The tool junkie holiday gift guide
Had I been a lyrical von Trapp youngster in The Sound of Music, new tools would have topped the list of “My Favorite Things.” Even if they’re not quite the tech geek I am, it’s safe to say cyclists love new tools.
Most mechanics’ favorite tools are the simple ones, like my Paul Component Engineering Rasta Bottle Opener, which pulls double duty as a 15mm cantilever tool. Other wrenches will be head over heels for something more along the lines of the Pro Torque Wrench, which keeps every bolt torqued within 0.2nm of spec. If your favorite cyclist falls anywhere along the OCD mechanic spectrum, you’ll find the perfect gift here.
Gerber GDC Zip Hex
At $12, the Gerber GDC Zip Hex is the least expensive item on this list, and a no-brainer if you are looking for something small and inexpensive for the cyclist on your list. Gerber tools and knives are renowned for their strength and durability, and are backed by a lifetime warranty.
The GDC Zip Hex has five metric hex bits: 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm. With that range, it’s obvious that the GDC Zip Hex was made with cyclists in mind, specifically commuters and mountain bikers, as the GDC Zip Hex has a zipper attachment and a quick release to keep it securely attached to your messenger bag or trail pack. Beyond all that, the GDC Zip Hex feels more robust in hand than any $12 tool I’ve held before.
Soulrun Wrench Roll
Mechanics like to one-up their fellow wrenches. New tools are a good way to do that, but a surefire way to have your friends peering into your trunk at the next race is a one-off tool roll from Soulrun. Everything from Soulrun is made with care by Laura Papas and Joe McManus in Nederland, Colorado, and every piece is unique.
I recommend my Wrench Roll ($75) to anyone that wants to be self-sufficient. If you are working for friends at the races or want a roll for the shop, chat with Joe and Laura about the Mega Roll or the Roy Roll. The Roy Roll was designed by professional mechanic Matt Roy and is considerably larger, while offering more pockets for better organization. Joe and Laura can also design rolls that hang from carabiners, which work well for cyclocross mechanics wanting to hang their tools in the pit.
Paul Component Engineering Rasta Bottle Opener
The bottle opener is something every self-respecting mechanic has within arms’ reach, even if he or she doesn’t drink. A bottle opener is a tool that allows a mechanic to get creative and let personality shine.
Paul’s Bottle Opener is perfect. Retailing for $24, it fits nicely in the mini-pocket of the Wrench Roll and even has an open-ended wrench for adjusting cantilever brakes. The Rastafarian anodize is just the cherry on top. Paul’s offers several other single color bottle openers that are $20.
Specialized Top Cap Chain Tool
Specialized announced its SWAT (Storage, Water, Air, and Tools) system earlier this summer. One of the standout pieces is the headset cap chain tool, which retails at $30. The 4mm compression bolt acts as the driver for chain breaking, while spare masterlinks are stored under the top cap, held securely by two tiny magnets. Wrap up this sleekly integrated tool as a subtle hint to your riding buddy who likes to carry a huge saddlebag filled with who-knows what. Yes, his oversized bike accessories reflect poorly on you, too.
Lezyne 3-Way Wrench
Lezyne tools are some of the most beautiful out there. They even include a second set of hex bits, easily swapped out with a 2.5mm hex. Although Lezyne’s 3-way tools are not optimal for a mobile workshop because they’re quite heavy, the 3-Way is ideal for any home shop. For something more portable, we like Pedro’s $12 3-ways, as they’re much lighter.
Pro Mini Tool 11
A mechanic is only as good as his or her ability to quickly and carefully turn around a quick fix. A versatile multi-tool pulls double duty in a jersey or a shop apron pocket. The Pro Mini Tool is one I grab more often than not on my way out the door for a ride, or when packing up for a weekend of racing.
The Mini Tool 11 sports — you guessed it — 11 different bits, yet it’s compacted down to only 10 pivoting bits. The 5mm is also the socket for the 8mm head, so this little $30 multi-tool can even remove pedals. It’s light, slim, and relatively uncommon, so hopefully it won’t walk off in your friends’ pockets.
Otterbox Preserver case
Let’s be honest, we are better to our tools and our bikes than we are to our phones. Otterbox acknowledges that and its $90 Preserver case is perfect for the wrench and rider. The Preserver is totally waterproof, so even if you get grease all over it, just wash it off with some WD-40 foaming bike wash.
The Preserver case is Otterbox’s second rendition of a waterproof case — the Armor case was its first, but it was rather large. The Otterbox Preserver is about the size of the company’s Commuter case. The Preserver is durable, yet still slim enough to easily slid in and out of your skinny trousers.
Pro Torque Wrench
Every bolt on a bicycle needs to be tight. Knowing you snugged up your brand new $300 handlebar within 0.2nm of spec will just give you that much more confidence in your handy work. Pro, Shimano’s component company, makes some pretty great tools and this one is no exception. The Torque Wrench, which retails for $150, is accurate from 0.4 to 15nm and includes six bits. I travel with mine anytime I fly with my bike, typically just bringing the M4, M5, and the T25 if I’m flying with a disc bike. Always remove your brake rotors when you pack your bike. Always.
CDI Torque Key
The Pro Torque Wrench isn’t going to be a viable gift for many cyclists. Luckily, CDI offers some high-quality pre-set torque keys, for that cyclist in your life who has a heavy hand. CDI falls under the umbrella of Snap-On, so you know you’re getting a quality item, but of course, like anything Snap-On, at $30 each, these are the priciest torque keys on the market.
Sharpie Paint Marker
This one may not make much sense to loved ones when you send out your wish list, so you may want to pick these up yourself, but they’re great. For one thing, they easily mark tools, much like a golfer marks balls, and a wrench needs to keep track of tools. At $3 each, they’re perfect for marking saddle heights and other fit points as well. I’ve found the medium point marker perfect and it comes in a rainbow of colors.
I also use them to mark my tubes. Before I stuff a tube into my pack or a packet, I wrap it in electrical tape — which can later be used to boot a tire or fix something rattling on your bike — and then I write the tube size on it.
This may be something that only the ’cross and mountain bike riders will understand, but the only way to learn what air pressures you’re running is a consistent pressure gauge, and using the same pump everyday isn’t always an option, especially if you’re traveling. The SKS Airchecker ($25 retail) will fit snuggly in any tool kit and will give you an accurate reading. Best of all, it’s inexpensive and should fit in any non-denominational sock hanging above your fireplace.
Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit
If you’ve been keeping track of what our total price tag is for everything covered here, well, you’re better at math than I’ll ever be, but I know we’ve run up quite the tab. If the cyclist on your list is lacking tools all together and they’ve been a good girl or boy, the Pedro’s Apprentice Tool Kit is a perfect starting point. Retailing for $285, it comes in a durable plastic case and includes all the tools an aspiring wrench will need.
Even when unfolded, the Apprentice Tool Kit is still about the same size as the Soulrun Wrench Roll. All 22 tools fit nicely into folded EVA foam and can be easily removed. For my fellow OCD wrenches, it is organized and clean looking. Every tool has its place, so you can quickly pick out the tool you need.
Even if your cyclist has everything, this kit would make for a fantastic addition to his or her trunk, for those last minute adjustments before the ride.