Holiday Gift Idea: Multi Tools For Trailside Repairs
If your riding buddy is MacGyver and can fix a bike with rocks, sticks and a gum wrapper, you may not need one of these kits. But for most of us, these tools can be lifesavers. Besides the basic hex wrenches and screwdrivers, these kits feature tools to fix drivetrains, brakes, wheels, and just about any other issue you might have on your next epic ride. With that in mind, we tested the most popular multi-tools head to head to determine which portable workbench should be in your pack.
We focused on six key features and scored the tools on a 15 rating scale. We then totaled the scores to determine the winner. Here are the categories we judged them in.
Value: The number of usable tools per dollar
Ergonomics: Overall feel and leverage generated
Usability: Can the tool be used in tight places? Are the dimensions appropriate? Are the tools easy to access?
Features: Assortment of tools and unique features
Portability: Size and weight
Tool quality: Overall quality
Contact: (877) 358-2239
Number of tools: 16?
Standout features: High-pressure shock pump; valve core removal tool?
Weight: 5 ounces
Field test results: The Toolmanator has a very innovative design with features not found on any other tools in the test. Unfortunately, it falls short on execution. The tool is extremely wide and has very short bits. This makes it difficult to work with, especially in tight places. The shock pump works but is clearly designed for small changes in pressure only. Ask anything more and you’ll be pumping for a while. The Toolmanator has the most potential to be a truly handy, mountain-bike- specific multi-tool. We hope the second-generation design will be more user-friendly.
Contact: (805) 548-8780?
Number of tools: 10
Standout features: 90-degree, 2-millimeter hex key; compact and lightweight design Weight: 3.6 ounces?
Field test results: By far the most compact tool in the bunch, the Lezyne sports all of the key tools with a few extra touches. We love the 90- degree bend in the 2-millimeter hex for hard-to- reach brake lever adjusters. The center pivot bits have the feel of a high-end hand tool. The chain- breaker is streamlined and very easy to use. Unfortunately, we could have used a 2.5-millimeter Allen when we experienced a loose lock-on grip collar. The ergonomics are average, offering adequate leverage for most applications. This tool is also fairly wide and has short bits. It’s the lightest in the test, but has a few drawbacks. It’s a perfect multi-tool for the minimalist.
Park Tool IB-3
Contact: (651) 777-6868
Number of tools: 13?
Standout features: Excellent shape; best chain tool; great value?
Weight: 6.2 ounces?
Field test results: Though it doesn’t sport as many tools as the others, the Park excels in execution. Its shape is user friendly and can generate tons of leverage. The quality is second to none, and this kit features our favorite chain tool in the bunch. Our only complaint is the lack of multiple Torx wrench sizes, which are becoming ever more common on new components. The IB-3, while not as feature heavy as others in the test, has the right mix of the tools it does have. It delivers the best value of any multi-tool in the shootout and is our shootout winner.
SKS Travel Toolbox
Contact: (618) 395-2400
Number of tools: 15?
Standout features: Split design; long and easy-to-use bits?
Weight: 8 ounces?
Field test results: The SKS has a lot going for it. We love the split design, and the longer-than-average bits allow the user to access hard-to-reach bolts. However, crewers did not like the shape of the tool, which has several uncomfortable edges. The Toolbox also comes with several detachable bits that are bound to get lost in the abyss of a hydration pack pocket. Its larger-than- average size allows for loads of leverage, but it also makes it the heaviest tool in the test. All in all, the wrecking crew liked working with the Travel Toolbox, but the possibility of lost parts and its weight kept it off the podium.
Contact: (949) 464-9916
Number of tools: 15?
Standout features: Indexed stainless steel bits; excellent ergonomics
Weight: 5.9 ounces
Field test results: Blending style with function, the Pica is a serious multi-tool. At first glance, its streamlined exterior appears to be all fashion, but the tool shines when put to use. The perfectly sized bits are easy to reach bolts with. The shape, size and ergonomics of the tool also allow plenty of leverage. The indexed bits make this tool very easy to use one-handed. The only problem is the chain tool, which is difficult to remove and use. With a little practice, however, this became a non-issue. It’s also the most expensive multi-tool in the test. This is a high-quality product; you just have to be willing to pay for it.
Topeak Mini 20 Pro
Contact: (800) 213-4561?
Number of tools: 20
Standout features: Most tools in the test; cool flip-out tire lever; angled 2-millimeter hex key
Weight: 4.7 ounces?
Field test results: The Mini 20 Pro features the largest assortment of tools in the test. It has every tool you could possibly need on the trail, plus a few you will never use. The size works well for accessing stubborn bolts, and the square edges and somewhat short bits can generate adequate torque for most any situation. The most frequently used bits are easy to access, while infrequently used items, like the chain breaker, will take a little more trailside time to access. We love the innovative flip-out tire lever, which is placed at the end of the tool to make it more than just decorative. A few of the tools will never be used, such as the chain pin breaker tool, which is designed to break off the pilot on a Shimano pin. Who carries that on the trail? Either way, this is a handy, quality multi-tool.
Reprinted from our March 2012 issue. Like us on Facebook