Buyers guide to multi tools

It’s only a matter of time before a multi tool will save your ride. Here’s what constitutes a good multi tool.

There’s nothing worse than being stranded out on a ride by a simple mechanical. And we’ve all had something come loose at some time or other. Or often on a ride you find you need to adjust the position of something.

These are exactly the kind of situations multi tools were designed for.

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Multi tools, as the name suggests, pack a variety of commonly used tools into a compact, portable and consolidated package.

The more you pay for a multi tool the more tools it will have and generally the better made and more compact it will be. Saying that, any multi tool with the basic tools is better than no multi tool.

Even if you’re not a competent mechanic we would recommend you carry a small basic multi tool as even if you can’t fix something it will be easier to ask someone to do it for you if you supply them with tools for the job.

What’s the minimum?

The amount of tools depends on the model and you can get multi tools with loads of tools stuffed into them. As a rule we’d recommend one with at least the following:

  • 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm and 6mm Allen keys. 8mm is useful too for some pedals and crank arms.
  • T-25 Torx tool. More relevant to MTBs (disc rotor bolts) but Torx bolts are starting to creep on to road bikes too.
  • Screwdriver. Definitely a Philips. Ideally a flat blade as well.
  • Chain tool. Will be fiddly to use but will save you a long, depressing walk home.
  • Spoke key (that fits your bike’s nipples).

There’s a huge choice available and the more you spend the more tools you get. The huge choice means you can pretty much get exactly the tools you need as there’s slight variations between most models. Some are better for road while some are better for trail so check the specification against your needs before purchase.

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There is a small drawback in that the tools are smaller and may not be the easiest to use but something has to give to keep the package small and portable. Anyway they aren’t meant for regular use, just for when you need them out on the road or trail. They will be able to fix most minor mechanicals to get you back to base where you can sort things out with your proper tools at home.

Other stuff to take

Inner tube. Pump. Tyre levers. And it’s well worth also carrying a spare power link as well as they weigh nothing and will make breaking the chain easier once at home.

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Things you can probably do without

  • 10m Allen key.
  • Spanners. Having said that, an 8mm spanner can be used for tightening leaking disc hose fixings.
  • Knife.
  • Bottle opener. Sorry but it’s not an essentially really.

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Surprisingly useful features

Multi tools made from stainless steel (pic above) or even titanium sound a bit extravagant but they will last better than basic steel tools which often end going rusty over the years.

It sounds odd but the Lezyne RAP-21 LED multi tool has a small torch as a head attachment for the 6mm allen key and I actually found this very handy on night rides to save on main lights when carrying out mechanicals.

LezyneRap21Torch

Which multi tool should you buy?

Leisure riders – A basic and inexpensive multi tool with Allen keys, hex key and screwdrivers will cover the basic jobs. Size and weight isn’t such an issue here as it’s more about having the tools for the job and basic multi tools are fairly small and light anyway.

Regular riders – The basics plus a chain tool and maybe a spoke key should get you out of most situations. Worth spending a little more for a few more tools and a nice compact size. Consider buying a stainless or titanium tool which will hold up to bad weather over the years.

Racers – The lighter the better. Most racers will only want basics to keep as light as possible as anything more means a lengthy job which can wait until they get home as the race is over for them anyway. Most racers will have a dinky minimalist multi tool for racing and a normal multi tool for training rides.

Shop for multi tools at Merlin Cycles

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