Many of us would have faced long walks in questionable conditions were it not for the humble multitool.
A little lump of cunningly designed metal and plastic can get you out of the most unpleasant scrapes – or at the very least save you from carrying hefting great ironworks in your backpack just in case.
We’ve gathered a few choice nuggets of tool-y goodness together for a mini-grouptest, and asked our intrepid bunch of testers to go out and… er… break things, so they could fix them again.
Airace 20 in 1 multitool
From: Fisher Outdoor
The Airace 20 in 1 unsurprisingly offers 20 tools in a single, reasonably compact, yet weighty handful. It deploys the tools in a double sided, Swiss Army knife kind of way, with no separate bits to lose (apart from the 6 to 8mm adaptor. Which I’ve lost). As well as the usual hex keys (including a couple of in-betweeny sizes (like 2.5mm), it also has two sizes of flat and Philips screwdrivers and both T25 and T10 Torx. A couple of the Allen keys are 90° bent to access tricky brake levers too. Finally, there’s a fold-out chain tool (with emergency tyre lever) a couple of spoke tools and a bottle opener.
It’s been a great tool, is only slightly pitted by corrosion despite nearly a year in a pack’s waistbelt and there’s a great feel to its wooden-edged grip. For the money, there are few tools that do more for you.
Crankbrothers Pica is a hefty multitool that’s sized just large enough to fit in the hand comfortably when cranking on stiff bolts. The Pica feels well built, it has an aluminium outer that holds cast stainless steel tools, and each individual tool is indexed meaning they click into place ready for use at either 90º or flat out. This is a good thing, although it can make selecting the right tool a bit fiddly at first.
There’s a chain device that’s 8/9/10 speed compatible, two Torx wrenches; T10 and T25, and a range of allen keys which encompasses 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8. That should cover most trailside tweaking and easy fixes.
Overall: Chunky in a good way with a secure feel once the right tool is selected. All backed up by a 5 year guarantee.
Fix It Sticks Replaceable Edition
I’ve long eschewed bells & whistles mutitools – I prefer to keep the tools that I take with me simple & functional. The fix It Sticks are one such tool that pack away small & join together into a T-way for big performance. It consists of 2 steel parts that combine to make one tool that is comfortable and easy to use.
The ends of the sticks house magnets that hold replaceable and interchangeable bits in place – so you can customise to suit your needs. In the replaceable edition pack you get 8 common bits in a tube; 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm & 6mm allen keys, a P2 phillips screwdriver and a T25 torx. The whole thing comes in a little rubber inner tube pouch, but unfortunately I lost that in the woods…
I’ve got mine set up with the following – 4mm, 5mm, 6mm allens & a T25. Any 1/4″ drive aftermarket bit will fit, so you can get replacements from B&Q. Which is handy, as one of the few downsides to this removable approach is that things can get lost. The fix it sticks is a triumph of keep it simple/less is more approach. Combine this small, simple n’ super tool with a separate chain tool and you have a winning combo for trailside repairs.
A super useful and versatile, quality tool – my new favourite!
Gerber Diesel Multiplier
I’m a huge advocate of something pliers-shaped on the trail. I’ve been in many sticky situations out on the trail when I’ve been saved by a cunning bend of some wire – or even sorting a broken spoke, or tweaking a dinked rim. I’ve had my Gerber Diesel for around six years. It’s simple enough – the plier head slides out from the handles with a shake, and locks into place. Press the buttons either side to retract it.
Once the plier head is out, the handles can be opened and the rest of the (large) tools used; they lock into place with the knurled rubber sliders; a simple pull releases them. As well as the needle nosed pliers, there is a wire cutter, a partially serrated knife blade, cross point screwdriver, small, medium and large flat blade screwdrivers, a can opener, bottle opener, file, saw and scissors. It’s all got a limited lifetime warranty. No, none of it is particularly bike specific, and it’s quite expensive, but the tools are excellent, it’s very sturdy and well made, relatively lightweight and, for me, completely indispensable. A way of fitting hex or Torx bits would make it even better.
Leatherman Mako Ti
The Mako Ti is Leatherman’s first offering specifically for cyclists. Eschewing the ‘pliers plus’ design of much of its output, the Mako Ti s a plate of titanium, into which has been cut several interestingly shaped holes to correspond to bolt sizes. 1/4 inch bits are held onto the tool with a couple of rubber collars, and are used by inserting them into a specifically cut recess in the plate itself. The tools available are as follows: 1/4″ Hex Bit Driver, 8mm Box Wrench, 9mm Box Wrench, 10mm Box Wrench, 15mm Box Wrench, 16mm Box Wrench, 14-guage Spoke Wrench, 15-guage Spoke Wrench, Bottle Opener. The 1/4 inch bits are a T25 Torx, a phillips screwdriver, and 5 and 6mm Hex bits. Impressively, it also comes with a 25 year warranty.
It’s reasonably light in the hand, and the form factor is nice and unobtrusive in a pocket, but it seems to me that a lot of the tools on offer are perhaps of more use to a road-rider rather than a mountain-biker. I can’t think of any (modern) mountain bikes which could make extensive use of any of the closed box-wrenches; the 8mm might be handy for canti-brakes, or some brake banjos, perhaps. The hex keys are useful, especially the Torx (disk brake rotors; some stems) and the philips, but there’s no 4mm (a lot of stems) or 8mm (a lot of pedals). The bits supplies were fine, but it’s easy to lose them on the trail – especially if it’s dark. Handily, though, they’re easily replaceable. So you could fit ones that were more suitable for your bike should you need to.
Overall, it’s a nifty piece of design, which would benefit from an update. Open wrenches would be more handy, and a few more spaces for bits.
Syncros Matchbox 6
This is more of a ‘useful thing’ than it is the sort of tool kit you look to for fixing every on-the-trail malfunction – and it’s proved very useful. I keep it clipped to my keys or pack strap, and frequently find myself using it to make quick tweaks to other peoples’ bikes as well as my own. It’s got 6, 5, 4 and 3mm hex keys, a T20 torx and a Phillips screwdriver, all steel and housed in a slim nylon case – add your own carabiner and you’re good to go.
Victorinox Swisstool X
The Victorinox Swisstool I own I’ve had for well over 10 years. It’s a hugely substantial piece of kit. Even without opening it, there are handy cm and inch markings on the outside of the tool. The tools apart from the pliers are accessible without opening it, unlike the Gerber reviewed above. The pliers fold out from the handles in a very pleasing manner, and once exposed they feel extremely sturdy. All the tools lock into place. Here they are: pliers, wire cutters, wire crimping tool, large blade, scissors, wood saw, punch, reamer, can opener, small screwdriver, cap lifter, screwdriver, wire stripper, Phillips-screwdriver, screwdriver 2mm, screwdriver 7mm, chisel, ruler (inches), ruler (metric), metal saw, metal file. Blimey.
So there are a load of tools and widgets on there, but from a bike point of view, there aren’t that many that are truly indispensable. And it’s pretty weighty. But it’s surprisingly how useful things like the reamer or chisel can prove to be, both in the workshop or on the trail.
Here, we’ve given you our opinion of a very few of the very many multi-tools that are available. They’re all handy in their own ways; some perhaps more so than others – but any multitool is better than no multitool. And if you pack one alongside something with pliers? There’s little that can stop you…
|Brand:||Airace, Crank Brothers, FixIt Sticks, Gerber, Leatherman, Syncros & Victorinox|
|Price:||From £12.99 to £109.99|
|Tested:||by Barney, Chipps, Dave, James and Jenn for yonks|