and loose.


Park AWS-1 4mm – 5mm – 6mm Y hex key.


Efficient Velo Tools Knuckle Saver which when used with my pedal wrench can get those 8mm pedals off pretty easy.


Shimano TLFC 20 chainring peg spanner. I hardly ever use it but when you need it you need it and it doesn’t take up much space in the apron – just as well have it there.


Stretch” valve core remover tool from EVT.


The very first lathe bit that I ever sharpened. I went to this community college in Sioux City Iowa to take a machine shop class and this guy’s nickname was Doc. I don’t know much more about him. He basically said “okay now, don’t cut your arms off and don’t do anything stupid and here’s how to use these machines and go ahead and start knocking yourself out” and he gave us some material and we just started making stuff. So I tried to make frame building fixtures. I made those blocks for my alignment table, a shaper and a big radial drill press. The first thing we did in that class, however, was to sharpen that lathe bit. He taught us how to sharpen lathe bits with proper geometry and that there by gosh I think is pretty good geometry. You don’t need a lathe bit in an apron for lathe work but it’s really nice to have a little piece of high-speed steel sharpened just like that so you can peel off a burr – if some handlebars get a little burr in them, instead of finding a file you can just reach in your apron and just shave the burr off. If people’s levers grind away on the pavement and they have rough edges you can just take that lathe bit out and just shave the high spots off those things immediately and it feels better and just doesn’t seem like that bad of a crash for the customer.


Toenail clippers. I prefer the convex rather than concave style, it just nibs down there and cuts those zip ties off real tight. After a zip-tie is cut it needs to be trimmed so there’s no sharp edge. You don’t ever want the sharp edge of a zip tie touching anybody’s hand or irritating them or causing a little cut.


A little treasure chest of Dia-Compe brake wrenches. It’s a complete set and they were most likely last produced in the ‘80s. Who knows, maybe over in Japan they’re still made. They’re beautifully forged, nicely balanced, perfectly sized bicycle wrenches. They’re just elegant little beauties – as good as it gets.


Campagnolo crankarm extractor with an adaptor I made as soon as the Hollowtech 2 crankarms came out. I made that adaptor before Shimano even announced that they had one for removing that crankarm. Campagnolo crankarm extractor is the finest that I’ve ever seen and good metallurgy, good thread geometry, just an excellent, excellent tool – real fast and just great. To the right of that is a couple of Philips screwdrivers – just a nice size.


Channel-Lock brand needle-nosed pliers. I like to use the cutter on that to actually do brake housing. It works really well. People think they need dykes but that thing works really well, plus the needle-nose just needs to be at the ready in your apron at all times for yanking on cables when you tension them.


My “Sacred Screwdriver” That screwdriver I found on a road on a bike ride in the early ‘80s. I thought it was a nice sized screwdriver for working on bikes and it had a kind of beat-up plastic handle so I wrapped some handlebar tape around it and it kept getting unraveled so I what I do is wrap tape around it and smear epoxy on the ends to hold the tape in place. It’s an ugly little thing but the balance is perfect – excellent, excellent piece of steel. That blade can be sharpened again and again, and doesn’t get dull very easily.


8mm hex key. I don’t know where that came from. It’s a great-big long sucker. Then I put that little brass collar on there to kind of copy Compagnolo’s 5mm hex key from – who knows – probably from the forties, this helps facilitate spinning when you’re removing a crank bolt.


Campagnolo Record pedal spindle body that I machined down to have my own pedal spinner with some of the smoothest cup and cone pedal bearings ever made. That’s just a beautiful tool just for spinning cranks when you don’t have pedals in them.


Park spoke wrenches. That’s a pared down beautiful design, it’s just elegant and simple.


The Aero-Spoke set from EVT for doing fine tuning on bladed spokes.



  1. Larry

    Welcome to the blogosphere, though I am not sure what happened to make such a techno-luddite (and I mean that with the utmost admiration) come aboard!

    Please have the appropriate techno-savvy nerd check all your blog settings so that Google Reader can recognize the blog title and allow folks to easily subscribe to it. When I tried, I got “You have subscribed to “(title unknown)”, and “The feed being requested cannot be found”.

    Again, welcome to the fun and exciting world of bloggin! :-/

    Srsly, we are truly interested in your insights. Say hello to your welding elf for us.

  2. Corey Cartwright

    Hi Brett! I LOVE the website. Do you really wear all of this in your apron? You must have an incredibly strong lower back….

    We’re going to be catching up with you shortly to order some more repair stands! Have a great day…

    Corey Cartwright, Seven Corners Cycles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search this Blog