Tools and workshop New Tools Day #2: It’s a good time to be a tool geek
Fresh tools from SRAM, Feedback Sports, Altangle, Neutron Components, and more.
Oh yes, it’s time for another
New Tools Day!
In today’s presentation, I have a range of tools that cover the full gamut: from a plastic tyre lever, to a ride-friendly torque wrench, through to a manually machined selection of brass for servicing one brand of pedals.
Let’s get started.
Best known for its chain lubes, UK-based Tru Tension recently released the Tyre Monkey tyre lever (US$13 / £10 / AU$20). With a design intended to be hooked on and slid around the rim, this tyre lever aims to ease both the installation and removal of common clincher (tube) and tubeless tyres. The Tyre Monkey is designed to slip over the bead of the rim and then be moved around the circumference of the rim as it pushes the tyre bead into (or out of) place. An interesting idea, but arguably, not one of Tru Tension’s creation. OK, so let’s talk about that red tool in shot. That’s the Tyre Glider, invented by a Wales-based maker during the COVID lockdown and to my knowledge, the first with the idea. Meanwhile Tru-Tension’s somewhat more-traditional-looking approach aims to offer a longer handle to hold from, it has widened the slot to better fit the wider rim beads found on many carbon rims, and it offers a more effective hook shape for removing a tyre. Both of these tools mainly hold an advantage in installing a tyre, where the tool is simply swept around the rim until the tyre pops on. In theory it greatly eases a process that many struggle with and reduces the chances of a dreaded pinched tube. In practice it works but only to a point. It breezes through fitting light and even medium-ly snug-fitting tyre and rim combinations – however most mechanics will manage this level of difficulty with nothing but their hands and a good technique. In my testing, both the Tru Tension Tyre Monkey and Tyre Glider become stumped on anything resembling a tight-fitting tyre/rim combination. Here the tools get incredibly tight to move and then eventually can’t be pushed any further without risk to your hands. Meanwhile, a single traditional tyre lever will quickly seat the same tight tyre into place. It’s worth noting that the Tyre Glider’s angular and slimmer design seems to be more effective at installing tight tyres than the Tyre Monkey – at least if the narrower slotted tool fits on the rim bead in the first place. Meanwhile the Tyre Monkey is a lot better at removing a tyre. The humble Pedro’s tyre lever remains the benchmark for me. And speaking just for myself, it’s a hard pass on both the Tyre Monkey and Tyre Glider. I can’t recommend either the Tyre Glider or Tru Tension Tyre Monkey to anyone who has a good technique for installing/removing tyres. Meanwhile these novel approaches to the tyre lever may offer benefit to those who struggle with fitting tyres, but even then, you’ll want to be sure that the tyre/rim combination you have isn’t excessively tight, the rim sidewall isn’t too wide, and that your rim isn’t hookless. If I’m being truthful, I mainly bought this Noble Speedplay Zero pedal service tool to annoy my colleague James Huang. He’s constantly poking fun at my unhealthy tool-buying habits. What better way to tick him off than to buy a tool dedicated to servicing a discontinued pedal I don’t use? Explicitly designed to ease the overhaul of pre-Wahoo Speedplay Zero pedals, this small tool kit is made from a mix of brass, stainless steel, and 3D-printed PETG plastic. Perhaps my main inspiration for the online purchase was this jewellery-like nipple driver tool. This style of nipple driver uses a simple tapered edge that wedges into the back of common spoke nipples for fast wheel lacing. When combined with a nipple shuffle box the whole lacing process becomes satisfyingly quick. Expect to pay £40 (~AU$75 / ~US$50) for this turned brass and stainless steel driver. On the left is my previous go-to, the Pin Vise Nipple Inserter from Wheel Fanatyk. The Noble uses more premium materials and offers a more secure fit. Meanwhile the one from Wheel Fanatyk offers replaceable tips and is significantly cheaper. For the one-off wheel builder, you can achieve much the same outcome with a sharpened spoke, although the comfort in hand won’t be great. SRAM has been surprisingly quiet about its new Universal Bleed Block (#11.5018.059.002). That’s right, the new bleed block seen at the bottom of the image replaces the entire row above it. Different bleed block shapes was one obstacle to overcome, but the bigger issue was the different thicknesses in play. With its sliding wedge design, the new Universal Bleed Block can be thin … … and thick. The Universal Bleed Block is made of a durable plastic and retails for AU$19 / US$11 / £11. It works well. According to SRAM, it’s not fully compatible with the now-discontinued Road Mono Block calipers, but that is seemingly related to the retaining pin placement as opposed to being a physical incompatibility. What happens if you give the Universal Bleed Block a high dosage of anabolic steroids? You get SRAM’s new Ultimate Piston Press. The Ultimate Piston Press shares a similar sliding wedge design, however this one is made of machined aluminium and can be manually expanded under load. The new Piston Press serves two functions. Firstly, it’s designed to help with pushing hesitant pistons back into their respective caliper bores – a sometimes-challenging task which it does impressively well. Secondly, it can also be used as a universal bleed block. Unfortunately such unique features come with a hefty a price – US$94 / £91 / AU$162 to be exact. The goal of a dedicated piston press tool is to keep the pistons square and the load evenly distributed while they are pushed back into place. Birzman offers a tool that aims to do just this (shown on the right), but it fails to fit into all common brake calipers, and when it does, it feels flexy and flimsy when put under load. As a result, my go-to piston press is still a Pedro’s tyre lever, but SRAM’s new tool has me rethinking that (at least for SRAM brakes; whereas it won’t fit in Shimano road calipers and I think I prefer the tactile feel of the tyre lever for the more delicate pistons). Either way, don’t forget to clean those pistons before pushing them back. My go-to for this task is a Vikan bottle brush in a 20 mm diameter (you can trim the handle length down). SRAM released a new thread-on-style chainring and powermeter spider as part of its recent release of new Eagle Transmission. Shown at the top of the image is SRAM’s new Chainring Removal Tool (US$65 / AU$112 / £63) with the sole purpose of safely removing this new style of chainring from its proprietary spider. The chainring tightens in the direct of pedalling. To undo the chainring, you first remove a small screw that keeps the ring in its locked position. From there, SRAM’s special tool threads into the pedal insert, you wrap the chain around the ring, and then tighten the bolt on the end. I had a couple of months of riding this ring before testing the tool, and it came unstuck with a surprisingly violent pop. You may be able to use a regular chain whip on a brand new and unridden crank, but you’ll surely want the safety and security of this special tool once grit has found its way in. The tool is surprisingly simple, yet sturdy. The bolt is tightened with a T25 tool. A closer look at the rather non-traditional thread of the interface. It’s designed to lock into place to a point where it can’t be tightened further. For now the design is limited to new XX and XX SL power meters, but I suspect we’ll see the American company use the design in other disciplines moving forward (I hope in place of the current one-piece and disposable Red/Force chainring/powermeter combos). The Altangle Hangar Connect is effectively two workstand clamps connected via a short piece of tubing. Find yourself a suitably sized hand rail, pole, fence post, or sturdy shelf and the result is a go-almost-anywhere workstand that weighs 1.4 kg (3.1 lb) and fits into a backpack. The Hangar Connect (US$225) can also be used to turn any workstand into a double workstand. The Connect was recently revised with a new, lighter design and a handful of other tweaks. Expect a full review of this intriguing product soon. This little 37 g multi-tool is called the Equipt Sardine, and it combines 3, 4, 5, and 6 mm hex keys and a T25. All but the 6 mm hex swivel for easy access in tight spots and quick pivoting. As a result, the tool can make quick work of many bolts that can be annoying to access with other multi-tools. This cute little tool is neat on paper, but unfortunately, it has a few too many limitations for its rather premium US$67 asking price. The positive is that the company is seemingly quite receptive to the feedback and is already working on improvements. Expensive taste. Here’s a fun one. It’s the Emergency Bleed Kit from New Zealand-based Neutron Components, a company best known for its ride-friendly First Aid kits. And while those First Aid kits will also help in the event of a kind of bleeding, this little tool is dedicated to hydraulic disc brakes. It sells for NZ$49 (approximately US$30 / AU$45 before shipping). The Emergency Bleed Kit is effectively just a small Shimano-style bleed cup and allows for either a quick lever bleed (attach to the lever bleed port and pump the lever while changing the angle of the bike) or a more involved gravity bleed. The unique feature here is that Neutron’s version is made of machined aluminium and features sealing caps top and bottom. You simply fill the 10 ml capacity with your required DOT or Mineral brake fluid, and chuck the tool in with the rest of your spares. It weighs just 19 g empty, or 29 g full. Of course you shouldn’t ever need to carry spare fluid if your brakes were correctly bled in the first place, but hey, not everything goes to plan. Plus, I see this as a pretty cool option for those who like to be self-sufficient when travelling with a bike. The Emergency Bleed Kit uses a common M5 x .8 thread, which happens to be a common size between many SRAM (DOT) and Shimano (mineral oil) brakes. Neutron Components offers adapters to cover other thread sizes, such as those used on Shimano Road or Magura. Don’t worry, I flushed the tool with a lot of alcohol before I switched it from DOT to mineral oil duty! Here it is threaded onto a Shimano mountain bike brake. Given the end cap of the Emergency Bleed Tool threads onto a M5 x .8 base, it of course makes a handy storage solution for the brake’s M5 x .8 bleed screw while you do the bleed deed. This is a basic tool with the most important requirement being that it never leaks. The machined aluminium construction seems well made and reliably holds its contents. The NanoFumpa and Cycplus Cube are tiny tyre inflators designed to take the place of CO2 or a mini pump. Follow the link for a full comparison review of these two. A Chain keeper (aka dummy hub) is a simple tool that takes the place of the rear wheel (and cassette) when degreasing a chain on the bike. They allow the bike to be pedalled, all without risk of getting degreaser in the rear hub bearings or on braking surfaces. Feedback Sports has long offered a great chain-keeper that works with quick-release and most thru-axle frames (pictured on the right in the previous image). Now the company has a new and far simpler Thru-Axle Chain Keeper (US$10) that slips over the bike’s 12 mm thru-axle. This simple design – also produced by the likes of Morgan Blue, Park Tool, Abbey Bike Tools, Pedro’s, and countless others – works with any bike using a 12 mm thru-axle and allows the derailleur to be shifted through its gear range. A quick tip for those cleaning chains on bikes with disc brakes where accidental contamination is quite easy. I like to either remove the brake pads from the caliper or cover the caliper with a plastic bag (I re-use the zip-lock bags that many small parts ship in). Feedback Sports’ new Reflex Fixed Torque Ratchet kit (US$70) is designed to be a portable multi-tool and/or a minimalist tool kit for the casual home user. Featuring a 5 Nm preset torque wrench, it’s well sized compared to some other portable and/or home-user torque wrench options. A look inside. Bottom left is the Feedback Sports Reflex. Above it sits Silca’s T-Ratchet + Ti-Torque kit. In the middle is PrestaCycle’s TorqRatchet Pro Wallet. And on the right is Topeak’s Ratchet Rocket Lite NTX. Consider this a little teaser to something I have in the works. The Reflex Fixed Torque Ratchet kit features a clam-shell-style case which has a bit of room spare for a patch kit, some cash, and perhaps a key. The kit includes 10, 1/4″ bits, the ratchet, a universal extender/handle, and the preset 5 Nm torque adapter. The whole kit, including case, weighs 205 grams. Kudos to Feedback Sports for including a bit holder that strikes a rare balance between securely holding the bits and also making it easy to grab the one you need. Speaking of those bits, they’re decent quality but the sizing isn’t quite perfect for all applications. For example, the T25 is a bit too tight of a fit with Zipp and Pro stem bolts, while I found the 4 mm hex a little on the loose-fitting side. The Reflex draws obvious inspiration from Silca’s T-Ratchet. However, while the general modular design is certainly similar, the finer details are quite different. The larger Silca Ti-Torque spans a 2-8 Nm range that’s only as accurate as the user’s ability to hit the desired figure. Meanwhile the preset torque bit used by Feedback Sports only works at 5 Nm, but it isn’t swayed by human error. Early impressions are good for this preset torque tool. There’s a positive click when torque is reached, and the cam-over design means the tool will continue clicking without adding further torque to the fastener. I tested the accuracy of my sample, with five tests producing peak values of 5.42, 5.32, 5.23, 5.25, and 5.21 Nm. These numbers are well within a normal range for a consumer-grade torque wrench, and truthfully, they’re better than some professional-grade tools. Related note: it’s always a good idea to “break in” new click-type torque wrenches by clicking them 5-10 times on a bolt you know is set to a higher torque. Also do this if you know the tool hasn’t been used for an extended period of time. The fine tooth ratchet is a welcome addition in tight spots. Like Silca’s tool, the secondary handle can be moved to suit different purposes. The modular extender bit can be used in three ways. It’s either a bit extender, can create a T-handle ratchet, or can be used to create a longer-handled ratchet. Just note that the modular design does mean you’re left with an elongated head shape that’s less compact than a regular bit ratchet. Feedback Sports launched its wholly new and wholly burly Pro Mechanic HD workstand (US$495) last year, a portable stand designed to support the hefty weight of modern e-bikes. Now Feedback Sports has released the Pro Mechanic (US$395), another premium folding workstand that’s lighter and more compact than the HD version. The new Pro Mechanic supercedes the massively popular Pro Elite workstand. The new clamp is where you’ll find the biggest difference between the new Pro Mechanic and superceded Pro Elite. This revised clamp now offers a quick-spinner handle, a higher holding capacity, improved angle adjustment, a shorter jaw height, and tool-free replaceable jaw covers. The fun eject button remains for quick bike removal. The Pro Mechanic’s base is effectively unchanged from the former Pro Elite, however the quick-release clamps are new. This is another one you can expect a detailed review on. I’ll be comparing this to Park Tool’s PRS-26, another premium-level folding tripod style workstand. Hello! Dave here. You may have noticed that this article includes some products you don’t normally see covered by the bike industry. Perhaps you also noticed the complete lack of banner ads and affiliate links. That’s because this content is funded by our members. If you haven’t already, please consider becoming a member of Escape Collective to help support the creation of content just like this. If you’re already a member, then I’d love for you to share this article with someone who may appreciate it. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent