Whether it be tightening a rattling bottle cage, raising your saddle a little, or fixing a broken chain, having the right bike multi-tool in your pocket can save a heap of frustration and the ever-embarrassing, ‘can you come and pick me up’ phone call. Having the wrong one can mean cammed-out bolts and a few too many expletives uttered in a public space.
Bike multi-tools come in all shapes and sizes, some packing nearly a workshop worth of tools into a swiss army knife fold-out design, while others are lightweight and minimalist with only the bare essentials — or sometimes having the wrong tools altogether. Finding the right balance between size and functionality is critical.
Read on for a round-up of the bike multi-tools our tech team reaches for on the way out of the door for a ride.
If you want to know what features to look for when buying a multi-tool for your bike, here's our guide covering what to look for in a multi-tool.
What do you need?
The majority of your bike can be disassembled with a 4mm and 5mm Allen key, so at the very least, your bike multi-tools should have hex keys with these two sizes. It’s also worth having a 6mm. While some tools may have an 8mm or 10mm bit, quite often they aren't much use because the tool doesn’t offer enough leverage to break a bolt that size loose.
Some bikes also use Torx bolts usually in a T25 and sometimes a T-30, and a Phillips head screwdriver also comes in handy for derailleurs.
The other tool we prioritize on a bike multi-tool is a chain splitter. Even if you have a quick link in your spare tyre kit, you’ll need a chain tool to pop the old link off. Quite often the chain tool will also have spoke wrenches built into the lever.
And along with the rise of tubeless tyres comes the need for new tools. A valve core remover isn't something many will need to use at the roadside, but if you don't have one at home (or if you lost it again), then it's good to know there's one built into your multi-tool.
Bit-based or Swiss Army-style
When we say multi-tool, the Swiss Army-style fold-out multi-tools are probably the first things that pop into your mind, but bit-based tools are gaining in popularity because they provide more leverage, can fit into tight spaces, and allow you to only bring the tools you need, and none that you don’t. They aren’t the golden ticket, however, with lots of small pieces for you to lose, the bits may not be long enough to reach the recessed bolts on something like a seat-post clamp.
Durability and build quality
A multi-tool might not be something you use all that often, especially if you have a tool kit at home, but it is probably going to spend a lot of time in your pocket or saddle bag exposed to the elements. The last thing you want is to pull your tool out to fix a roadside issue to find all the hex keys have corroded into place, or have a cheaply made tool break when a little bit of pressure is applied.
Some more extensive bike multi-tools have extras like tyre levers, torque wrenches and bottle-openers. While a torque wrench can be useful out on the road, primarily if you're dealing with carbon components, the rest is a matter of personal opinion - do you think it's worth carrying the extra grams?
Ultimately, tyre levers only weigh a few grams, and even an expensive set doesn't cost all that much or take up much space in your pocket. When it comes to multi-tools with fun additions such as knives, pliers, and bottle openers, they might be useful once in a blue moon, but for your Sunday club ride, are they really going to be useful?
The Inspector Gadget of bike multi-tools
Blackburn’s Tradesman multi-tool has 18 built-in tools, with Hex heads from 2-8mm, two Torx bits, screwdrivers, a valve core remover, and a disc pad spreader. But that's not all; there is also a chain tool with an integrated quick link splitter, and it even has a spot to store your quick link, so you don’t have to dump out your entire seat pack to find it — no word on go-go gadget faster-legs yet, though.
It’s heavy when you drop it onto a scale, and it's pretty big too, though this does give you a bit more leverage for loosening sticky bolts.
Sticks to the essentials
Most of the tools we’ve highlighted here are relatively full-featured, but maybe that’s not what you’re after; instead, you might just need something small and lightweight that will get you out of a pinch. Enter the Birzman Feexman E-Version 5.
It has three Allen keys, a T25 bit, and a Phillips head screwdriver and is pretty budget-friendly. Even still, it doesn’t sacrifice any quality with an aluminum body and Chrome-Vanadium bits.
Small, but loaded with functions
Topeak’s Mini 20 is the brand's most fully-featured ‘mini’ bike multi-tool. All up, there are 23 tools here, which Topeak has managed to pack into a surprisingly small and compact package.
The wrenches range from 2mm to 10mm, with the smallest size being L-shaped and the 10mm is a head that fits onto the end of the 8mm bit. It also has T10 and T25 Torx bits, flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers, and a removable chain breaker.
The Topeak comes with a metal tyre lever, the chain breaker sees integrated spoke wrenches, and the pin is driven by the 3mm hex head to give you extra leverage when trying to punch the pin out of a broken link. Finally, the tool comes with a neoprene bag.
Best tool for stuck bolts
Hidden inside a nifty magnetized metal case, the Crank Brothers F15 actually has 16 tools including hex bits ranging from 2-8mm, a T25 Torx, Philips and flathead screwdrivers, a removable chain tool, and spoke wrenches.
The case can also be used for additional leverage, which is handy if you’re using the larger hex bits. It’s not light, but it slides into a pocket with ease, and there is an integrated bottle opener to help you with your post-ride mechanical work.
Mini-ratchet that will keep your carbon parts uncrushed
Making an adjustment to your saddle height is always a bit scary when you're working with carbon. You know the collar needs to be tight enough to prevent the post from slipping, but as you turn the bolt, you’re terrified of hearing a heartbreaking crack. Silca’s T-Ratchet eliminates the problem with the Ti-Torque bar; it's essentially a miniature version of the now-discontinued Park Tool TW-1 beam style deflection torque wrench that’s small enough to slide into your pocket.
The other parts of the equation are the 72-point ratchet, which allows for the wrench to be used as a T-handle, a standard ratchet, or even a screwdriver. The kit comes with ten high-quality S2 hardened steel bits that can be interchanged should you need different sizes, and it's all kept together in a waxed canvas wallet.
Small bit based T-handle tool
Starting as an idea on Kickstarter, Fix-it sticks are a unique take on the multi-tool. Using a modular design, two rods come together to create a T-handle wrench with a bit carrier on each end. This also allows you to use the tool both as an L-handle wrench when you need some leverage or a screwdriver for hard to reach spaces. The brand says the wrench can withstand up to 40nm of torque.
The basic kit comes with 2-6mm hex, a T25, and Phillips head bits. However, these can be chopped and changed based on personal needs as they are standard 1/4in bits. It all wraps up into a 116g package, and there is a range of add-on accessories ranging from chain breakers and tyre levers to a 15mm wrench head.
Inside out bike multi-tool ideal for getting into tight spaces
A lot of bike multi-tools follow roughly the same design, using two struts on either side, with the bits housed in the middle - Park Tool decided to flip it. The IB-3, as the name almost alludes to, sees ‘i-beam’ up the middle with the tools on either side. This helps get rid of some wasted space and material and allows the tool to fit into tighter places.
With 1.5-8mm hex heads, T25 Torx head, blade screwdriver, composite wrapped tyre lever complete with 8mm box wrench and spoke wrenches, and a chain tool, the IB-3 packs a lot of drivers into a surprisingly small space. Cleverly, the 8mm box wrench in the tyre lever is used to drive the plunger on the chain tool.
The ultimate trailside companion
The Crankbrothers M19 multi-tool is sturdy and well-made and has been known to last for years. The bits are easily accessible, making it easy enough to use. Its main appeal is the excellent chain tool included. The body is quite compact, and yet you can get a decent grip on it. The driving pin is large and tough, holding up well when applying force to pinheads. Plus, there’s a small carrying tin that happily fits some self-adhesive patches and a quick-link or spare joining pin, making the M19 an excellent multi-tool if you have chain issues while out riding.
On top of this, it includes four spoke wrenches, seven hex wrenches (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm), a Phillips and flathead screwdriver, 8mm and 10mm box wrenches, and T25 and T10 Torx wrenches.
Carries an arsenal of 26 tools
The Topeak Alien II comes with a horde of tools, and is used by professionals and amateurs alike. The two-piece body splits apart to make it easier to use, and with 26 tools in total, you should be able to fix just about anything with it (aside from a broken frame).
It’s basically an entire tool box that fits comfortably into your jersey pocket. Alongside the chain tool and hook, you’ll find a 15mm pedal wrench, two tire levers. Allen bits sized from 2 to 10mm, a T25 Torx, box-end wrenches sized 8, 9, and 10mm, along with 14, and 15-gauge spoke wrenches, and Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers.
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