Tech features Gallery: A factory tour of Abbey Bike Tools
The place of manufacture for those green tools of envy.
I could feel my heartbeat increasing. It may have been an ordinary and unmarked building in a cliche industrial business area, but what lay inside were the machines and hands that made a few of my most well-loved products, some that have seen over a decade of consistent use.
Abbey Bike Tools came from humble beginnings, with former industrial and aircraft welder turned race mechanic Jason Quade getting a request from fellow race mechanic Jeff Crombie (recently with Ineos, now with EF) to make a cassette tool that would fit over the nut of a quick release skewer without removal. Quade quickly realised there was something to the idea and produced a batch of them. And it didn’t take long before those early Crombie cassette tools were found in the toolboxes of most professional race mechanics.
Fast forward to today, and Abbey Bike Tools is commonly regarded as a benchmark product within the limited range of tools they offer. With cleverly simple designs manufactured to a higher standard, the tools carry an heirloom-like quality. Also somewhat rare is that as much as 85% of what Abbey Bike Tools produces is done under their roof in Bend, Oregon, with the few other processes contracted out to nearby specialists.
Perhaps what stood out most is how much Abbey produces with a small team of five (actually four if counting those in the building) and with no duplication of machines. Indeed, this is one efficient operation. Enjoy the tour!
Abbey Bike Tools recently moved into far larger premises with room still to grow. The nondescript building with a green roof (it coincidentally came that way) sits in an industrial area of Bend, Oregon. A simple sticker on the door confirms you’ve arrived at the right place, though Abbey’s facility isn’t intended to be a consumer storefront. Shop dog and very good boy Remington (aka Remi) isn’t in the staff headcount, though probably should be. Meet Jason Quade. Founder, head of the welding division, dog walker, and shop tour guide. Raw materials come in one door, and finished goods go out another at the opposite end of the building. Here are some lengths of aluminium billet that will soon be machined into Abbey’s first truing stands. More raw material and some hungry saws to trim the pieces to length. This photo shows much (but not all) of the floor space devoted to making stuff. Not shown are the offices, finished goods, storage, and packing areas. Abbey Bike Tools’ machinist, Kyle Milon, preps some raw billet for the CNC lathe. Meanwhile the CNC mill is creating pieces for the new truing stand. A look inside at the chip-making machine. All the numbers to control the retractive metal making. A sneak look at one of the nearby screens reveals the machining simulation for the new Star Nut Setter – a tool launched on opening day of the MADE bike show. The biggest machine under the green roof is the CNC lathe. The auto-feed nature allows it to produce multiple items without continuous intervention. Star Nut Setter tools were being made when I walked through, but this same machine makes Abbey’s wide collection of bottom bracket sockets and a number of other items. Machined pieces pop out in the tray below. Not everything is automatic. There are many manual machining, preparation, and finishing tools to be found. A tray of outer sleeves for the Star Nut Setter await being shipped off to a nearby anodiser for that rich green coating. A pre-production Star Nut Setter provides a quality control reference. The drivers of the new Star Nut Setter, ready for heat treatment. Look just about anywhere and you’ll find precision measurement tools. Abbey has a reputation for holding some of the closest (if not the closest) machining tolerances amongst cycling tool makers. There isn’t much waste in the house of Abbey. The scrap chips are collected and sold off to a local recycler. However, Abbey takes things further with this custom-made bench that drains out remaining machining coolant for re-use. The manual lathe and mill don’t get as much use as they once did. Now they’re used for certain part finishing, the production of some lower-demand tools (such as drifts for Campagnolo hub bearing races), and prototyping. Milling tools can be found scattered across the shop. So too can Abbey’s own shop hammers. A big ass fan keeps the place cooler. Onto the welding corner – where founder Jason Quade remains hands-on to this day. Tools such as the Crombie, Chain Whip, and HAG (Hanger Alignment Gauge) come through this area. Here’s a Crombie cassette tool head and the material left from making them. Supplies of the welding robot (aka, Jason). Piles of Crombie heads await some heat and a handle. All these numbers appear to be in some kind of Freedom to Eagle code. No wonder there is a calculator present. Another look down the facility. On the left of shot are the assembly tables. Mark handles the outgoing orders and customer communication. Tea Cup is a new addition to the team, with a role that’s still to be determined. Abbey’s recent move into a large premises saw them buy the building. Quade jokes that he certainly won’t be moving again. A business that makes tools also happens to own and use a lot of tools. Pieces of the dissaembled truing s t and sit scattered across the CNC router table. What’s with the wood-making tools in a metal machine shop you ask? The router is used to make trays for parts either awaiting assembly or that are due to be sent off for a process that Abbey can’t do in-house – such as heat treatment and anodisation. There’s a long and impressive history with this horizontal mill named Piglet. Built in the 1950s, the machine found a second life at Redwood High School in Marin County, the same school that Paragon Machine Works’ founder Mark Norstad attended and got a first taste for machining. Quade then tells that the machine was acquired by Gary Helfrich (founder of Merlin Metalworks), where it helped to produce what are arguably the first-ever titanium bicycles. And prior to it falling under Abbey’s ownership, it served many years at UBI’s frame building school (sadly now closed), no doubt used by a number of now well-known builders. Today, Piglet is mostly used to precisely create square bores on the HAG. A closer look at Piglet going at a HAG. Tucked away in a sound-insulated room sits Abbey’s tumbler machine for smoothing parts prior to final stages of finishing. Between handling orders Mark is put to work on the laser engraver. Here a whole pile of T-Way tools await the bright light. All prepped and ready for the laser engraver. The laser engraver is always a fun one to watch. Arguably my favourite of all the tools produced by Abbey Bike Tools is the HAG (Hanger Alignment Gauge). The accuracy and compact size of this one sets it apart. Here pieces of HAGS come together. Drool. Finished and ready for packaging. Boxes and boxes of green KMC chains await a new life on Abbey’s chainwhips. Abbey long used its own Decade chain tool (powered by a hand-held impact driver) for creating these shorter chain segments. Now the company has this rather cool pneumatic press for the task. Safe to say this is one chain breaker I don’t own. Abbey recently started offering its first plastic tool, the PreHAG. This one simply sits onto a cassette cog and provides a straight reference line against the derailleur cage. Ever wonder where the name “Abbey” comes from? It’s a nod to the Belgian Trappist monks who make divine adult beverages. Jason’s personal home brewing equipment sits on the shop floor, sadly not currently in use. Abbey recently launched magnetic 4-Way multi-tools and T-Way (as opposed to previously where the bits were secured with a retaining compound). The ability to swap bits means Abbey of course created these ultra-fancy magnetic bit holders. Abbey sources its bits from specialist manufacturer Wera. Customers can choose the bits that come with their interchangeable tools. Decade chain tools going through final quality control and assembly. Saw guides in the making. Harbor Dishing Gauges freshly back from the anodiser and awaiting final assembly. Sadly this isn’t a self-serve candy store. All of these tools are assigned to Abbey’s Team Issue toolboxes that include custom cut foam within a travel-ready Pelican case. An arbor press is used to join the two steel segmens of the T-Way. These are then further affixed with a bolt. T-Way tools finished and awaiting bits. Wood handles wait to be matched with Abbey’s pedal wrench. Abbey produces a number of branded tools for other cyclng companies. Here the red anodising means these DUB crank cap tools are destined for SRAM. Need a drift for a bearing? Chances are Abbey has it, and if they don’t, they’d probably be willing to custom make you one (assuming you own their press). Abbey’s Fit Kit (a tool I previously reviewed, but those words are now long lost) provides a consistent reference point for measuring saddle height, saddle set-back and tilt. It also comes with slotted “bullets” that give a central groove for holding the tongue of your tape measure at the centre of the crank spindle. Each box in this shot holds some form of bottom bracket socket that is vaguely different to the one next to it. Abbey only makes bottom bracket sockets for cups that have external splines, and yet they still have 11 different types (plus at least one other they’ve created for a niche brand). Yes, this industry has a cooperation problem that has resulted in far too many variations of the same thing. Another of my favourite Abbey tools is the Lever Setter. This temporarily takes the place of a headset topcap and provides a bore for a hanger alignment tool to be attached. From there, the hanger alignment tool provides an accurate gauge for getting those road (or MTB) levers evenly placed on the bar. Abbey got its start by making tools for travelling pro mechanics, and the company continues to offer a premium range of weight-focussed “Team Issue” tools for such customers. Here’s one you wouldn’t have seen – a Team Issue titanium pedal wrench. Abbey has only ever made one, and you’ll find it in Jason’s personal tool roll. The tool world equivalent of a hot mess. Lust is a vice, right? Little treasures lurk in many corners. Here is Abbey’s long teased pneumatic (air powered) repair stand. There are no set plans to produce this one unfortunately. “Precision is our Religion” is a tagline you’ll throughout Abbey’s workshop. The very first Abbey tool. Made for Jeff Crombie, and before there was a brand name to go with it. Things progressed quickly from that first tool. Abbey Bike Works was soon created, and not long after Quade was getting requests from customers to make more than one tool. Colin Levitch of Australian publication FlowMTB realised he can trade his plastic credit card for metal things. Pure joy. Behold, the Prancing Moose. This not-so-fresh Volvo is Jason Quade’s weapon for the Gambler 500, an Oregon rally-style event where they go into the backcountry in search of collecting rubbish wrongly left behind. “Duct tape, then beer.” This vehicle is hilariously at odds with everything else Jason Quade does, but I can confirm it’s a hoot. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent