The coronavirus cycling boom has seen bike shops overwhelmed. Mechanics' diaries are overflowing, and in some cases, customers are having to wait weeks or even months for appointments to carry out basic maintenance.
Thankfully, there's an easy way to jump the queue: simply arm yourself with a bike multi-tool and learn some of the easy stuff yourself.
You'd probably be surprised at how many bike-maintenance jobs can be done at home with a couple of Allen keys and a spanner. Besides, having a multi-tool with you is essential when you're out riding.
Particularly if you don't have a team car (read: long-suffering partner, parent or friend) that can come and pick you up when you inevitably have a “mechanical” (that’s cyclist speak for something going wrong with your bike).
A good multi-tool should be equipped with a few different Allen keys at the very least. This will enable you to do things like adjust your saddle, handlebars, derailleurs (the things that shift the chain when you change gears), and more. It should also be solid and well built. The last thing you want is it snapping in half when you need it most.
To help you find the right one, we put several of the best multi-tools to the test and detailed our findings below. From simple but effective to top of the range, these are the best bike multi-tools to buy in 2021.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Park Tool mt-40 multi-tool
For the seasoned cyclist, Park Tool is a name that needs no introduction. For everyone else, suffice to say the brand's tools have a well-deserved reputation for quality. The mt-40 is a veritable cycling Swiss Army knife. It has everything a keen cyclist could possibly need when out on the road. Naturally, there's a selection of Allen key heads and screwdriver bits, but there's also a CO2-cartridge adapter and a chain tool – two specialist (but very handy) additions that most multi-tools don't include.
Fix It Sticks original multitool
This innovative tool from Fix It Sticks is an even more compact take on a classic multi-tool. The unique design allows it to pack down much smaller than most, while still offering all the same basic functionality and great leverage thanks to the T-bar construction. It's extremely lightweight at only 55 grams and is available in a number of configurations, allowing you to pick the one that best suits your bike/needs.
Ice Toolz compact multi-tool
This reasonably priced bike tool from Ice Toolz is solid, simple and reliable. It does everything you need it to and nothing you don’t, with a varied selection of Allen-key heads, flat and cross-headed screwdriver bits and a t-25 torx wrench. It doesn’t do anything particularly fancy, but if you’re just after a well-built tool that covers all of your basic maintenance needs at an affordable price, this is about as good as it gets.
Crank Brothers m-19 multi-tool
When it comes to multi-tools, Crank Brothers is known for making some of the best around. The Californian brand balances maximum functionality with seriously robust build quality, resulting in tools that’ll likely outlast their owners in most cases. This particular one has a whopping 19 functions, including all the usual Allen keys and screwdrivers, but also a spoke wrench and a chain tool for removing and replacing links without having to bother the local bike shop.
Bikehut 21-function multi-tool
Halfords is always a safe bet when it comes to anything bike related, and multi-tools are no exception. This 21-function tool from the retailer’s in-house brand, Bikehut, is an all-in-one toolkit that fits neatly into a saddle bag or jersey pocket. Expect all the usual stuff (Allen keys, screwdrivers, torx keys, etc), plus the rare addition of a pedal spanner. Not something commonly found on run-of-the-mill multi-tools, but an inclusion that most cyclists will find very useful indeed.
LifeLine pro 18-in1 multi-tool
With 18 useful functions in a device that fits neatly into the palm of your hand, this tool from LifeLine is everything a cyclist needs and more. It comes complete with a selection of Allen-key heads, ranging from 2-8mm, two torx heads, screwdrivers and a spoke wrench. However, for us, the best part is the inclusion of an inflator adapter which allows you to use CO2 cartridges to inflate inner tubes in the blink of an eye. No more frantically pumping at the roadside after every puncture. That’s worth £15 alone.
If you happen to be the owner of one of the world’s most popular folding bikes, this is the only toolkit you’ll ever need. The nifty cylindrical box slips discreetly inside the front frame tube of a Brompton bike, ensuring you always have everything you need wherever you go. Inside, you’ll find everything needed to perform most basic maintenance tasks, including mending punctures, nipping up nuts and bolts, and making small adjustments on the move. But make sure to check when your bike was made before purchasing, as this particular toolkit is only compatible with bikes built after 2004.
Silca italian army knife tredici
If you’re the sort of person who appreciates the finer things in life (or just the sort of person who has to have the best of the best when it comes to your bike) then this premium bike tool from Italian-American brand Silca should be right up your street. There’s no competition when it comes to looks – this thing is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Everything about it smacks of quality, from the shiny finish to the reassuring weight. The Swiss Army knife-style casing houses a number of tools, including Allen keys, torx keys, screwdrivers and a disc-pad spreader. In other words, all the stuff you need for quick adjustments and nothing you don’t.
The verdict: Bike tools
There’s a saying when it comes to tools: buy the best and you only cry once. In other words, it’s better to fork out for a good tool in the first place than to settle for something lesser. That’s why Park Tool’s mt-40 multi-tool is our favourite. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also extremely versatile and very, very well made. If your budget can’t stretch to it, we’d recommend the Ice Toolz compact multi-tool instead.
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