Hidden Headset Tool Shootout
When it comes to racing or even just riding, having the right tools can make or break your day. Many riders never leave home without their handy multi-tool, but finding a place to store it during the ride can be troublesome for minimalist riders. For those who simply refuse to wear a pack but want to carry everything they need, hidden headset tools have become quite popular.
We decided to take a look at three popular options, including OneUp Component’s EDC tool, Specialized’s SWAT tool and the new Bontrager BITS tool. All three designs offer unique features and can be installed on almost any bike. Here are three toolkit options to ensure your tools are right at your fingertips.
SPECIALIZED SWAT TOOL
The SWAT tool has become popular among Specialized riders since it comes standard on some of its bikes; however, the tool can be installed on almost any brand. This tool replaces the star nut in your fork, as well as the top cap above your stem. Let’s dive into Specialized’s SWAT tool.
The SWAT tool is the only one in this shootout that features spring-loaded action. Once the top cap is pivoted out of the way, a spring behind the tool pushes it out and makes it incredibly easy to grab. That said, accessing other parts of the tool can require the user to loosen his bike’s headset and remove the system completely. Fully removing the tool is required when using its chain breakers. When reinstalling the tool, the bottom of the system acts as your top cap, tightening your headset from the bottom as opposed to the top. The tool itself features the following sizes: 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm Allen keys, along with a T25 Torx.
Field test results:
On the trails, the SWAT tool is an excellent option and is the easiest to access. The small tool pops out when you need it and quickly goes back when you’re done. Our only gripe about the system is that it needs to be fully removed when using the chain breaker and partially removed to grab your spare chain links. Overall, the system was highly favored by our testers.
• Spring-loaded tool is easy to access and use
• Simple yet effective design that’s easy to install and looks cool
• Must be removed to access some functions
• Easy to lose or misplace headset spacers when using the chain breaker
STAR RATING: ★★★★½
ONEUP COMPONENTS EDC SYSTEM
OneUp Components’ EDC (Every Day Carry) system is longer than other systems due to its added features. The additional length requires using a special stem designed to work with the EDC tool. OneUp’s EDC tool is probably the most versatile in the mix and is most likely to get you out of a pinch.
The main component that makes OneUp’s EDC tool possible is its stem. Available in 35mm and 50mm lengths, the EDC stem features a wedge underneath that takes care of your headset bearing preload. Tightening your headset is done in reverse from what you would normally do. First you tighten the stem and torque the bolts to spec, then you preload the bearings using the wedge. After the stem is installed, the EDC tool (sold separately) slides into the stem and down the fork’s steer tube. OneUp offers seven anodized color options so you can match the top cap with your bike or components.
The EDC tool offers a variety of features. When the tube-shaped tool is removed, a small multi-tool, along with another tire lever/chain-breaker tool, is revealed. Underneath the tool is a set of threads, allowing riders to either store a CO2 or install a tubeless plug kit. The multi-tool includes the following sizes: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm hexes, a T25 Torx, and a flat-headed screwdriver. The tool also offers spoke key wrenches, along with storage for a spare chain link.
Field test results:
The EDC system is a great option for riders looking to carry it all. It’s the most expensive tool system in the lineup, since you’ll need a new stem; however, the stem is high quality and features cool anodized colors to add some flair to your bike. The tool requires a good tug to pull out, which keeps it in place on rough trails. The tube-shaped tool requires you to crack it open to get to your tools and leaves a few items in your hands to juggle around. While the EDC tool offers by far the most versatilely, it comes with a lot to handle. That said, its ability to carry either a CO2 or a set of tire plugs could be the difference between walking and riding home.
• Offers the most functions of any tools in this shootout
• Well-built stem with optional colored top caps
• Utilizes the full length of your steer tube
• May leave you juggling too many tools at once
• Only works with OneUp’s stem
STAR RATING: ★★★★☆
Price: $59, tool; $79, stem
BONTRAGER BITS TOOL
Bontrager’s BITS tool is the newest headset tool to hit the market and is likely to be seen on new Trek models. This tool combines features from both the SWAT and EDC tools, along with some unique ideas.
The BITS tool uses a bolt inside the system to preload the bearings. This requires the use of a long T-handle or Allen wrench to tighten the headset. Once installed, the system is secure and doesn’t need to be removed to access any of its functions. The tool is held in place with a snug fit similar to that of the OneUP design and has a similar tube-shaped tool that breaks apart to feature a multi-tool and a chain-breaker tool. There is also a space for a spare chain link. The BITS tool can be installed in most modern mountain bikes and has a small finger-sized grab-handle to remove the tool.
Field test results:
When installing the Bontrager system, we quickly noticed a flaw that makes the tools at hand unable to tighten the stem out on the trail. While the SWAT tool uses a bolt underneath the headset, the BITS tool is tightened from inside. That said, we didn’t have an issue since we set it up right the first time, but we thought we might need a longer tool should our headset become loose while riding or twist during a crash. The tool’s handle is a bit small, making it harder to grab with gloves on, but is comparable to OneUP’s design, which can also be challenging to pull out. The SWAT tool shines with its spring-loaded design.
A major plus for the Bontrager system is that the toolkit is compact and only breaks down into two pieces, unlike the OneUP system 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 SWAT tool, it does offer more functions. The following sizes are included: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm and 8mm hexes, along with a T25 and a flat-head screwdriver. Overall, the Bontrager system does a great job providing riders the tools they need.
• Compact design with plenty of tools
• Remains secure over rough trails
• Tools can be used without removing the complete system
• Tightening your headset on the trail could be troublesome
• Tool can be difficult to pull out
STAR RATING: ★★★☆☆
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