It seems like everyone makes some sort of multi-tool to help you fix your bike when you’re out riding. Decades of riding and trailside-wrenching have taught us that nothing is more frustrating than a tool that doesn’t work, doesn’t do the job you need it to or actually causes damage. Unfortunately, there are loads of these about, so we’ve been extremely careful in curating this list of our favourites.
We’ve looked at bargains like the Love Mud, a proven classic from Crank Brothers and useful evolutions like Lezyne’s RAP CO2. We also casted a critical eye over some well packaged solutions like the Topeak Ninja range and Specialized’s SWAT kits along with a few properly innovative wrenching solutions like Stique’s ML125 and the Ryder Nutcracker.
How to buy a multi-tool: Price
In theory the more you pay, the more functions you get. However as you can see from looking at the £13 Love Mud Trailside 16 or the Fix Mfg Wheelie Wrench Pro for £50 there’s a very wide range of prices for seemingly very similar tools. We’d beware going too low on cost though as some cheaper tools use poor quality materials and it only takes one slip from a soft or undersized Allen key to round off a bolt and create a serious problem. On the other side, some tools list a load of ‘functions’ like different sized spoke wrenches that probably aren’t functional at all so check you’re not paying extra for stuff you don’t need.
How to buy a multi-tool: Functions
We reckon there’s a bare minimum function list if you want to cover most mechanical problems though and that’s 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen wrenches, a Torx T25 wrench and a chain splitter. To be honest, we don’t know a single tool that’s just boiled the useful basics down to that though so expect to have 2, 2.5, 3mm Allens, plus flat and cross head screwdriver bits along for the ride. Alternatively you can pick up a basic Allen key and T25 ‘knife’ for almost nothing (they come free with a lot of bikes) and then just carry a separate chain splitter.
How to buy a multi-tool: Extras
There are some useful extras included with some tools though. Our favourites include bottle openers (which often work as brake pad wedges too) and detachable heads for C02 cartridges. We used to think a knife blade was a great idea for looking rugged with until a tool we had with one in turned floppy and kept trying to amputate our fingers every time we went for an Allen key.
How to buy a multi-tool: Design
How the tool is put together makes a big difference, too. The vast majority come in a ‘penknife’ format with two rows of flip out tools between two side plates. It’s convenient, compact, easy to make and generally easy to use making it the format most of our favourites come in. Be careful of short tools on really small sets though as they can often lack the reach to get into the spaces you need. Broad bodies can also be a pain in the butt by reducing clearance when you’re trying to turn the tool in a tight space. Watch out for right-angled tools or anything else projecting from the body if you’re going to be stuffing it in your pocket and potentially landing on it. Our other gripe is having the 8mm Allen key on the same end as the chain tool, rather than the opposite end where it can be unfolded and used for extra leverage.
‘Caddy designs’ where separate bits slot into a handle look cute in the shop and we love pocket ratchet tools for home wrenching. However, we’ve spent too long searching for dropped bits in long grass or muddy puddles to recommend them for emergency trailside use though.
There are some absolutely great little gadgets outside the normal tool range that are fantastic to have if you’re a fixing fetishist like us. Ryder’s Nutcracker is a super neat solution to everything you need to do to a tubeless valve and it also includes a brake pad spreading wedge. If you’re permanently tweaking your Fox X2 damper adjustments then their dedicated multi-tool is a CNC machined, laser-etched joy to sneak into your pocket. Granite Design’s Stash chain tool is built into a bar end plug for very neat stowage and Specialized do something similar too.
Birzman is big on slick design (some of its workshop tools and pumps are positively sculptural) and this neat tool flat packs all the essential tools into your pocket. The machined steel chain splitter includes spoke flats that are accurate enough for trailside wheel truing even with alloy nipples. The broad, curved handle adds useful leverage when you’re pushing chain pins out too. All the tools are chrome vanadium steel for impressively tough and tight-fitting performance and they also resist corrosion really well. That makes the Birzman a good choice if it’s likely to be strapped externally and getting wet and filthy on a regular basis.
Generous tool length means the wide body is less of an issue in tight spaces. They’ve missed a slight trick by not bottoming out the right-angled 2mm Allen key onto the chain splitter, so there is a chance it can stick up slightly but if it really bothers you, just disassemble the tool and reverse it. Otherwise, it’s really light for a comprehensive set of high-quality tools, and it’s a good price too.
The cheapest full function tool here and also one of the most compact, the Love Mud from Sonder bikes is a direct buy bargain. For a start it’s super flat at 11mm deep with no sticky-out bits either so it slips into tight spaces or inside folded up inner tubes easily and the tool pins use thread lock to keep them tight over time. The tools are decent quality too and the only miss is the lack of a 2.5mm Allen key.
The tools are stubby though so might not reach into deeper recesses and you’ll need some grip and grunt to get the short-handled chain tool through a tight rivet. The 8mm Allen is also on the same end as the chain rivet tool so there’s no extra leverage to be had there either. If you’ve got the strength to cope with that though the price a steal.
Winning the everything-you-could-want-plus-a-couple-of-neat-extras award, and in a quality package to boot, is the RAP 15 C02 from Lezyne. Unless you particularly need a 2.5mm Allen key (some brake adjusters and pad pins are needy that way) then this light and reasonably compact tool has you sorted. You also get a T30 torx key for the back of some crank bolts and a detachable head for a C02 canister. Considering they normally cost at least £10 that makes the RAP look a bargain and from experience the tools last reasonably well over time. They’re a decent length for reaching awkward places too, although the wide body can get irritating in really tight spaces and you’ll occasionally need to tighten the end bolts that hold it all together. There are tons of other Lezyne options in all sizes and materials including the RAP 21 C02 which adds 2.5mm Allen key, flat screw, bottle opener and a metal tyre lever, but the 15 is definitely our sweet-spot choice. It even comes in four different colours and you can buy spares separately
Even when its pedals and dropper posts were going pop in hours (it’s OK the current models are super reliable now) Crank Brothers’ multi-tool still held onto its iconic status. In fact, losing my original one from Interbike sometime last decade is one of my saddest moments. So what’s so good about it? Not only do the rounded, knurled sidebars look like they’ve actually put some thought into the design, but they help grip while minimising mass so you can reach into awkward areas. It’s long enough to get a proper torque on through the eight for cranks and pedals too. The tools are long and really good-quality high tensile steel too, still fitting into fixings accurately and securely even after they start to look a bit rusty a few years in. The chain tool is a particularly nice looking forged piece and includes open eight (great for disc brake hoses) and 10mm wrenches that are tough and accurate enough to be safe to use. Considering it’s such a class act, pricing is acceptable too.
Topeak probably produces a bigger range of multi-tools than anyone else we can think of including the legendary split body Alien II (£40), several different ratchet kits and even a miniature ‘Survival Gear’ tool box (£28). The Ninja+ is pretty different too, packing all its tools into a twin-bar arrangement at one end of the carbon fibre-reinforced resin body. The tool body then acts as the handle for the chain splitter on the far end with a pull out 2.5/4mm Allen key driver for plenty of leverage. The 6mm also acts as a socket for other hex tools if needs be and there’s even a clip-off chain hook for keeping the ends together while you’re working on it. All the tools are chrome vanadium for tough, long-lived, all-weather good looks. Despite the comprehensive feature list and neat extras it’s still super compact and really light at under 100g. It’s also available as the £37 ‘Topeak Ninja Master Toolbox 16’, packaged inside a plastic case that mounts onto Topeak’s new range of Ninja bottle cages for easy-reach convenience.
The Wheelie Wrench Pro looks expensive for something of this nature but it’s fully loaded with all the essentials, plus useful extras, and works remarkably well for a tiny tool. This Californian-designed Kickstarter product uses a really neat two-piece design with the single-ended Allen key section. This clips onto a chain splitter piece that also includes the 8mm Allen key head, open wrench, flat screwdrivers, box wrench and rotor straightening slot built into it. There are even magnetic holders for a chain quick link. Splitting them apart makes them easy to use, with long tools for plenty of reach for leverage on everything but the 8mm. Details like the smallest Allen keys sneaking inside cut-aways on the bigger keys make it a super-compact package and Fix Mfg produces a range of belt buckle holsters and strap clips that make it blissfully portable and a nice statement piece if you like to show off your biking life subtly. The range also includes the Wheelie Wrench without the chain splitter and there are Snowboard and Skateboard versions, too.
South African brand Ryder produces this top-value, splittable tool that adds some useful extras to a comprehensive essentials list. The main part of the tool that carries all the Allen keys and screwdriver heads looks a lot like the Love Mud tool. Rather than including the chain tool in that section though, it’s a separate clip-on piece with a long plastic handle that also works as a tyre lever. There’s another flat, rectangular, metal piece that clips onto the chain tool and has spoke key indents and box wrenches cut into it. The thin metal and limited leverage adds potential to damage alloy nipples and nuts though, so we’d only use these if we absolutely had to.
Otherwise it’s a compact and relatively light tool block that still packs a lot of useful tools in. Because the different parts can operate separately it’s also really easy to use compared to some all-in-one designs. The skinny body means the stumpy tools can still reach into most places too and it’s well priced for what you get.
While not a dedicated multi-tool by any means, we couldn't leave the Ryder Nutcracker off this list - it's that good.
The Nutcracker is one tool every cyclist - especially those who run tubeless setups - should consider keeping in their saddle bag or pouch. Overlooked by many, the Nutcracker can save you from calling an Uber should you ever experience any trail-side wheel woes such as a broken valve or blocked valve core.
Diminutive in size the Nutcracker can be used in many ways - not only is it dual-sided in functionality, but it can also loosen and remove tubeless wheel nuts and valve cores as well as double up as a brake pad spreader. Furthermore, it also houses a spare core within the tool body - very nifty indeed.
Fabric does some very fancy tool designs like the ratchet headed ‘Chamber’ bullet or the colourfully coded tools of the 11-in-1 but the more conventional 16-in-1 is our pick from its range. It’s very similar to the Love Mud in design with a very flat profile and short, steel tool bits fanning out from both ends. Short length can create some reach problems, but the narrow, shallow body reduces interference compared to bulkier designs.
It also has a short handle on the chain splitter which means it needs holding very firmly and the 8mm head sits at the same end as the chain splitter which means you can fold it out for extra leverage on pedals/cranks etc. The tool pins are thread-locked into D section alloy side plates to keep them secure though and the whole tool is very light considering its comprehensive feature set.
We’ve seen all kinds of tyre-lever-meets-tool combinations over the years but this British-designed-and-made, Kickstarter funded bundle from Stique is potentially a very neat answer to most trail repair needs in these tubeless tyre and electrified gearing times. That’s because it’s based around three super tough plastic tyre levers which click together magnetically.
The kit doesn’t come with small (2-3mm) or big (6-8mm) Allen keys, but you can always carry extra bits to stick in the magnetic holder. It’s got the most commonly used 4mm and 5mm Allens, plus a T25 and Phillips head screwdriver anyway, so if you ride MTB and road it’s got most worries covered. The three tyre levers that form the body are properly tough items that will twang any tubeless tyre on or off the tightest rim with ease. The slimline chain device is very slick and the lever tips include steel-reinforced spoke key inserts and a bottle opener. There are £/€ coin holders in two of the levers and there’s another for a CR2032 battery if you want to carry a spare.
Specialized produces a range of conventional tools including the very good EMT 12, but we can’t help but love the ingenuity of the Conceal Carry even if the price is huge and the chain splitter awkward to use. The CC replaces the conventional star fangled nut in alloy steerer tubes (it won’t work with closed-crown carbon forks) with a long threaded rod and clamp plate at the base and the tool caddy section at the top. You choose the right length shaft and then screw it into the upper to preload the headset bearings, then bolt up the stem like a conventional headset system. This leaves the top section clear to include a spring-loaded carrier for the small SWAT MTB Tool Allen key penknife, which pops up ready to use when you swing open the rotating lid. This only covers the bare essentials but the tools are good quality corrosion-resistant steel. There’s also a chain splitter built into the top section that uses the thread-in preload shaft as the driver pin, but that means disassembling the whole set up to use which is hardly convenient. The whole set up is very expensive (the tiny SWAT tool is a jaw-dropping £34 on its own) and heavier than a simpler design, but it does come as standard on some Specialized bikes which is a real score.