We’ve said it before and we will say it again: when it comes to riding, having the right tools can make or break your day. If you are anything like us, we want to get to the trails as soon as possible without forgetting any essential gear. While it is good practice to never leave home without a handy multi-tool, sometimes they are just too bulky or so small that you forget where they went. Some riders will even refuse to wear a pack or saddle bag to carry everything they need and prefer to have items hidden or attached to the bike.
We decided to take a look at 10 of the options we’ve been using for tools over the years. While we have our favorites, this feature goes over the pros and cons of each product. Furthermore, we even break them down by separating multi-tools that are meant to be packed or carried in a pocket from the latest trend of tools that can be stored right on (or even inside) the bike.
ON THE BIKE
Tech features: We kick off our shootout with this brilliantly made tool. The Daysaver weighs in at only 45 grams and is the lightest tool tested in this shootout. It comes with PB Swiss Tools in corrosion-resistant steel, while the bits are plasma-color-coated for further protection. The bits of the Daysaver can also be used on both sides and are held in place with strong neodymium magnets. The tool also comes with a frame mount that fits right under a water-bottle cage.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T25/flathead
Weight: 45 grams
Field results: While there is no denying that this tool is precision cut and great for a minimalist rider looking to save weight, there are some drawbacks. The Daysaver is far from cheap, especially given its limited range of functionality. Although we rarely break a chain, it can happen, so it’s smart to carry an additional chain breaker and link with you. Be that as it may, there are a few other multi-tools in our showdown that do not have a chain breaker. Overall, this slim tool has an advantage in tough-to-reach spots where bulkier tools could be difficult or impossible to operate. With how convenient it is to remove, use and change various bits, it’s worth taking a look at the Daysaver for your ride or next race.
BONTRAGER BITS TOOL
Tech features: The BITS tool uses a bolt inside the system to preload the bearings. Unfortunately, this does require the use of a long T-handle or Allen wrench to tighten the headset. Be that as it may, once installed, the system is secure and doesn’t need to be removed to access any of its functions. The BITS breaks apart to feature a multi-tool and a chain breaker tool while still leaving enough space for a spare chain link. The BITS tool can be installed in most modern mountain bike steerer tubes and has a small, finger-sized grab handle to remove the tool.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T25/flathead/chain breaker
Field test results: A major plus of the Bontrager system is that the toolkit is compact and only breaks down into two pieces, unlike the OneUP EDC we’ve tested that leaves you with three items to hold, not including the lower attached accessory. While this tool takes a little longer to access compared to the Specialized SWAT tool, it does offer more functions. Overall, this is our favorite tool that integrates into the bike, and the Bontrager system does a great job providing riders the tools they need in a pinch.
SPECIALIZED ZEE CAGE II WITH TOOL
Tech features: This sleek and clever design from Specialized is a unique system where the tool is integrated into the bottom of a specific water-bottle cage. The idea is to keep things sleek while still providing space for water storage and tool integration. While it doesn’t have all the trailside repair essentials, we find that it does have some strengths.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/T25 /flathead/chain breaker
Field results: Like most of the tools in this category, the design of the Zee Cage tool is so easy to access that we found ourselves using it regularly. Not only was it great for our bikes, but it can be quickly grabbed if your buddy needs a tool to make a quick change. While its minimalist design and easy access are the highlights, we wish it had a 2mm and 2.5mm hex just in case our derailleur needed some fine-tuning. In the future, we would like to see Specialized offering a larger tool with more bits that can still integrate into this specific water bottle cage.
GRANITE DESIGN STASH TUBELESS AND CHAIN TOOL
Tech features: These crafty Stash tool systems from Granite Designs can be used in multiple ways. At first glance, riders might think these would only work on open-end grips to replace an end cap. While that is one function, the tubeless plug or the chain tool can be used under a lock-on grip or even stashed inside a hollow axle crankset. The idea is to stay within Granite Design’s ecosystem of Stash tools, as they also offer a headset option. Some riders might have other tools they prefer, so each tool is sold separately.
Tools: Quick-link storage/chain breaker/tire plug storage/reamer handle/plug fork
Price: $19 (chain), $21 (tubeless)
Field results: These two options are so small and easy to store that you might even forget about them before you need them. With that said, it is important to note that you will need a hex tool to remove the Stash tools once stored into your bike and to properly operate the chain breaker. For those who want to access their tool quickly, this set should not be your first choice, as removing the Stash tools could leave you scrambling to make a quick fix. Regardless, the chain breaker saved us and a fellow rider during our testing, making us glad we could utilize free space on the bike.
IN A POCKET OR PACK
TOPEAK MINI PT30
Tech features: As you may have guessed, the “30” represents the number of functions this Topeak tool offers. The specialties of this series are tools that have a large number of functions packed into a convenient item for the rider to pack or carry. For $15 more than the PT30s, there is also the ALiEN X from Topeak with four additional functions. Be that as it may, there is a reason we prefer the PT30.
Tools: Hex 10/8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T10/T15/T25/spoke wrenches/flathead/chain breaker/master link tool/#2 Phillips/flathead/serrated knife/saw/disc brake spacer/reamer/plug insertion tool
Field results: The PT30 can easily tackle tubeless, chain or spoke repairs to get you back home. This is noteworthy, as most tools do not have this broad range of functions. Since there is no storage for tire plugs on the PT30, we found ourselves storing repair plugs in a plastic baggie. It’s a bit annoying but gets the job done. Overall, it is a solid tool that functions well when problems arise and has been durable against the elements. Between this and the ALiEN X, we prefer to save an extra buck and gain a little more space in our day pack or pockets with the Mini PT30. The range of functions in relationship to how compact the PT30 is could make the difference in getting back on the bike (or back home) and enjoying the trail ahead.
Tech features: We’ve been using this tool for just over three years, and it has been in and out of our day pack, saddlebag and pants pockets. The M19 is one of the least expensive tools in this showdown, but don’t let that fool you. Even at a value-driven price, the M19 uses high-tensile steel for a precise fit with side grips to give the rider a secure handhold, even with gloves on.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T10/T25/spoke wrenches/flathead/chain breaker/#2 & #1 Phillips/flathead
Field results: While this tool has taken a beating over the years, it has still operated flawlessly when needed. The big downside of the M19 compared to its competitors is that it has no tire-plug insertion tool. Of course, Crankbrothers has thought of this. For $5 more, you can get the M20 with a tire-plug storage/insertion tool, but keep in mind that this will make the tool bulkier if you are going for a minimalist approach in your pack. We prefer the M19, since it is a bit slimmer and we tend to carry it daily in our pocket.
PRESTACYCLE TORQRACHET PRO WALLET
Tech features: This convenient tool not only comes with a variety of bits but also has a torque-range indicator. The TorqRatchet Pro is calibrated for over 5000 cycles of torque tightening, has a reversible ratchet with a thumb wheel and uses standard 1/4-inch hex bits of all sizes. Along with storing the bits, the wallet features a small pocket and a belt loop.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T10/T20/T25/T30/#1 Phillips/flathead/2–10 N/m torque range
Field results: We are big fans of making sure bolts are torqued properly, and this tool from Prestacycle helps us get in the general ballpark. The wallet case is particularly handy so everything stays in one place. We even have a small chain breaker and some links that can fit in the pouch space intended for some cash or extra bits. We rarely use the belt loop, but it could be useful for a rider who wants to strap this tool onto his bike instead of packing it away.
Tech features: This tool from Tactica is all about having a compact design where the tools nest away. It is made with 420-grade stainless steel and composite materials. This tool is pretty sleek yet durable. Unlike others in this feature, this tool has tire levers that hold an additional pair of bits. The levers are magnetic and snap together in the middle of the tool to tuck away bits not being used. When removed, the middle of the tool opens up to a bottle opener and varying wrench sizes.
Tools: Package opener/bottle opener/5mm-14mm wrench sizes/#1 Phillips/Hex 4/5/6/tire levers
Field results: Honestly, this tool did not meet our demands. Not only did the magnet come out that holds the tire levers in place out of the box, but the bits that are stored inside the tool got lodged inside to the point where we couldn’t get them out until we were back home in the garage. Despite some standout negatives, the tire levers do function well and are sturdy. Although the 4/5/6 Allen bits are useful, there are plenty of other bits that should’ve been included, considering this is a “bike tool.” Furthermore, the universal wrench sizes were pointless on our modern bikes, and we had zero use for a box opener when out on the trails. For just under $50, your money is much better spent on any of the other options in this showdown.
PRO MINI TORQUE WRENCH
Tech features: Ideal for the rider who is meticulous about torque specs, this PRO Mini Torque comes with three preset torque valves that snap into a magnetic head. The handle can store six bits, along with one of the two preset torque attachments, leaving space for one inserted and one loose from the tool. Made from steel and glass-fiber-reinforced nylon, it can be stored in your pocket, but, given its size, it’s best for a pack.
Tools: Three preset torque values: 4/5/6 N/m and hex 6 /5 /4 /3 /T25 /flathead
Field results: After some solid hours of use (trailside and home garage), the torque remained calibrated correctly, so we can testify that this torque wrench is durable. Conveniently, this tool fits other bits that you may have in your shop. Our peeve with this one is that there is one loose preset torque. It would be great if there was more room to store that piece properly, but it does break down easily if you are tight on packing space. It functions when needed, but can be a bit tough in tight areas of a bike. It is best stored in a pack.
Tech features: In our opinion, this is by far the best-looking tool in this feature. The Spurcycle tool might be pricier than the lot (also hard to find), but there is a trade-off for high quality. Simply called the Tool, this fits with Spurcycle’s minimalist philosophy. The Tool comes equipped with 10 swappable, chrome-coated S2 steel bits. All of these bits magnetically fit into an adjustable T-handle that slides. To save weight and remain durable, the Tool is constructed from Grade 5 titanium machined right in Richmond, California. For packing and storage, it comes stored inside a tightly stitched X-Pac carry case.
Tools: Hex 8/6/5/4/3/2.5/2/T25/#2 Phillips
Field results: We mostly used the Tool for headset, stem and bar adjustments, but the Tool proved handy in other situations, too. The T-handle’s design allows the lever to be adjusted when space is tighter or when some extra leverage is needed. Small circlips at either end keep the bit holder from sliding off the handle. The holder slides with ease and has remained durable over two years of regular use. Function, design, weight and ease of storage are all great, but there are drawbacks to not having a chain breaker or tubeless repair system while out for a mountain bike ride.
THE FINAL WORD
No matter the situation or intended length of your ride, we cannot stress enough how important it is to bring a tool and understand its functionality before your adventure. Riders looking for the best tool that integrates into their bike cannot go wrong with the Bontrager BITS tool. If you are the type who likes to store items in your pocket or jersey, we’d go with the Spurcycle tool, as it is very compact and comes in a case. If you don’t mind a little more bulk with a plethora of features, we like using the Topeak Mini PT30 as our tool of choice to tackle any job.