The first step in creating a great multitool is deciding what to leave out. As historians of the Franklin Expedition will know, dragging everything along on the off chance it might prove useful is not a great strategy. Instead, utility and lightness are the watchwords.
A multitool is for emergency repairs and adjustments, not a full strip-down service. Which leads to the mystery of chain tools on multitools. I’d suggest that if you can’t leave the house for fear of snapping a chain, then you should have a quiet word with your mechanic.
For this reason, most of the tools we favour do without. Exceptions to this rule are made for riding in remote locations when the reassurance is worth the extra weight. Of course, a tasteful solution is to take along a pocketable chain tool whenever you’re venturing somewhere wild. The same goes for spoke keys, multiple screwdrivers, and other doh-dahs - unless you really need them, leave them behind.
Instead, our advice is to have a look at what the various fittings on your bike comprise, work out which tools you need to adjust them and find a tool that fits the bill. In a jam, you’ll probably find a single T25 torx is worth a thousand 7mm Allen keys.
That said, when a brand manages to bring together every tool you could imagine using in a small ornate bundle, we can briefly overlook our minimalist rulebook. After all, extra bulk can be forgiven if it’s effortlessly stylish while offering excessive repair options.
So here is our selection of the best multitools, and small tool sets to sit in your back pocket, saddle bag or workbench.
£50, Shop Silca
OK, so admittedly our first entry breaks our first rule of leaving behind all the tools you may not need. Instead, think of the Silca T-Ratchet + Torque Kit as a compact way to bring a shelf’s worth of tools along for the ride.
Silca’s T-Ratchet + Torque Kit set comprises a ratcheting driver and extender bar, plus ten bits. All wrapped up in a durable waxed canvas holster, its design provides the sort of convenience and leverage usually only enjoyed in the workshop. Arriving with 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6mm Allen keys, T10, T20, T25 torx, plus a Philips screwdriver, in the unlikely event these don’t cover your needs, you can always add in any 1/4" bit. Popping easily into place, its magnetic components make for quick interchangeability of the tool bits. Just 200-grams in its standard format, this uprated Ti-Torque version weighs an additional 10-grams but sees the addition of an adjustable Torque beam calibrated to 2, 4, 6, and 8 Nm.
Crank Brothers F15 Multitool£34, Shop Crank Brothers
This compact tool crams in a huge range of functions without being bulky or clumsy. Even including a passable chain tool, it manages this by separating some of the functions and relying on a neat holster that contains the main body of tools to generate leverage.
Held in place magnetically, this core block contains 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen wrenches, flat and Phillips screwdrivers, plus a T-25 torx. The chain tool, which works with all current standards, is then located on the end of the case. Including four surprisingly usable spoke wrenches, a combination of the case and the Allen key block provide the leverage necessary for its operation. Rounded off with a bottle opener, the F15’s slim 164-gram mass belies a heavyweight performance.
Pedros RX Micro 6 Multitool£24, Shop Pedro
Everyone says the bits on their multitools are workshop quality. Except for Pedros, which is funny, as unlike most others, they genuinely are. On the RX Micro 6 you get six of them; 3, 4, 5, and 6mm Allen keys, plus a T25 torx and a flat blade screwdriver. All are backed by Pedro's lifetime warranty and rust-free guarantee.
Despite a small size, the tool’s simple aluminium body and quality bits mean it’s nice to use and unlikely to slip. Light at 70-grams, its rounded edges also leave it unlikely to poke a hole in either your pocket or any tubes carried nearby.
Fix It Sticks Replaceable set
£46, Shop Fix It
Cheap, light, compact, and versatile. The Fix It Sticks Replaceable set is composed of two sticks that snap together to form a T-handle into which you can pop any of the included bits. Arriving in a little pouch containing 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm Allen keys, plus a T-25 torx and Phillips head screwdriver, your local hardware shop will be able to supply any more bits you want for a couple of quid. Holding four of them at a time, it’s easy to swap between jobs, while the tool’s arrangement makes exerting leverage into tricky spots easy. Readily pocketable, at 116-grams it’s a clever alternative to a conventional multitool.
Birzman M-Torque 4 Multitool
£20, Shop Birzman
Despite managing with just four tools, a 4 and 5mm hex key, a T25 torx key and a flathead screwdriver, the minimalist Birzman M-Torque has a very clever party trick. Put your thumb on the extended pad, and when you hit 5Nm of torque, it’ll give a click.
Usable with just the two Allen keys, this feature is great for maladroit users of carbon bikes keen to avoid damaging fragile bars, seat-posts, or frames. The tool itself is otherwise high quality. A great travel option for reassembling your bike on arrival, its quartet of tools will also suit those with ascetic inclinations.
Silca HX-Two Travel Essentials Hex-Torx Kit
£75, Shop Silca
Not a multitool, but a very fine set of travelling tools nonetheless. Equally functional at home or abroad, the HX-Two features individual hex and Torx wrenches produced using Silca’s exclusive nine-step heat-treated S2 tool steel. Finished with a high grip polymer coating over the top of their corrosion-resistant satin chrome, they’re disinclined to slip, either in the hand or on the bike.
Arriving in a custom moulded tool holder, the complete set is ideal for chucking in your kit bag when travelling. And when you reach your destination, there’s no reason not to select the tools you want to take out with you for day use too.
Topeak Mini 9 Pro Carbon Multitool£30, Shop Topeak
Small, light, partly made of carbon, and with a compact range of quality tools. Topeak’s diminutive Mini 9 weighs just 73-grams yet is ergonomic and easy to use. With 2, 2.5, 3, 4, and 5mm Allen keys, only barbarians will miss the addition of a 6mm size bit. Backed up by a Phillips screwdriver for fiddling with your gears, and a T25 torx bit for disc rotors or odd bolts.
After years of use on my part, there’s still no sign of any of the tool bits rounding off. That said, both the folding plastic tyre lever and its larger steel tyre brother are a bit flimsy. However, if you pretend the latter was instead designed for jimmying apart unretracted disc brake pads, which as a jet-set international traveller, you’ll probably need to do all the time, it’s excellent.