Get yourself equipped with a decent trail tool
Light enough to put in your pack and carry all day, useful enough to fix a multitude of sins if your bike breaks – we test 16 multi-tools.
One of the cornerstones of mountain biking is self-sufficiency; specifically the ability to get out of a fix and carry out emergency repairs on the trail.
To make repairs and adjustments you’ll need a trail tool. Most of based around old-fashioned Allen key clusters, improved by the addition of screwdrivers, Torx keys and spoke wrenches. Ideally they will include 16-22 items, with the most essential being a chain splitter, so you can break and join the chain if it has snapped, or you have to untangle a busted mech. Most tool companies make this type of tool – we have these on test here too.
There are also many alternative options and we’ve got eight of those too. They range from a multi-plier (popularly known as a Leatherman or Gerber) to a fold-up chain tool. The former is perfect for those ugly jobs, like bending a mech hanger straight, and we’ve included the latter simply because most of the trail tools’ built-in miniature chain splitters are difficult to use.
BBB Maxifold L multi-tool
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm, T25 Torx, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, tyre lever, spoke wrenches, chain tool
To ensure maximum leverage when joining a chain, the chain splitter on the Maxifold L has a sturdy fold-out handle, making it a pleasure to use. The tool has a slim profile, so sits nicely in the hand, and features long Allen keys to access those hard-to-reach areas. Once folded out, these also improve the leverage, which is handy when trying to remove a pedal or tighten a crank arm. A tyre lever in included, but it’s too sharp, and while you get five spoke keys, they’re formed into a long arm, so if you want to true a wheel it’s going to be a long-winded, stop/start process. It’s a great value multi-tool, though, and has one of the best chain splitter – fully recommended.
Crank Bros M-19 multi-tool
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm Hex keys, T25 and T10 Torx, flat and two Phillipsd screwedrivers, 8 and 10mm wrenches, chain tool, spoke keys, pad separator.
To protect it from corrosion and damage, the M-19 comes in a nice aluminium case, which we also reckon would stop the tool digging into your back if you landed on it. The tool itself is nicely made, and also comes with a lifetime warranty. There’s a good selection of tools, but the chain splitter isn’t quite up to the standard of the others here – the thread is just the right length for driving the rivet flush to the side plate, but the pin was bent on our sample, and there’s no secondary position for loosening stiff links. This part also features the 8 and 10mm spanners, but they are fiddly to use. A good tool, but the chain splitter needs a longer handle and a second position for stiff links.
Blackburn Wayside 19
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, T25 and T30 Torx, flat-head screwdriver, spoke keys, chain tool, chain hook, pad separator, Presta valve core tool, serrated knife.
Attached to one side of the Blackburn Wayfarer is a set of ball-end Allen keys. These are perfect for working in confined spaces, and make adjusting brake lever-reach a doddle. The chain splitter features the important secondary position for loosening stiff links, but unfortunately the handle is too small, making it uncomfortable to use. Also included on this part are the spoke keys, Presta valve core remover, and a handy disc splitter wedge. The serrated blade is super-sharp and there’s a decent-sized hook for holding the chain together. A great tool, but just misses out on the top spot due to the undersized chain splitter.
Lezyne Rap-21 CO2
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, T25 and T30 Torx, chain tool, spoke keys, CO2 chuck
We tested Lezyne’s CRV 20a while back [in the magazine], which is a multi-tool with a similar tool count and arrangement to the Rap-21. We had a few issues back then and they haven’t been addressed – the metal tyre lever is still unkind to rims, and the fins on the chain breaker are too shallow, so when we tried to release a stiff link, the chain would often slip out. On the plus side, the Rap-21 is fully loaded with tools, and we particularly liked the L-shaped Allen keys for adjusting brake lever reach. The CO2 charger is also dead handy for seating tubeless tyres on the trail. AS good range of tools, and it’s nice looking too; with a better chain splitter it would have received top marks.
Park Tool MT40
Tools: 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, T25 and T30 Torx, combo screwdriver, chain tool and CO2 chuck
With its contoured sides, Park Tool’s new MT40 is one of the most comfortable tools to use. It’s also pretty burly, which means there’s zero flex when you have to put a lot of flex through it. Most of the rival multi-tools tested here have a wider range (the lack of a 2mm Allen key is a real oversight) but the ones on the MT40 are all superb quality. The chain breaker is actually a mini version of the CT6, reviewed lower down this page, and just as effective, although you will have to loosen stiff links by hand as it lacks a secondary shelf. There’s also a CO2 chuck supplied for emergency inflation.
Syncros MatchBox 16
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm, T10, T20, T25 and T30 Torx, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, chain tool, spoke wrenches, link holder
A compact multi-tool with bits on both sides and a chain splitter slotted down the centre. This slides in easily and features a dual-position chain breaker, three spoke keys, an 8mm bit and a magnetic holder for a split link. Unfortunately, like the Crank Bros M-19, the fins that hold the chain are not tall enough and caused the chain to unseat. All the tools are forged and, apart from missing a 6mm Hex, there’s a good selection. The other issue is the wide body of the tool tends to foul on the component you’re trying to adjust.
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, T25 Torx, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, chain tool, bottle opener, two tyre levers, spoke wrenches
Unfortunately, the tyre levers clipped to either edge of the ICM, spring off when trying to tighten anything with the Allen jkeys. That said, compared to the miniature levers elsewhere, they work and can actually get a tyre off without scuffing a rim. Also slipped into the body of the tool is spoke key, which actually feels like a proper workshop item. There’s a third, Mavic-specific spoke key on a long arm but truing is a chore as you can’t turn it very far between the spokes without having to remove it. All the Allen keys are a good length, so you can access those tight spots, and the chain splitter has the second gate for stiff links, but the short handle means we had to grip hard to break a chain.
Topeak Mini Pro 20
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10mm Hex keys, T25 Torx, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, chain tool, spoke wrenches, chain hook, bottle opener, chain pin tool
With its chrome finish, this tool has real bling factor, and should stay that way protected by its own neoprene pouch. The tools are all quite stubby, but there are plenty of them, including a neat chain breaker, which sports four spoke keys, a chain hook and a 3mm Hex. All the Allen sizes needed for repairs and adjustments are included, even a 10mm for crank bolts and L-shaped 2mm for adjusting the reach on your brake levers. The only redundant tool is the tyre lever – it’s too short and sharp, and wouldn’t want it anywhere near carbon rim. That’s our only criticism though, because the Mini Pro 20 is a great tool and easily the best on test.
Birzman M-Torque Ranger
Tools: 3, 4, 5, and 6mm Hex bits, T25 Torx, flat-head screwdriver, two tyre levers
As the name suggests, the M-Torque Ranger is a pre-set (to 5Nm) torque wrench for use on the trail. It comes with six interchangeable bits and a universal holder, allowing you to slot in other 1/4in bits if you want. Two plastic tyre levers clip over the body of the tool to stop the bits falling out. These are wide, stiff and, so far, still in one piece. A torque wrench is a handy addition to your trial pack, but unfortunately we’ve found it impossible to tell if this one is working. It doesn’t breakaway like a conventional torque wrench and you also have to hold it in really awkward position. Apparently there’s a knack, but we’ve found it impossible to master.
Full Windsor The Breaker
Tools: 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Hex bits, T25 Torx, Phillips screwdriver, chain tool, spoke key, bottle opener, recycled inner tube pouch
If you add them up, The Breaker from Full Windsor has a lot of the same tools as the normal multi-tools reviewed above; the difference is it’s based around a really long aluminium tyre lever. The amount of leverage this generates is unreal; it’s one of the only multi-tools that can remove a crank arm. There’s a chain tool on the other end, and again there’s a ton of leverage for splitting a chain. It also features a secondary gate for loosening stiff links and the fins are some of the deepest we’ve seen, so there’s little chance of the chain slipping out. The Breaker may be pricey but it’s a superb bit of kit.
Tools: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex bits, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, T10 and T25 Torx.
Hidden inside the Chamber are 13 tools: six extra-long bits with a tool on either end and a hollow 6mm tool that slides over the 5mm Allen key. The bits slot into the T-Bart head and allow you to ratchet tight disc rotors, stem bolts… you name it. The Chamber is the perfect tool for adjusting the reach on brake levers and accessing the angled bolts on a seat post clamp. The best bit is, you just reverse the tools to back the bolts out the other way. It’s not a cheap tool, but it looks futuristic and we think it’s actually a shame to keep it hidden in your pack.
Tools: regular and locking pliers, wire cutters, wire stripper, knife, ruler, pin vice bottle opener, file, three flat-heads and one Phillips screwdriver
Instead of the needle-nosed ends you find on regular Leatherman tools, the Crunch effectively has a pair of mole grips stuck to the top and, as we know, they’re great for workshop bodges, never mind trailside repairs. If you break, bend or bust something, this is the tool that will sort it out. In addition, it has a ton of other features, including a knife, a couple of screwdriver and a nail file. Also, if you remove the threaded bolt from the handle, you’ll see a 1/4in bit holder, making the Crunch one of the most versatile tools here and easily a test winner.
Park Tool CT6.3C Folding Chain Tool
Tools: Chain breaker
Yes, there is only one tool here, there’s nothing hidden away and you can’t add an array of extra bits or features. It just does one job, but it does that almost as well as a workshop-quality chain breaker, albeit one in a compact, fold-up package. The tool used to be called CT6, but Park has since updated the tool to split 11-speed chains, and it now features a single gate with a fold-out anvil to allow you to release stiff links – Park calls this peening. The best thing about this tool is it features a replaceable pin, so if you bend it you don’t have top throw the whole thing away.
Specialized EMT Cage Mount Tool
Tools: 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, T25 Torx, flat-head screwdriver
In terms of functionality, there’s nothing special about the EMT, it has seven basic tools including fie Allen keys, a T25 Torx and a flat-head screwdriver. However, what really makes it worthy of consideration is the fact that you can attach the tool holder to the bottom of a water bottle mount. So if you want to go out for a short blast without being encumbered by a pack, you’ve already got a tool attached top your bike. At 76g, the EMT is the lightest tool on test, and it takes up very little space, but we found the holder can get a bit sticky over time. It’s also an expensive tool, but if you absolutely hate carrying anything on your back, this is the one to get.
Tools: 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Hex keys, T25 Torx, flat-head screwdriver, valve extension, Presta and Schrader valve core removal
If you run tubeless tyres you should carry this tool in your trail pack. It’s a product of German tyre company Schwalbe and features a valve core removal tool for both Presta and Schrader valves – you generally remove these to add sealant or check level. this part also acts as a extension, so if you have deep rims, and not much valve stem showing, you slot it on the top of the valve then connect the pump. The rest of the Allen keys and drivers on show ar nothing to write home about and while it’s fairly handy, it’s expensive for a multi-tool with just nine functions.
Topeak Monster Air
Tools: 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm Hex keys, T10, T25 Torx, Phillips screwedriver, 8, 9mm box wrench, 15mm pedal spanner, spoke wrenches, chain pin breaker, CO2 inflator
It’s hard to categorise this tool – it looks like an old-school bike spanner, but has a CO2 chuck on the top, three small slip-out Allen keys, and various sockets. There’s also a secondary clip-on T-wrench with the bigger Allen keys and two Torx keys. The best feature isn’t the CO2 chuck, though, but the 15mm pedal/axle spanner; no other tool in this test has one. Unfortunately it’s a little bit hsort and, while you can flip the T-wrench round, it doesn’t really add any more leverage. The 15mm is a nice touch, but there are CO2 tools here that do the job for less money.
Multi-tool group test verdict
There are two reasons to carry a multi-tool – to carry out repairs and make adjustments. For the latter you only need a very basic tool with a couple of Allen keys, screwdrivers and maybe a Torx key. If, however, things go pear-shaped and you mangle something, you’re going to need a bigger selection. How many tools is hard to say, but one of the mechanicals that can put an end to your ride in an instant is a snapped chain. This is why a chain splitter is essential, and why we’ve put so much emphasis on this component when testing the eight primary tools. Having along handle is definitely a benefit when breaking a chain, because it gives you something to brace against when trying to push the chain rivet out. If the tool is too small, it’s just going to hurt your, hand, or not work at all.
All of the primary tools are excellent quality, but the problem with the Syncros MatchBox 16 and Crank Bros M-19 is that the fins on the chain splitter don’t hold the chain securely. The MatchBox 16 is also the most awkward tool to use in a confined space.
Park Tool’s MT40 is the new kid on the block, and it’s a solid tool with a great chain splitter, but the tool count is a little low, it’s also heavy and expensive. The Pedros ICM and Lezyne Rap-21 CO2 are better value, but both miss out on top marks due to the poor performance of their chain splitters. Even better value is the BBB Maxifold L – it’s a great little tool with very impressive chain splitter, but the tyre lever and spoke keys don’t really work.
Vying for top spot in our multi-tool test is the Blackburn Wayside 19 and Topeak Mini Pro 20. Both are excellent multi-tools, with everything you need to get yourself out of a hole, The chain tool on the mini Pro 20 isn’t as useable as the one on the Park or BBB too, but it’s better than the Wayside 19, and is basically why this tool takes top honours.
There’s a lot of choice in amongst the alternative tools, with real standout products, but the tool we’d take with us on every ride is the Leatherman Crunch. Yes, it is the most expensive tool on test, but it’s the absolute best quality, truly versatile, and really can bend stuff straight. A couple of mbr testers have these in their trail packs and they swear by them – if you really want to be self-sufficient this tool is essential.
Know your multi-tool
The multi-tool will be rattling around in your pack getting scuffed and wet, so some form of holder or case is handy.
These are great for straightening a buckled wheel, but if they’re too fat you won’t be able to get them between the spokes and it’ll make truing a laborious chore – the narrower this tool, the better.
A chain splitter is essential, but once you have joined a chain, the link will be stiff, so you need to work it loose. A second gate, or position on the bed of the tool, allows you to do this easily, but many of the tools in this test don’t have them. Also very few have replaceable pins, co once this is bent, the splitter is next to useless.
Short tools are compact, but a long tool offer greater leverage for stubborn bolts, and car reach into areas without the body of the tool fouling on the component or frame.
If these are included, they are usually tiny and won’t have enough leverage to release the bead. Our advice is to always carry a separate lever, like Topeak’s excellent Shuttle 1.2 lever.
This is a star-shaped tool, and the common size used on mountain bikes is a T25.Most disc rotors use this size, and SRAM also uses it for the derailleur mounting bolt and the brake lever clamps.
These can be long, short, L-bend and, in some cases, separate. the most important thing is you have all the sizes, including a 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm. Some tools have an 8mm or 10mm, but it’s often too short to remove a pedal or tighten a crank – the two components the commonly require this size.