The Theory of Mid-Ride Repair

The Theory of Mid-Ride Repair

The world is full of theories. There’s the theory of evolution, the theory of relativity, of biogenesis, of plate tectonics, and on we go. And all of them have enough science backing them up to be considered settled fact. What we don’t have is a theory of why I almost never need a multitool on road rides and if I venture away from home on any amount of dirt, if I don’t have a multitool with me, something will either break or need adjusting before I make it back home. I may not have a theory, but I think there’s a law. Not one I like.

For years, the basic theory behind a multitool was that it needed to hold as many tools as possible in less space than taken up by a deck of cards. Practically speaking, what we ended up with were multitools that couldn’t reach some places and the places they could reach would result in gouged palms and fingers should you twist with sufficient force to tighten, say, a water bottle cage.

I once made the mistake of dropping a 1990s-era multitool in a jersey pocket prior to a mountain bike ride. I crashed and landed on my back. It was on impact that I learned it had as many sharp points as a serrated bread knife.

More recently, some manufacturers have begun to rethink minitools. (Thank God.) Park helped lead the way by differentiating the sets according to what tools you’d need depending on the style of riding you were doing.

Case in point: the MT-30 (in the foreground of the shot below) comes with 8 and 15mm box wrenches, making it the first folding multitool I’m aware of to cater to fixie riders. The MT-40 (back right) includes a CO2 adapter and a chain tool, making it a thorough response to the needs of mountain biking.


Blackburn and Topeak have introduced several new multitools as well. As much as I like Topeak’s Alien III and Blackburn’s Grid 13, my favorite among this new generation of multitools is Blackburn’s Wayside.

The Wayside is genius. That’s not an opinion, but an objective statement of fact, just as saying that anyone who believes they enjoy satire needs to watch Archer.


So yes, the Wayside is genius. It includes a few features to distinguish it from the great mass of tools out there. The first, biggest differentiator is how the 2, 2.5, 3, 4 and 5mm Allen keys are all L-shaped and detachable from the tool. The tool itself is merely a holder for them. Better yet? The long end of those Allens is ball-shaped to help you get into less accessible areas, such as for tightening those water bottle bolts. I’ve certainly encountered some disc brake mounts that were as inaccessible as the fitness necessary to win Dirty Kanzaa.


The folding section of the tool includes 6 and 8mm Allen keys; the 8 is hollowed out, less for weight than the fact that you can insert the removable Allens in there for added leverage. It also features T25 and T30 Torx wrenches. The Torx bits would have annoyed me five years ago, but today they are just as necessary as a 5mm Allen. Why that is, I can’t answer.

Standbys such as a flathead screwdriver are included, but then there are surprises like three different size spoke wrenches (enough to cover the basics) and for those running tubeless, a valve core remover.

It also includes a chain tool, but get this: the end of the chain tool benefits from a rather flat paddle-like shape that doubles as a disc brake spreader, should you have the misfortune to tap a lever while a wheel is removed. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking a mountain bike or an adventure bike, either way, opening the brake back up requires something long and slim.

The final tool is a locking, serrated blade perfect for slicing chorizo on top of Sonoma Mountain. Or something. It’s sharp enough TSA would take it from you and send you a nasty letter afterward (don’t ask how I know), but it wouldn’t be my first choice for self-defense against a cougar in either the back country or an Oakland bar.

The Wayside includes a handy rubber band to help retain the Allen keys, though there’s a plastic retainer into which they snap.

Blackburn says it weighs 200 grams. I’m going to take them at their word. Even though I’ve got a scale, the thought of weighing a multitool is like a starving man asking for a gluten-free, vegan meal.

The tools are crafted from stainless steel and in their (admittedly limited) time in my hydration pack they’ve gotten damp but haven’t started showing any oxidation. While a touch of rust never killed the utility of a minitool, it is annoying. All this for just $34.95.

Final thought: The Wayside really is the size of a deck of cards.

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  1. Gabe

    Hard to think of a 200g tool as “mini”, as certainly a box wrench or the ability to slice chorizo are almost never the difference of getting home on your own or calling for a ride.

    My 90g Topeak Mini saved me this past weekend, transforming my 2×11 to 2×1 after a shifter cable break.

  2. John B.

    As someone who has shunned mini-tools for decades, carrying a small allen-key set and other loose tools, such as Topeak’s brilliant Link 11 chain tool, instead, I am happy to say that the Wayside changed my mind about multi-tools. It has proved eminently usable – only this past weekend, I used it to help fix a friend’s broken chain – and I have used both the disk brake pad spreader and the valve core tool in anger (but resulting in happiness) too. The usability of the loose allen keys speak for themselves. Kudos to Blackburn! Oh, and one weighs 197g on a calibrated scale.

  3. Les.B.

    If you question why torx bolts are used, consider that hex wrenches and bolts are easy to strip with excessive torque. The torx can take more torque for a given size.

    1. Author

      I get that Torx bolts require greater torque to strip, but when you look at just how low the torque spec is on the vast majority of all bolts being used on a bike, stripping a bolt means you’ve vastly exceeded the torque spec. Which brings me back to the question, why Torx?

  4. Greg

    I’ve carried and used mini-tools for decades. They gradually got bigger and now they’re getting smaller again. I even carry one of the Park tools in the picture on my motorcycle, and I’ve used it – nothing like an engine to gradually vibrate a bolt loose. Back in November I bought a Specialized Tarmac, and I’ve equipped it with the SWAT road tool under the water bottle cage, the SWAT chain tool (yes, I’ve used a chain tool on the road for someone else) in the headset, a mini-pump, and a Backcountry Research tube/lever strap. No seat bag. The bike keeps its clean lines. The tools add minimal weight. And my shorts never rub against a seat bag strap.

    I still somehow manage to pack a bunch of junk in my jersey pockets (carry – and used – a small first aid kit on the road), but they’re more manageable. In fact the biggest advantage with the SWAT tools is less wear and tear on the inner thigh of my bike shorts and the seams of my jersey pockets.

  5. Chris

    I have two multi-tools, the small one that came with my fizik saddle bag, and fits into a separate pouch with just enough room left for a self-adhesive patch or two, and a larger one that adds a chain-tool and spoke wrench. I’ve used the former on the road twice and the latter not at all.

    A friend and I are going riding in Montana next month for three days. I’m just beginning a mental inventory, which I plan to follow up with some judicious shopping and some inevitable knolling. I still haven’t decided which tool to bring though. Is there a law about that?

  6. Pat O'Brien

    Why Torx indeed. I suspect, but haven’t checked, that brake rotors require more torque than other bolts on bikes. But other than that, why Torx? I am sure that I don’t ride the miles that most RKP readers. I probably come in the last 5% when it comes to power. I have never required a chain breaker tool, except when putting on a new chain. I would be curious how many readers actually have used one to get home from a ride. I carry a Park MT-1 and a Leatherman Squirt, along with tire levers. Never needed anything else, so far.

  7. John Kopp

    I carry a special multitool, a spoke wrench, a couple of Allen wrenches, and a spare tire or tube. The multi tool is an ignition pliers with one handle made into a screw driver and the other fashioned into a tire iron. That gets me through most emergency repairs.

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