When looking at ultralight bicycle tools for ultralight cycle-touring there is one main debate I’ve seen thrashed out on forums and blogs; ‘should I use a multi-tool or separate tools?’ Is it lighter to use separate allen keys, chain tools and screwdrivers or to use a multi tool with all of those features combined?
The answer usually comes down to how ergonomic and usable you want your bicycle tools to be. As a guideline, I would suggest that a tool kit (minus, puncture repair and spare parts) that’s less than 120g, easy to use and robust is an achievement. If you want ultralight bicycle tools and don’t mind modifying your multi-tool, perhaps even chopping parts off that you don’t need, you might be able to get that weight down to 80g or less and still have a reasonable level of functionality and ergonomics.
The weight will depend on what you need to take to service your bicycle, so a good starting point is to look at your bicycle and see what tools are required for essential maintenance. Then, look for any ways in which you can reduce the amount of tools you need – such as using pedals that unscrew with an allen key rather than a spanner (you may need to remove your pedals if you take the bike on a plane).
Bicycle Tools That I Need
I will use my ultralight bike as an example; the tools I need (again – excluding puncture repair and excluding spare parts) are the following…
- a Phillips screwdriver to tune my brakes and gears
- 3mm allen key to adjust the tension of my SPD pedals and to tighten bottle holders
- 4mm allen key for the cleats on my SPD shoes (this one can be easy to forget!)
- 5mm allen key to adjust brakes, headset, seatpost and gears
- 6mm allen key to remove my pedals and saddle
- chain tool
- spoke spanner
I use my modified CrankBrothers multi-tool which weighs 100g. However, in my testing I have found lighter ways to carry the same tools as my multi-tool, but only at the cost of usability. Take a look as this example:
Discrete Ultralight Bicycle Tools
With my lighter discrete tools I managed to save 10g – 10% better than my 100g modified CrankBrothers multi-tool. But, the chain tool is not as easy to use as it’s hard to exert enough force using only the allen key / Phillips screwdriver as a handle and I’ve had to replace the tyre lever with a pretty hefty glass-Nylon one as I have pretty stiff tyres!
Overall I prefer my modified CrankBrothers multi-tool, especially as it’s easy to take from one bike to another or slip into my pocket just like a normal multi-tool – there are no loose parts rattling around. For me that last 10g represented a huge amount of inconvenience and so, for now at least, 100g is where I draw the line. 100g or less is my new definition for ultralight bicycle tools.
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