Often guidance will be given to tighten a nut to "20 ft. lbs. (27 Nm)" or something along those lines.

What's the best way to ensure you tighten things up, but don't over-tighten?

Is there any way to do it other than by measuring the force? If measuring, how do you measure?

2 Answers 2


You use a Torque Wrench. You set how much pressure, and when you tighten to that pressure, the wrench will "click" and not tighten the nut/bolt any more.

  • 1
    Keep in mind that on bicycles you deal with itty-bitty forces in a lot of places. So you really want a torque wrench with inch-pounds on it. There are many different wrenches with different ratings.
    – Jack M.
    Aug 26, 2010 at 0:06
  • Concur -and if you're working on anything carbon, don't overtighten because carbon fibre doesn't like that. A torque wrench is the only solution.... your elbow is not accurate enough.
    – Criggie
    Nov 8, 2015 at 8:40

Saint Sheldon had an opinion on using a torque wrench ...

Experienced mechanics will strip threads as part of the learning process. After you've stripped a few, you get the "feel" for what a given thread diameter and depth of engagement can take. This is a very worthwhile skill to learn.

Bicycles are meant to be user serviceable without needing a lot of exotic tools. Nobody carries a torque wrench for on-the-road repairs, and I never heard of anybody using a torque wrench on a bike before, say, 20 years ago. (note: original post from 2001)

A torque wrench is like training wheels for a mechanic. If you want to become a competent mechanic, you shouldn't be afraid to strip a few bolts in the learning process.

Sheldon "Doesn't Do It By Rote" Brown
Newtonville, Massachusetts


One area where I’ve found a torque wrench helpful is the left crank arm, it helped me get a feel for how much leverage was needed. This is an area where learning about too little torque can be destructive. A loose crank arm will ruin the press fit of the crank arm on a square taper bottom bracket.

I think more important than a torque wrench is proper lubrication of threads and underside of bolt head. All threaded fasteners must be lubricated for them to be tightened properly. He lays out the lubrication checklist here ...

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    Perhaps stripping a few bolts isn't a big deal, but what happens when you strip the threads on a fork eyelet, or the rear triangle of an expensive carbon frame? Sheldon's advice is sound for mechanics but not most riders. Aug 23, 2011 at 16:29
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    @NeilFein Though I have never stripped a bolt, I will admit to many mechanical mistakes which all served to teach lessons. Portraying a bicycle as a delicate machine whose threads can't withstand some over tightening seems less than accurate. I will agree that an expensive carbon frame is probably not the best bike for learning. A rider in that position would be well served to pick up a used bike and a wrench.
    – user2201
    Aug 23, 2011 at 17:40
  • A torque wrench as training wheels also assumes your torque wrench is the same length as your regular wrenches and ratchets. If your regular wrenches are shorter than your torque wrench (very often true in my experience) then you will need to apply more pressure to the shorter wrench to match the torque.
    – STW
    Aug 23, 2011 at 18:29
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    ...the advice I would give is to have the right tools in the shop, and to err on the side of caution when performing field-repairs--under-torque and ride with caution until you can properly repair the bike.
    – STW
    Aug 23, 2011 at 18:30
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    @NeilFein Sheldon almost certainly was suggesting that a conscientious mechanic would find some opportunities to strip bolts on purpose to learn about what the forces involved feel like – precisely because it is such a drag to strip threads that matter.
    – dlu
    Jul 30, 2015 at 1:14

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