A great travel tool and workshop stalwart but the lack of an 8mm and frustrating torque bit let it down.
Well designed and a pleasure to use
Has almost every head you need
Great for accessing hard-to-reach bolts
Lacks an 8mm Allen key for pedals
Torque beam is frustrating to use and inaccurate
One of the things they don’t tell you about the super glamorous life of a jet setting tech writer is that you will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to set up very fiddly modern bikes in hotel rooms. A few years ago, things were not so bad, I’d travel with a saddle and seatpost and my shoes, take all the spacers out from under the stem of whatever bike I was testing, and arrive at a passable fit. These days with proprietary everything, there is a lot more fiddling involved.
Flying with a whole bag of tools, let alone riding with them, is very annoying. But I almost never check into a flight these days without Silca’s handy ratcheting tool. The toolkit comes in a handy waxed canvas and leather organiser which is perfectly pocket sized, and contains nearly all of the tools you need to adjust your bike as well as a ratchet, an extender for hard-to-reach bolts, and a torque beam that can be used to avoid over or under tightening them.
The best multitools for cycling
The kit comes with steel 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm Allen keys as well as T10, T20, T25 Torx bits and a Philips head screwdriver. You might think you don’t need all those Torx bits, but believe me when you’ve ridden a few Italian bikes you will know why they are in there. The kit lacks a large enough Allen key to mount or dismount pedals, so I generally fly with one of those as well, but more or less every other tool needed to break down or build up a bike for a flight is included.
I’ve had the set for over a year and used it on dozens of trips. I even reach for it in my workshop when I need to reach a difficult-to-get-at bolt and can’t get enough leverage with the short end of an L-shaped Allen key. The ratchet makes changing stems a breeze and turn smoothly in both directions. Despite heavy use, the tool-quality steel in the bits shows no sign of deteriorating.
On modern bikes, there is no substitute for using a proper torque key. Things really do break if they are not tightened to spec, as I and other colleagues have demonstrated at more than one launch ride! I find the inclusion of the torque beam in the Silca set really useful for adjusting saddle height on the fly on review rides. The beam fits between the ratcheting handle and the bit, making the tool T-shaped. But my torque beam seems to have drifted in accuracy and quite often under read, resulting in a slipping saddle. The increments are also etched into the side of the beam, which makes them hard to see while in use unless you happen to be facing the side which has the increments you want. In my workshop, I rely on Park’s adjustable clicking torque tool and find it much more reliable and enjoyable to use, but on the side of the road this tool has got me out of trouble many times. As with any torque wrench, you should only use it to tighten bolts and never to back them out.
Despite my reservations with the Silca toolkit, I haven’t found anything I like more and it has been in my pocket on every launch ride or bikepacking trip since I got it. I’ve lent it to countless friends who are always impressed by the waxed canvas case it comes in and the ease with which they can use it to adjust a recessed seatpost clamp or work on a ridiculously overcomplicated TT bar set up. I’ve even fixed an espresso machine with it. It’s not cheap at £100, and the pricing seems a bit steep given that it costs $98 in the US, but this should be a tool that lasts for years and if you travel a lot you’ll really come to cherish it.
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