Sometimes the best bike tool in the world is the one you have with you. I’m talking, of course, about a compact multitool. When you’re sitting trailside with a mechanical problem, having one will usually be your best chance at riding home instead of walking.
Generally the discipline of riding you take part in will help you narrow down what tool is best for you. To make things simple today, we’ll be talking about tools that are good for mountain biking.
Here we have three tools ranging from 13 to 50 dollars. They all have metric allen keys, various bits, spoke wrenches, and a chain breaker. So why the huge disparity in price? Let’s take a closer look.
Our $13 budget multi tool is made by EyezOff. That’s a fitting name for the ugliest multi tool in the world. One feature it does have over the other two is a set of built in tire levers, but I’m not sure how useful they are. Most mountain bike tires come off without levers, and for the ones that don’t, would you use these blunt metal levers on your rim? To me these are dead weight, except for the one that doubles as a handle for the chain breaker.
Another thing I’m not crazy about is that the 8 millimeter allen key is a detachable bit. This means you need to remove it to access the 6 mill. In other words, it’s gonna get lost.
The chain tool has plenty of leverage thanks to the tire lever, and it does work smoothly. If you go too far it’ll push the pin all the way out though. It also won’t work for 11 speed chains, but that’s pretty normal at this price. Despite these shortcomings the EyezOff is solid and ergonomically. At 13 bucks, we can overlook its imperfections and safely say it’s sufficient for a casual rider or a beginner. If it gets lost you won’t be too bummed out.
Next we have a fairly expensive tool made by Lezyne. At $50, the Lezyne Stainless 20 seems hard to justify, but let’s take a closer look at what an extra $37 gets you.
First off, this thing looks freaking awesome. The tools are stainless steel, the handle is high grade aluminum, and everything has an nice bright finish. For such a big tool it weighs close to nothing too at 160 grams. Not that I’m a weight weenie, but with all the camera equipment I carry things are starting to add up. For the sake of comparison, the much smaller EyezOff weighs way more, at 210 grams.
As you might imagine, the chain tool is 11 speed compatible. In my test it worked smoothly and easily for a few different chains. The allen key set is very complete, and there’s even a built in 8 mill that won’t get lost. Here we even have a disc brake wedge, and two wrenches for 8 and 10 millimeter bolts. Everything moves smoothly including the knife which is a rarity on bike multi tools. It looks like you could use this blade for a trailside appendectomy. Although knives are useful for a number of things, this one scares the crap out of me. It’s attached to the tool like it’s another allen key, waiting to slice your finger off.
So, despite the scary knife our Lezyne Stainless 20 is super light, very well equipped, and sweet looking. Worth $50? I think so, considering it has all the tools shown here in high grade steel, but keep in mind that it’s not very compact, and has a lot of stuff you may not need.
Let’s take a look at the tried and true Crankbrothers Multi 17, which is 20 bucks. Crankbrothers makes a few other versions of this, as well some new multi tools that have mixed reviews, but there are very few multi tools out there with as good a track record as this one here. As you can see it’s more compact than the Lezyne, and actually it weighs the same 160 grams. It does have a built in 8 mill, as well as a T-25 for disc brakes. The chain breaker is not listed as 11 speed compatible, but I was able to make it work in a pinch. While it’s not as refined as the Lezyne, the steel is high quality, and the parts operate smoothly. If you don’t need a scary knife or an 11 speed chain tool, you could have two of these bad boys for the cost of one Lezyne Stainless 20.
I choose these three tools as examples for our discussion, not necessarily as recommendations. I wanted to give beginners a critical look at a few different tools just as a sort of crash course. Chances are, a multi tool may be your first and only bike tool until you build up a collection. Based on our discussion today, I’d say the sweet spot for most riders would be something like the Crankbrothers.
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