Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Looking for the best full featured multi tool to carry on bike rides so you can make repairs on the road? As you can see in our first photo, the concept of a single take-along tool to let you fix just about anything that can go wrong mechanically goes back to the early days of cycling – the 1880s – if you can believe it. At that time it was basically an adjustable spanner that worked as a hammer, too.
When I started touring in the early 1960s, one of my first what we call today “multi-tools” or “all-in-ones” was a dumbbell wrench. Around both “balls” on the tool’s ends were machined every hex size to fit the many nuts of the most popular bike at the time, the British “Racer” 3-speed.
Robert “Bob” Seales is credited with inventing the first modern multi-tool in 1990 with his aptly named Cool Tool (see patent drawing). Bob was a fixture at mountain bike races back then and his tool was wildly popular. He even made it briefly in titanium. I still have and use one occasionally. Gerber bought the design and made the tool for awhile. I could not find any bicycle multis on their site currently, however. Cool Tools show up on eBay.com regularly.
Nowadays, road bikes are way more complicated than in the 1880s and even 1990s – and thankfully, we have a myriad of amazingly functional multi-tools to rescue us and ensure we can always pedal home.
I thought it would be fun and informative to virtually round up as many modern multis as I could find online that match my idea of a great tool. If your favorite isn’t listed in the ones shown below, please give it a shout out in the comments and share why you like it so much.
Multis Are Great For Beginning Mechanics
I’ve written previous about becoming your own mechanic , and these multi-tools are perfect for newbies. They let you learn how to use tools as you need them. And, the ones with the most tools are essentially traveling toolkits.
Over time you might teach yourself how to use all the tools on your multi to fix your bike – or you can ask riding pals to show you how to use the tools and learn that way. And, if you bike with your phone, as long as you have cell service, you can find video tutorials on every repair topic on youtube. That’s another way to learn to use bike tools..
Which Multis Made My Cut
To explain how I chose the multi-tools here, I first looked for true all-in-one tools. Like a Swiss Army Knife, these multis form a single unit and most of the tools fold out for use. Sometimes there are removable pieces like tire levers, but for carrying, everything goes back into the tool.
That way it’s easier to keep all the tools together. They’re also easier to access, which is important because I know you don’t want to hold up your weekly group ride fumbling to set up a tool to adjust your seat, for example. That’s also why I carry mine in my jersey pocket.
Tip: We have reviewed some great bit-type tools if you’re interested in those, too, such as Prestacycle’s and Spurcycle’s . Also, since I mentioned the Swiss Army Knife, you might enjoy learning about their most fully-featured model, the remarkable SwissChamp (who knew there’s a SAK with a ballpoint pen in it?)
A Chain Tool Is Essential
Secondly, I insist on having chain tools on my multi-tools and recommend them for you, too. So, I only picked multis that include them. The reason is because a broken chain is one thing that can stop you cold – or stop someone you’re riding with.
I’ve seen it and had it happen many times. My worst chain break was at about the 150 mile mark of the Terrible Two double century – a terribly tough ride to finish within the 15-hour time limit. It would have crushed me had I been forced to drop out and wait a year to complete the ride. Luckily, the SAG moto had a chain tool I could use.
Please note, that if for some reason, you don’t want a multi with a chain tool, this article is still useful. To see all the other multi-tools made by the companies on our list below, just click the links and search for “multi-tools” to see every tool – with and without chain tools.
The Perfect Gift
I intentionally timed this guide for the gift-giving season. Multi-tools are affordable “toys” and make awesome stocking stuffers for your loved ones.
In case you’re wondering, I did search the world’s largest online store, Amazon, for multis other than from the mainstream brands I pulled from. Even though there are some at super low prices, I didn’t find any that in my experience offer the features and bike-saving value of the ones I chose to write up. Again, if you’ve found a multi you love on the big A, please share it in comments.
How Do You Choose The Right Multi-tool For You?
The most important consideration is the bicycles you’ll ride when carrying the multi-tool. Plus, if you want to help friends you ride with, think about their bikes, too.
So, for example, if no one on your rides has disc brakes, then you probably don’t need a rotor straightener. Or, let’s say you’ve never trued a wheel and don’t want to learn how, then you might not care that a multi doesn’t include spoke wrenches.
Some newer features you might like to look for include built-in CO2 adapters for inflating tires (you need to carry the CO2 cartridge separately), Presta valve core removers (handy for fixing sealant plugs in tubeless tires that can prevent letting air out and inflation, too), and disc brake tools including the rotor-straightener I mentioned, and brake pad wedges/spreaders.
Other things to think about include how you’ll carry the tool. If it’ll ride in a pocket, you may want to get one that’s light and small. Maybe you want to use it off the bike, too, in which case, you might want a knife or bottle opener built in. Fix Manufacturing’s multis can even become the buckle for one of their belts (sold separately) so that you always have it with you.
Please Note 2: To be clear, I have tested many multi-tools over the years and carry them on every ride. But I did not personally purchase and/or test any of the ones in this guide. I’m providing the photos, specs and information from the makers and adding comments of what stands out to me. If any information is missing, it’s because it wasn’t provided or I could not locate it online.
To prevent confusion I need to explain that the Tools/functions listed with each tool is what the company lists for the tools. It can be a puzzle figuring out where they get this number. So don’t expect the Specs with each tool to add up to the Tools/functions every time.
However, if you were to contact the product manager at the company who designed the tool, they would be able to explain how they came up with the total functions number (trust me, I’ve done it out of frustration a few times).
Tools Listed In Random Order
Since I’m not using and rating the tools, I’ve listed them in random order to let you come to your own conclusions. Because Park Tool and Pedro’s provide nice photos with callouts identifying all the tools in their multis, I lead with their tools. That type of graphic is great for understanding how fully featured these tools are and is one of the best ways to compare them. I wish every company provided one.
Now, let’s get to the tools!
Tool model: MTC-40
Weight: 217 grams
“The MTC-40 features a super strong, composite, multi-position handle, with hardened and plated tools and smooth ergonomic operation. Lightweight, compact, and perfect to carry along.”
2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches
T25 & T30 torx
Combo Phillips, flat screwdriver
5- to 12-speed chain tool
CO2 cartridge inflator adaptor
Key ring holder
CO2 adapter, rotor straightener, works on all chain sizes up to 12-sp, video about the tool:
Tool model: Rx Micro-20
Weight: 160 grams
“Pedro’s new Rx Micro multi-tools deliver the perfect balance of size, weight, and function, ready for roadside repairs and daily adjustments. Designed for performance and durability with 6061 aluminum body, premium CrMo tool steel bits, and an anti-corrosion finish backed by our Rust-Free Guarantee.”
Backed by Pedro’s Lifetime Warranty and Rust-Free Guarantee
2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches
1-12 speed chain tool with integrated repair link storage
7 & 8mm flare box wrenches
3.23, 3.3, & 3.45 spoke wrenches
Shimano crank cap tool
Presta valve core tool
2 removable tire levers that act as side plates, chain repair link holder, Presta valve core remover for dealing with sealant plugs, Shimano crank cap tool, 3 spoke wrenches
Tool model: ALiEN III
Weight: 272 grams
“The evolution of the revolution! The ALiEN III features a stainless steel body for better strength and slimmer profile. Take-apart design allows easy access and full use of all tools. Includes self-tightening tools and a nylon bag.”
2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm hex wrenches
8/9/10mm box wrenches
14/15g/Mavic/Shimano spoke wrenches
Disc brake pad spacer
I have used an earlier version of the Alien for years and it’s still going strong, one of the most fully function multis, tools lock into place for safe use, disc brake pad spacer, tire levers, 4 spoke wrenches, serrated knife/saw, compartment for chain pins, has its own bag, website provides videos and downloadable user guide showing how to use the tools
Tool model: IAK Venti
Weight: 172 grams
“The unique magnetic slide-lock design of the Venti chain tool allows it to be more than twice as long as other designs for improved ergonomics in use, while also allowing it to be removed completely from the tool for improved usability. The forged mid-length tools are long enough to reach all common cycling fasteners, and not so long that they twist or deform under load. The ergonomic side plates also hold a secret magnetic storage feature for a chain repair link, and all tools are coated with Silca’s unique high-grip chrome plating which provides better torque transfer at the bolt interface.”
Metal injection sidebars with knurled grip surface and stainless steel hardware
Forged chain tool for 10-12 speed chain
Magnetic storage for 10-12 speed chain links
Forged and plated tools:
2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8mm hex wrenches
Phillips, flat screwdriver
7mm box wrench
8mm flare nut wrench
10mm open end wrench
Disc pad spreader
Valve core remover
13/15G spoke wrenches
Disc brake pad spreader, valve core remover for dealing with sealant plugs, 4 torx wrenches, storage for repair chain link, chain tool expands for extra leverage, IAK = Italian Army Knife, Venti=20
Tool model: M19
Weight: 175 grams
“These high tensile steel multi-tools feature a precise fit and finish and side grips for a secure handhold even with gloves on.”
8/9/10 speed chain tool
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 hex wrenches
8, 10mm open wrench
Phillips #1, #2, flat #2 screwdrivers
0, 1, 2, 3 spoke wrenches
T10, T25 torx
I’ve used a Crank Bros M tool for years and it’s still going strong, available in different colors, 4 spoke wrenches, lifetime warranty
Tool model: EMT 12
Weight: None Available
“When everything but the kitchen sink is all that will suffice, you need the EMT 12 Tool. With 12 different tools, you’ll be prepared to fix whatever bad luck mechanical the road or trail decides to throw your way.”
Forged aluminum side plates
Forged steel bits are nickel plated for corrosion resistance
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches
Phillips, flat screwdriver
Chain tool with spoke wrenches.
Compact size, Specialized makes other EMT models, too
Tool model: RAP CO2 21
Weight: 178 grams
“The RAP CO2 line of multi-tools feature a simple, yet ingenious design that integrates a CO2 dispenser. The CO2 head quickly slides on or off the 5mm bit allowing for easy access, and an internal sleeve unthreads from the chuck revealing the engagement port for a threaded CO2 cartridge. The head threads onto Presta and Schrader valves and is made up of light and durable aluminum. Available in a 15- or 21-tool build, the RAP CO2 features our exclusive CRV+ corrosion resistant bits and ergonomic aluminum side plates. Note: Blue color not available in the United States.”
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches
T25, T30 torx
8/10mm open end wrench
Phillips & flat screwdriver
Disc brake pad spreader
Chain tool 8/9/10/11
Mavic Mtv, 3.22, 3.45 spoke wrenches
Comes in colors, integrated CO2 adapter, tire lever, disc brake pad spreader, 4 spoke wrenches
Tool model: Woody Multi-Tool
Weight: 210 grams
“Slip one of these little gems into your seat bag or jersey pocket and you won’t be stranded, even if your chain breaks. The oak wood sides are nice to look at and feel great in your hand. Tools are constructed from hardened steel finished in satin silver.”
2,2.5,3,4,5,6,8mm hex wrenches
T10, T25 torx
Phillips and 2 flat screwdrivers
2 sizes of spoke wrenches
Removable wrench to adjust pivot tension on the tool
This is not the only multi with wood sides, includes tool for adjusting its own tool tension
Tool model: Spin Doctor Rescue 16
Weight: 138 grams
“The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 spells relief for unexpected repairs. Equipped with several hex, torx and spoke wrenches, plus a chain tool and pin holder, this compact multi-tool will get your road or mountain bike up and running again in no time.”
2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8mm hex wrenches
Chain pin holder
.127/.136/.130/.136 spoke wrenches
Chrome vanadium steel tools for strength and long-lasting durability
Neoprene storage pouch
Included storage bag, 4 spoke wrenches, chain pin holder
Tool model: Woodie 20
Weight: 210 grams
“Bring a little craftsmanship out on your ride. The tools feature chrome-vanadium steel for added hardness and torque ability. Very compact and user friendly. Real wood body with burned-in Soma logo.”
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm (fits over the 6mm) hex wrenches
#2 & #1 Phillips screwdriver
#5 & #3 flat screwdriver
T25 & T10 torx
Universal chain tool (8-9-10-speed)
14/15G spoke wrenches
(L-bend 2mm and 3mm hex wrenches)
The other wood handled multi, tire lever appears to be almost the same tool as the Nashbar – or vice versa.
Tool model: Pocket-22
Price: None available
3x4x5x6x8mm hex wrenches
T25 star wrench
15mm pedal wrench
12x13x14x15G spoke tools
Chain tool (Shimano 7, 8, 9, 10-speed compatible)
Interesting multi, but I could not confirm availability or price: pedal wrench, 4 spoke wrenches, clever way to indicate types of screwdrivers (+/-), includes bag
Tool model: CPR12+
Weight: 96 grams
“The Compact Pocket Rescue tool is back! The first CPR Tool was developed in 1992 out of race necessity. While leading a World Cup XC, Thomas Frischknecht’s stem slipped, causing him to stop, tighten it and lose valuable time. Tom Ritchey knew he couldn’t afford to send his riders across the world to race and have them not finish due to simple mechanicals. Thus, the CPR9 was born to solve this problem. Lightweight and reliable, the CPR tool was the first multi-tool designed to aid a rider in need while out riding or racing. Now the CPR12+ weighs in at just 96 grams and this investment-cast CPR tool packs over 12 individual tools into one small easy to stash utensil.”
14G spoke wrench,
2-6, 8mm hex wrenches
Designed by Tom Ritchey, maybe the smallest & lightest of all multis
Tool model: Pro Wheelie Wrench
“The Wheelie Wrench Pro is a brilliant combination of compact size packed with plenty of features. Special design consideration was given to common concerns with modern bikes and components. Ever had your presta valve glued shut with sealant? Repairing your 11-speed chain? Bent rotor? This tool does it all. If you’ve updated your bike lately, be sure to update your multi-tool with the Wheelie Wrench Pro. Be sure to carry it with one of our Payload Pocket solutions (belts).”
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6mm hex wrenches
Chain tool with spare link holder
Rotor truing wrench
#2 Phillips, flat screwdriver
#0, 2 spoke wrenches
8 and 10mm box wrench,
Presta valve core remover/opener
Tool splits in two and transforms into a long wrench handle
Cool feature: so that you can always take it along, this multi snaps into and becomes the buckle for Fix Manufacturing’s belt (sold separately). Also: Presta valve core tools for fixing sealant plugged tubeless tires, disc rotor truing tool, spare link holder
Tool model: Primefold XL
“High-end folding tool with chrome plated tools. Strong tools combined with a lightweight blue anodized aluminum case. Dual sided hex key bolt will not separate during use.”
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm hex wrenches
Phillips, flat screwdrivers
Knife, tire lever
Ride total: 9,080
Mike Henderson says
I was surprised on how many of the tools didn’t have a weight. Was it because you didn’t actually have them on hand and tested their function or that the manufacturer didn’t list a weight?
Mike Henderson says
The answer to my own question was provided when I read the article closer. My apologies.
Richard Henley says
I appreciate Mr. Langley’s article, and I happen to have one of the ‘dog bone” type wrenches he mentioned at the beginning of the article.. However, my experiences with multi-tools, is that I end up carrying multiple sets of tools that include items I don’t need, along with the associated weight, to get the package of tools that my bike(s) do need; there is no single multi-tool that provides all the resources necessary any given bicycle I may have.. Also, multi-tools’s functions are often compromised…and can be expensive. I’ve found that careful and thoughtful selection of a specific set of more traditional tools, provides a set of tools specific to my needs, and is not much heavier or bulkier than some multi-tools, and not much more expensive. This set of tools can also be adjusted as needs change.
I’ve been using Topeak’s (smaller than Alien) Hexus multitool for years. Quality steel and every tool actually WORKS! Also one of the first with integrated tire levers (tool’s handles). With all the tight tire-wheel combo’s out there these days I have NO use for a tool without tire levers.! I also have NO use for a tool made out of poor steel, and unfortunately some of the cheaper tools on this list fit in that category. Whatever tool you choose, try it out at home before blindly trusting it on a long ride. Stuck on the road 25 miles from home is NOT the time to figure out you got a JUNK mulittool.
Kerry Irons says
There must be something wrong with me – in decades of riding over hundreds of thousands of miles, I’ve never had a chain problem that kept me from getting home. I carry a couple of Allen wrenches, a couple of tire levers (that I rarely use because I can get my tires off the rim with bare hands), and have a spoke-nipple sized notch cut into my house key to serve as a spoke wrench. I just don’t experience mechanical problems other than flat tires. Proper bike maintenance goes a long way to obviating the need for a multi-tool.
Jim Langley says
That’s an awesome tip to file a notch the right size to fit your wheel’s spoke nipples into your house key, Kerry. Brilliant! Easy to do and free, too!
Thanks for sharing that great tip!
There is nothing wrong with you, Kerry. I too have ridden for decades over thousands of miles without breaking a chain and, without other major mechanical problems.. Proper lubrication and replacement of a worn chain is key along with routine care of the rest of the bike.. IMO, the likelihood of breaking a well maintained chain (that is not in some way defective) is so low I’ll take my chances and call for a ride the day it happens. I do carry a very basic multi tool, tire irons, tube and patch kit that I’ve used to help others over the years. I routinely come across riders that have broken down either because their bike has been poorly maintained or, because they have ridden their bike to the point where failure was inevitable (especially tires).
Thinking about roadside repairs, I’ll make a pitch for Grease Monkey Wipes, a citrus based degreaser that can be purchased individually wrapped. If you want to be a good Samaritan (and build your Karma) carry these to handout to riders doing repair work along the way. Who knows? Maybe you’ll actually need to clean your own hands some day.
I use and like my Park MTB3.2 mini tool, it has more tools than any of the stuff mentioned in this article; but that particular model is no longer made but was replaced with MTB7, but it has 21 tools instead of 27 for the 3.2:
2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 8mm hex wrenches
T25 Torx® compatible driver
Flat blade and Philips head screwdrivers
Tire levers (2)
0.127″, 0.130″, & 0.136″ spoke wrenches
8, 9, & 10mm box end wrenches
Chainring nut wrench
Dust cap remover
While my bike rarely breaks down on the road I have used it to fix other peoples bikes and once a lady’s car! The MTB3.2 came with 2 tire levers and a pedal wrench that are no longer included with the 7. Even though the MTB series is made for MTB’s I use it with my road bikes. Park also has a lifetime warranty.
I forgot to mention, the tools I listed are for the new MTB7 not for the 3.2 since it’s no longer made. The Park MTB series that use to come with the tire levers, well those levers were too wide for road tires, so I bought a pair of Soma Steel Core levers which work fantastic without any worry of ever snapping a lever in cold weather. Like others have said I have no interest in carrying a cheap tool that will break or doesn’t offer enough tools, I ride a lot of the time 50 miles from home, and I’m not going to call my wife to come get me, so I have to fix it enough to at least limp home, but so far that’s never happened in over 40 years of riding. And you can repair a chain if you have chain tool without carrying spare links, simply remove the broken link, reattach the chain and ride, you won’t be able to shift into your smallest or largest sprockets but you will get home.
Bill Shaw says
Tom in MN says
After a flat tire a couple of years ago that involved a really tough to remove bit of glass in the tread, I added a Gerber Dime multitool to the bike multitool I carry. It has pliers, tweezers, a knife, etc, that most of theses tools don’t have. It’s tiny and less than $20. Only complaint is that the tweezers tend to pop out of their slot inside my saddle bag, but that may be true of any Swiss army knife style tweezers. I’ve now got a little tape over them.
P.S. You can count me in the no chain tool club.
Stephen Weeks says
I’ve been happy with my “Tern Tool” (https://www.ternbicycles.com/us/gear/472/tern-tool) which I carry in my backpack. At 181 grams it’s in the acceptable range, I feel. I haven’t had to use the chain tool, but the others have been quite useful. I should add that I also carry a separate 15mm box-end wrench for axle nuts; even though the Tern Tool has this size, I like the feel of the Craftsman.
Another interesting multi-tool is “Fix-It Sticks” (https://store.fixitsticks.com/collections/featured-products/products/mountain-kit?variant=41795550925). I picked up one of these at InterBike a couple years ago.