Torque wrenches remove the guesswork from tightening bolts and fasteners, and the wide range of available types and costs mean that integrating one into your home toolbox is now easier than ever – and strongly recommended.
No matter how long you've been turning wrenches, even the most experienced hands are no match for a torque tool's accuracy. Condor's resident workshop guru, Andrea Cattolico, says: "I've seen people be off a torque spec by as much as 50 percent, either too loose or too tight. As a rule, untrained people tend to under-tighten the higher torque values and then over-tighten the lower torques."
With carbon fibre and lightweight titanium and aluminium alloy parts becoming more commonplace in the bike world, it's more important than ever to pay attention to how firmly you tighten things up.
Andrea Cattolico, our head mechanic, explains: "Too tight and small, delicate parts, such as brake-and derailleur-cable anchor bolts, will break under too much pressure. Cranking on a bolt too hard could cause it to snap off, leaving you with a tiny stub and a huge problem." And most seriously: "It's possible to crush carbon components, and you won't get any warning until it's too late."
Likewise, trying not to be too heavy-handed can leave you with loose bolts and critical components, such as the stem, handlebar, and seat post, can shift mid-ride, causing you to lose control and possibly crash.
How to use a torque wrench to tighten bolts
Locate the torque setting on your component. They will be etched near to the bolt; you are looking for a number and the unit Nm. Refer to your the installation instructions or manufacturer's website. Please note: sometimes this marking refers to the maximum torque that the component is tested to, rather than what you should torque to. It is always best to start low and increase the torque setting if required to avoid damaging the component or your frame.
Adjust the torque wrench by pulling out the dial at the bottom part of the handle and rotate to the degree of force you want to exert on the bolt.
Begin tightening the bolt and stop tightening when you feel the wrench click or ‘slip'. There is a mechanism inside the handle of the wrench that releases the force once it reaches the setting on the handle.
Do not tighten too fast; use a gentle and constant movement.
Tip 1 Torque can vary between components and models, even from the same brand, so always check before you tighten the bolt.
Tip 2 Do not put the torque wrench away tensioned. Adjust back to 0 as it can affect the calibration otherwise.
Tip 3 Look for a bike specific torque wrench as they will be sold with Allen key bolt sizes typically found on bicycle components and have settings for the low torque values suitable for bicycles.
Tip 4 Never use your torque wrench to undo bolts or fastenings.
Tip 5 Always make sure the Allen key/torque bit is fully inserted in the bolt you are working on.