Worst-case scenario: you’re in the middle of the woods and the sun’s about to dip down beyond the horizon. Then your chain breaks with one excessive pedal stroke. With no multi tool in your bag or your pockets, you’re facing a long walk home. But it doesn’t have to be this way! We’ve tested the market’s current hottest multi tools to find out which ones are most suited for mountain bikers.
With so much choice out there when it comes to multi tools and as virtually every bike tool company has multiple models on offer, it makes choosing the right model a hard task. But what even defines a good multi tool for mountain bikers? What’s crucial and what can be scrapped?
Multi tools have been created as a means to carry out the most crucial bike repairs on the go, thereby saving your ride from a premature end. Naturally, this solve-all nature demands a certain repertoire of tools, which should definitely include the following:
- Allen keys: The most important elements – the more, the better!
- Torx 25: more and more screws on your bike have Torx heads, particularly shifters and brakes. The 25 is standard, and you rarely find other sizes.
- Chain Tool: If your chain breaks you have to get rid of the broken link. A chain tool is crucial for this.
- Screw Driver: As always you still get the classic flat head and Philips screws on most bikes, so screwdrivers remain an essential.
What’s more, your tools need to be fairly high quality so that they won’t actually damage the screws on your bike and so that they’ll last more than just a couple of months. Cheap multi tools are likely to fail on this point, and won’t be the friendliest tools to use on your expensive bike parts. As certain screws ask for pretty hefty armwork to loosen them, you’ll need a tool that fits well in your hand and offers a decent-sized lever. Ideally, it’s about finding the optimal balance of weight, price and range of functions.
The Best Multi Tool: Topeak Mini 20 Pro
The Topeak Mini 20 Pro proves itself as the best multi tool, coming in a stylish and discrete look. Clearly and concisely designed, it has a practical layout for the individual tools, which are also labeled. With a retail price of 34.95 €, this ergonomic multi tool offers 20 functions (hinted at by the name) and at 150 g it’s the lightest tool on test.
Even the tightest screws on the bike are easy to loosen, including pedals from the cranks. The chain tool has to be unscrewed before use, but once in use, it is ergonomic and gives you sufficient power so chain defects are solved quickly. The chain tool also has a spoke key compatible for four different nipple sizes. The shape takes a bit of getting used to but performs efficiently.
The multi tool is kitted out with T25 and T10 Torx wrenches, which are both easy to use thanks to their long lengths. There’s an extra Allen key on the chain tool, which you can use to adjust how tight the individual tools sit in the multi tool. Interestingly, this is the only multi tool in test to feature a chain hook, which is a crafty tool that holds your chain in place whilst you fix it and simplifies the task of repairing the chain. If you’re not big on the gold finish then the Topeak Mini 20 also comes in silver.
Once the work is done then why not reward yourself with a refreshing drink? Naturally, this multi tool wouldn’t be complete without a bottle opener.
Price: € 34,95
Weight: 153 g
No. of functions: 20, incl. Neopren Pocket
More information on the Topeak Website
Runner Up: Birzman Feexman E-Version 20
The Birzman Feexman E-Version 20 offers a substantial 20 functions and weighs in at a decent mid-field weight of 165 g. The multi tool also features a bottle opener as well as a knife that can be used as a tin opener. As you’d expect from Birzman, the manufacturing quality is super high, although it’s a very angular shape and therefore less pleasant to grip.
The layout of the individual Allen keys and screwdriver is great and the tool performed faultlessly until it was asked to remove the pedals – however, this shouldn’t really be an issue as that’s something you’d tend to do in a workshop rather than on a ride. The four spoke keys on the Feexman work without issues. The chain tool is part of the multi tool and has great leverage.
In short, the Birzman Feexman E-Version 20 poses an interesting alternative and the presence of the knife renders it a great option for adventurers who are after a host of functions in a tiny package.
Price: € 32,90
Weight: 165 g
No. of functions: 20
More information on the Birzman Website
Park Tool IB-3
Slightly more unconventional-looking, Park Tool IB-3 offers just 14 functions, and its 177 g weight places it at the heavier end of the spectrum. However, given its high-end manufacturing quality and above all its handling, it can claw back some approval.
The IB-3 has a large aluminium body with the tools flanking the sides. There’s a big tyre lever on one side with two integrated spoke keys; at 9cm, it works as the lever for the chain tool and is definitely the standout highlight of this multi tool as it makes light work of removing chain links. Moreover, the other tools (flat head screwdriver, eight different Allen keys and a T25) each have a decent length and work ergonomically.
Price: € 25,00
Weight: 177 g
No. of functions: 13
More information on the Park Tool Website
SKS TOM 18 Tour Mechanic
The German brand SKS proclaim their products are ‘for carefree cycling’, and this certainly applies to the TOM 18 multi tool. With 18 functions, this all-rounder offers everything necessary and more. While at 180 g it’s heavier than its more expensive competitors, it is ergonomically designed and robustly built. The individual tools are labeled.
The Allen keys and Torx perform faultlessly, with the exception of perhaps being a little out of their depth when loosening the pedals. The chain tool did its duty but didn’t blow us away. Before using the TOM 18’s two spoke wrenches, you have to unscrew the chain tool. And tensioning the spokes was not as successful as you’d hope for as the SKS lacks precision. However, for just under 25 € the SKS still offers decent value for money, with a bottle opener rounding off the package. Cheers!
Price: € 24,99
Weight: 180 g
No. of functions: 18, zusätzlich Minitasche aus Neopren
More information on the der SKS Website
Crankbrothers M 19
Thanks to its 8.5 cm design, the Crankbrothers M 19 is especially suited to larger hands. There’s good leverage with each tool. Screws on the stem proved easy to loosen and re-tighten, as did the pedals. Just like many other multi tools, the four spoke wrenches are integrated into the chain tool, and the whole package makes light work of reaching and tensioning the spokes.
The only real weak link on the Crankbrothers M 19 has to be the chain tool: like many of its equivalents, this one isn’t compatible with 11-speed chains. But while the majority of chain tools still manage to tackle narrow chains, the M 19 proved unusable with 11-speed chains and even struggled with 10-speed ones. Other than this though, the Crankbrothers’ tool is practical, reliable and ergonomically designed with great levers. Plus it comes in a stylish aluminum case.
Price: € 34,95
Weight: 174 g
No. of functions: 19, plus an additional metal case
More information on the Crankbrothers Website
Special exception: Topeak Survival Gear Box
If you’re after an alternative to a typical multi tool then the Survival Gear Box is worth a closer look. The small plastic box is filled with all the essentials and offers an equally as broad level of practicality and functions as the test winner. Each tool is well made and delivers a better standard of handling than when relying on a regular multi tool. However, take note of where each tool lies in the box otherwise you’ll be forced into a Rubix cube-style situation. There’s also the additional risk of losing tools while carrying out off-the-cuff repairs in a hurry. But if you can take all that in your stride then the Topeak Survival Gear Box is a serious contender as an on-the-go tool box.
Price: 34,95 €
Weight: 220 g
No. of functions: 23
More information on the Topeak Website
Words: Melanie Müller Photos: Noah Haxel
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