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Do these multi-tools really work?

Old 07-25-11, 03:26 AM
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fishugly
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Do these multi-tools really work?

I'm relatively new to bicycle mechanics and would like to add a few tools to my saddle bag that one would most likely need on pleasure rides and short commutes. I see a plethora of the multi-tools, however, I have to wonder how many actually work and how many are just clever looking gadgets that look good in the store display case but are fumbling to use in the field.

Would the budget minded individual be better off with a few allen wrenches and a pair of small vice grips....or, are some of these multi-tools actually worth while?
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Old 07-25-11, 03:35 AM
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Yes, they're worthwhile. They're just a collection of simple tools held together in a convenient, compact package.
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Old 07-25-11, 04:18 AM
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They are worth it as JiveTurkey says, but make sure you get one which can fit all the bolts on you bike which could be field serviced, i.e. if you have discs, you may need one with a t25 torx key.
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Old 07-25-11, 04:44 AM
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Originally Posted by JiveTurkey View Post
Yes, they're worthwhile. They're just a collection of simple tools held together in a convenient, compact package.
^ ^ ^ This. The multi-tool is simply a convenient package. You have one thing to grab, and you're done.

Some multi-tools are indeed way over the top. The "Swiss Army-Knife Syndrome" takes effect, and you see all sorts of fiddly, multi-piece tools that I can't imagine using in the field. Keep it simple. Get one to fit the bolts on your bike. Make sure it has a chain tool built into it.
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Old 07-25-11, 05:18 AM
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They're good for making minor adjustments on the road, but they're problematic to use because of the short tools, the bulky handle, they want to fold.... Once you have your bike dialed in, there aren't too many things you're going to need a tool for. That said, I always carry one because I hate the thought of being stuck somewhere for want of a simple allen wrench or screwdriver.
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Old 07-25-11, 06:16 AM
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One time I was riding and a plastic shopping bag blew into my drivetrain, some of the plastic got sucked into the derailleur pulleys, couldn't get it out. I didn't have any tools with me, but I was fortunate to be near a Sears auto center, and walked a quarter-mile - they let me borrow an allen wrench so I could remove the pulleys. I have since gotten a moderate Topeak multi-tool, it has been useful. While on a long charity ride, I was able to help a rider who got his chain wedged in his crank - I was able to loosen the rings and remove the chain, saved the guy some time waiting for the mechanic's truck.
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Old 07-25-11, 06:31 AM
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Originally Posted by rsacilotto View Post
One time I was riding and a plastic shopping bag blew into my drivetrain, some of the plastic got sucked into the derailleur pulleys, couldn't get it out.
That's got to rank as one of the more unusual mechanical problems I've heard of.

My most recent mechanical was more mundane: a one-inch stick to the rear mech that shredded my derailleur. Having a multi-tool along saved the day by allowing me to exit the mosquito-infested woods in singlespeed mode rather than by walking and getting chewed up. Earlier in the season, I was able to save someone's ride when their chain disintegrated due to a bad shift. I shortened their chain by removing the three or four damaged links, threw on a Powerlink, and reset their limit screw so as to avoid shifting into a combination requiring more links than were available.

Most of the time to tool is just extra weight, but the tool sure is nice to have when things go haywire.
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Old 07-25-11, 06:33 AM
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The simplest and most useful multi-tool I know of is Park's MT-1 "Dog Bone" tool. It's about 4" long and has 3,4,5,6 and 8 mm Allen bits, a small flat screwdriver and 8,9 and 10-mm box wrenches. The larger allen bits (4-8 mm) are positioned so you can get useful leverage and, in fact, I used the 8 mm allen bit on mine to tighten another riders crank fixing bolt enough for him to finish a ride.

It's light at about 40 gm, cheap at~$10 and strong. I carry one of them and a very small chain tool on every bike.
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Old 07-25-11, 07:24 AM
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Check what tools you actually need for your bike. You might find that for likely on-the-road repairs there are only 2 or 3 tools necessary. In this case a couple of allen-keys and a screwdriver might be better - and quite a lot lighter - than a multitool.

Many of the implements you find on multitools are of doubtful utility:
  • Spanners - many modern bikes use only allen-bolts
  • Tyre levers - normal plastic tyre levers are much better and weigh almost nothing
  • Torx wrench - usually for removing disc rotors - if the disc is so badly damaged that it needs removal, it's probably not repairable in the field
  • Multiple types of screwdriver - when one will do
  • Large allen-keys - sometime too fragile or unwieldly to undo the larger bolts
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Old 07-25-11, 11:46 AM
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You'll find that for 90% of the rides you take you'll need no tools. It's the other 10% that are hard to judge. Tire repair is the biggest thing to ensure. Most multi-tools include snap-off tire levers and I like that because if you carry any multi tool then the snap off levers that are often on both sides of the tool take up virtually no extra room. In all my riding I've only broken a few chains but boy, it's been good to be able to fix those few issues so my multi tool has a chain tool and I carry a spare connex connector which weighs almost nothing. That's rare enough that most people wouldn't bother with it. A few separate tools, carefully chosen, would work just as well as a multi tool but individual tools often add up to more weight and are clunky and rattle around.
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Old 07-25-11, 12:03 PM
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Most important tool of all: Cell Phone. If you break something on your bike or get injured not even the fanciest multi-tool can help.
That being said, Topeak makes great stuff. I've got one that separates into two separate halves which allows sturdy use of the chain tool, and both halves have built in tire levers. Neat design.
https://www.topeak.com/products/Tools/ALiEN_II
There it is.
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Old 07-25-11, 12:44 PM
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In a pinch.. on the road/trail .. not a substitute for shop tools at home.

not long enough leverage to get things tight enough,
but will keep things from falling off entirely, before you get back.

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-30-11 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 07-25-11, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by timg7 View Post
Check what tools you actually need for your bike. You might find that for likely on-the-road repairs there are only 2 or 3 tools necessary. In this case a couple of allen-keys and a screwdriver might be better - and quite a lot lighter - than a multitool.
I had thought about that so put together the tools I'd like to have along. Including allen wrenches for what I thought I might need, minimalist phillips and straight screw drivers, and a chain tool, the separate tools weighed over twice as much as a the 125 gm Lezyne minitool I have. So it depends I what you think you'll want or need to take along and what mini-tool you decide upon.
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Old 07-25-11, 01:48 PM
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I haven't found them worthwhile, but I have no problem when people like them. They are versatile, and the price you pay for the versatility is that none of the pieces works as well as the thing they substitute for. And some multi-tools may have functions you don't need, so you end up carrying more weight than you need. Some save weight, though.

For instance, the wrench won't be long enough to provide enough leverage. The screwdriver shaft won't be centered in the handle, making screw turning to be awkward.

For day rides, I only carry what I need to fix a flat and adjust my seat and handlebars. That weighs very little, so I might as well bring real tools.

For trips two miles or less, I carry nothing.
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Old 07-25-11, 01:59 PM
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I have this one, it's been good so far: https://www.amazon.com/Topeak-Alien-2...1623842&sr=8-1


For a month or so I practiced doing maintenance on my bike using only the multi-tool, just to see what I could expect if I get trouble out on the road. The only thing it didn't have that I needed was a wrench (I forget what size) that fit my seatpost nut, so I wouldn't have been able to adjust the seatpost on the road. So for that I make sure I take an extra wrench in addition to the multi-tool. Haven't needed anything else.
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Old 07-25-11, 02:49 PM
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As long as you only need one thing at a time.It's like most multi-anything...it does lots of things,not real well.
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Old 07-25-11, 03:24 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
The screwdriver shaft won't be centered in the handle, making screw turning to be awkward.
Agreed. That is so true. And the Lezyne tool that I bought is so wide as to be unweildy. I've been thinking of taking the sides off and removing various bits that I don't use and reassembling what's left into a narrower package.

[quote[For trips two miles or less, I carry nothing.[/QUOTE]

I too will sometimes go out around the town and just figure on walking home or calling for a ride if there is a problem. Nothing wrong in that. On the mountain-bike trails though, I like to have some options for repairing the bike, because otherwise I'm potentially in for a long walk, in shorts, in mosquito-country.
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Old 07-25-11, 03:47 PM
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HillRider is right about the Park dogbone style tool, the MT-1C: https://www.amazon.com/Park-Tool-MT-1...dp/B000RZMWI6/

The fancier one that I like is the Topeak Ratchet Rocket or one of its many derivatives: https://www.jensonusa.com/store/produ...cket+Tool.aspx
One nice feature: you can slot the bits either into the end of the shaft for long/narrow use, or into the ratchet for close ratcheting/leverage use.
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Old 07-25-11, 05:40 PM
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Every bike I ride--for sport or utility--has a spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, and multi-tool in a under seat bag at all times. They're always there when I need it without having to decide whether I should pack any of it on any given day.
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Old 07-25-11, 05:42 PM
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Let's not forget the Swiss Army Knife of multitools: the Swiss Army Knife. I've carried a small one (usually a Tinker) for thirty years & use it every day. No wrenches, but it does an amazing job of substituting for nearly every other tool. I ride with a 6" adjustable also.
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Old 07-25-11, 07:21 PM
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Thanks for the helpful replies, everyone! If I get one at all, I think it'll be the Park Tool dog bone. I like the simplicity. I'd just add a few other smallish tools to round it out.

Last edited by fishugly; 07-26-11 at 08:50 AM.
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Old 07-25-11, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
That's got to rank as one of the more unusual mechanical problems I've heard of.
No kidding! I saw the bag blowing around, didn't think anything of it, next thing it's caught in the chain, the plastic got jammed so bad around the pulleys that some of it was inside the bushing...
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Old 07-25-11, 09:09 PM
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I carry this little unit on every bike -- it is tiny and does what it needs to: tightens cleats, adjusts derailleur trim, adjusts saddles, etc.

The little Park Tool is fine but it has a flathead and not a phillips.


Last edited by globecanvas; 07-25-11 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 08-08-11, 09:27 AM
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I happened to run across the Mako by Pockettoolx at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake on Sat. While I don't know how functional it is, this thing certainly is a clever design! Very light and compact. Also quite pricey! The web site says MSRP $69 but the literature being passed out at the OR show states $40. Still pricey. Still pretty ingenious though, IMHO.

https://pockettoolx.com/products/mako
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Old 08-08-11, 10:26 AM
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Those who carry a multi-tool do you also carry pliers, a few open-end wrenches, sockets? Or do you have a multi-tool that includes those functions?
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