Whether it be tightening a rattly bottle cage, raising your saddle a little, or fixing a broken chain, having the right 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.
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 multi-tools our tech team reaches for on the way out of the door for a ride.
If you want to know what the best features to look for when buying a multi-tool, check out Cyclingnews' guide covering what to look for in a multi-tool,
The best multi-tools you can buy today
1. Topeak Mini 20
Small and loaded with functions
Hex: 2-10 | Torx: T10, T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head, Flat head | Chain tool: Yes | Extras: Tyre lever, Bottle opener, Spoke wrench | Price: £22 / $40 / AU $58 | Weight: 151g
Topeak’s Mini 20 is the brand's most fully-featured ‘mini’ 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.
2. Crank Brothers F15
Best tool for stuck bolts
Hex: 2-8 | Torx: T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head, Flat head | Chain tool: Yes | Extras: Magnetic case, Bottle opener, Spoke wrench | Price: £40 / $43 / AU$45 | Weight: 163g
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 flat head 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 lager 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.
3. Blackburn Tradesman
If inspector gadget were a multi-tool he’d be a Blackburn Tradesman
Hex: 2-8 | Torx: T25, T30 | Screwdriver: Phillips head, Flat head | Chain tool: Yes | Extras: Spoke wrenches, valve core remover, disc brake pad spreader, quick link splitter, quick linker holder | Price: £27 / $30 / AU$45 | Weight: 136g
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.
4. Silca T-Ratchet + Ti-Torque kit
Mini-ratchet that will keep your carbon parts uncrushed
Hex: 2-6 | Torx: T10, T20, T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head | Chain tool: No | Extras: Ti Torque Bar, Mini Ratchet | Price: £100 / $99 / AU$200 | Weight: 225g
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 which can be interchanged should you need different sizes, and it's all kept together in a waxed canvas wallet.
5. Lezyne CRV-12 Multi-tool
Plenty of tools for the money
Hex: 2-8 | Torx: T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head | Chain tool: Yes | Extras: Spoke wrench | Price: £28.99 / $30 / AU$53.99 | Weight: 115
With forged alloy side plates, the Lezyne CRV-12 features CNC machined Chrome-Vanadium anti-corrosion bits.
It's a relatively compact tool and comes with hex bits ranging from 2-8mm, a Phillips head screwdriver, chain breaker complete with spoke wrenches and a T25 Torx. Tipping the scales at 115g, the tool also comes with a cover to protect it from the elements and prevent it from scratching your phone while they both rattle around in your pocket.
6. Fix-it Sticks
Compact bit based T-handle tool
Hex: 2-6 | Torx: T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head | Chain tool: Available for purchase | Extras: N/A | Price: £22 / $30 / AU$40 | Weight: 116g
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.
7. Birzman Feexman E-Version 5
Best minimalist multi-tool
Hex: 4-6 | Torx: T25 | Screwdriver: Phillips head | Chain tool: No | Extras: N/A | Price: £9 / $12 / AU$20 | Weight: 58g
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, costing less than £10, is pretty budget-friendly. Even still, it doesn’t sacrifice any quality with an aluminium body and Chrome-Vanadium bits.
8. Park Tool IB-3 Multitool
Inside out multi-tool ideal for getting into tight spaces
Hex: 1.5-8 | Torx: T25 | Screwdriver: Flathead | Chain tool: Yes | Extras: Metal core tyre lever | Price: £ / $ / AU$ | Weight: 170g
A lot of 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.
What to look for in a multi-tool
1. 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 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 — we're looking at you Scott — usually in a T25 and sometimes a T-30, and a Phillips head screwdriver also comes in handy for derailleurs.
The other tool we prioritise on a 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.
2. Bit-based or Swiss Army
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.
3. 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 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?
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