There are several forms of bicycle tools that various companies have labelled "third hand" bicycle tools. One tool adjusts caliper style brakes, one holds brake and shift cable tension and one holds chain tension during repair. According to bicycle expert Sheldon Brown, third hand cable tools are also commonly called "fourth hand" tools. Third hand cable pullers were originally designed to work in tandem with third hand brake adjustment tools hence the nickname "fourth hand."
Brake Adjustment Tools
Several companies manufacture third hand brake adjustment tools. Third hand brake adjustment tools are designed with either a clamp or a spring that holds caliper style brakes closed against the rim while a mechanic tensions the brake cable and tightens the cable clamp bolt on the brake arm. Caliper brakes were popular on many adult and child bicycles from the early 1900s until recent brake advancements created newer and stronger designs such as disc brakes.
Third hand cable tools clamp and pull a brake or shift cable taught so mechanics can put the appropriate tension on a cable before tightening the cable clamp bolt. Third hand cable tools are more popular than brake adjustment tools since cable tools work with both new and old brake and derailleur systems. Third hand cable tools work best in tight front derailleur areas--particularly those found on high-tech carbon-fibre road bikes and most full-suspension bicycles.
Third hand chain tools are a relatively recent development compared to other third hand industry standard tools. Third hand chain tools hold the loose ends of a broken chain together while a mechanic repairs the chain. Most third hand chain tools are inexpensive spring mechanism, as the job the tool performs is not that difficult without the tool. Many bicycle mechanics zip-tie rear derailleur cages to chainstays, which usually creates enough slack to repair chains.
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