When it comes to wrenching, I know my limitations. Changing brake pads, swapping cassettes, tubeless tires, new cables, a fresh wrap of bar tape; I can handle those jobs. A wheel slightly out of true, creaky BB, a frozen seatpost; I cautiously attempt those repairs. Bent derailleur hangar, pressed bearings, cutting of anything carbon; I hand off that work to the professionals.
My toolbox is a reflection of my mechanical threshold. A full complement of hex wrenches, chain whip, pedal wrench, repair stand, torque wrench; I have and use with regularity. The truing stand or the brake bleed kit come out when I am feeling confident and I have access to a support video. Saws, press tools, and pullers, I don’t have. Too dangerous in my hands.
I am comfortable changing a chain and that comfort shows in my collection of chain tools. I have one spoke wrench and like a half dozen chain tools. But none cooler than the one stamped Wippermann. Cool because it travels well, thanks to its “palm of your hand” size. Cool because it has a hatch to stow a quick-link. And cool because it actually works. Of course, we should expect no less from a company that has been making bike chains since the late 1800s. (A note on Wippermann: bike products are branded Connex by Wipperman. The company also makes chains and drive systems for other industries and those are branded Wippermann).
I carried the tool around for months. At 80 grams and dimensions similar to a Garmin 500, size was never an impediment. The tool was easy to carry in a jersey pocket or Camelbak. It also went on road trips in my mobile tool kit and was on standby for the 103 miles of the of the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race. But I never needed for its primary purpose: roadside or trailside chain breakage. Lucky me.
Eventually I wore out a chain and went for the Connex instead of my shop-worthy chain tool from another company. Taking the tool out and putting it in the ready the position is half the reason to have one. The little guy has a “Transformers” personality. The lever swings out and extends, the storage cover flips open and becomes a handle, and the link reveals itself as the chain savior that it is. I’ll spare you the Airazor comparisons but this tool might even impress a six year old boy.
I dropped the old chain into the guides, lined up the stud bolt with the chain pin, and turned the lever. Connex suggests putting a little oil on the threads to improve performance. The body of the tool is textured and makes for better grip. The pin was ejected without a slip or a struggle. “Airazor” the chain tool was retracted into its storage and travel position. Job complete, time for cartoons and a snack.
But first, more testing. I grabbed some discarded links I had on the work bench and attatched them using a Shimano connection pin. I needed a steadier hand to make sure the stud bolt was in line with the connecting pin but the Connex tool proved it could handle chain assembly if need be.
As we said, one of the cool things about the tool is that it stows a spare link. Two holes in the floor of the compartment allow the two sides of link to nestle in. It will accept any brand of link but the tool comes with a Connex link. It’s 9 speed but Connex says the included link will work with 10 speed chains too. Connex says the 9 speed link still covers most chain emergencies but as 11 speed becomes more common, the company may opt for a link that leans in that direction.
The only problem I had with the Connex chain tool was keeping the compartment door shut. The handle, when retracted, is designed to snap into place and hold closed the tool’s hood. I struggled with the latch system. I’d snap the handle into its slot only to have it turn open while rolling around in my tool box or bouncing in my jersey pocket. I ended up securing the thing with a small piece of Velcro. The compartment door flying open can result in the links coming loose. In fact when opening the handle-lid, Connex advises to have hand underneath, ready to catch the links should they come loose from their cradle.
Loose links aside, the tool offered a sense of security that a broken chain would not ruin a ride. But the best thing about the Connex chain tool is that it answers that perplexing question: what do I get my cycling friends for Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/birthdays/anniversaries/KOMs? Get them one of these. The tool is 40 bucks including link.