Have you ever been out for a ride and another cyclist flagged you down and asked if you had something they could use to fix their bike? Didn’t it feel great to be able to say “as a matter of fact, I do!” How many times have you been out riding and something broke or loosened off on your bike and you were able to fix it and avoid walking home? Has your chain ever broken in the middle of nowhere? Mine has, and I’m sure glad I could fix it, especially since I was alone, and didn’t bother to tell anyone where I was going.
I’ve always believed in being prepared on the bike and have never had to walk home or call someone to pick me up. I used to carry a bunch of tools in my underseat bag and jersey pockets. Then, I saw an article about the Topeak Alien in Bicycling magazine. I’ve always loved gadgets and buying tools so as soon as I read the article about the Alien, I had to have one.
There are lots of multi tools designed specifically for cyclists and it’s hard to say which one is best or which one you should have in your seat bag. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and each tool does some things particularly well. I’ve used a Topeak Alien, the original multi tool for bikes for about 15 years, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the one tool that every cyclist should carry with them whenever they go for a ride.
The original Alien had 20 tools including tire levers, a chain tool, a knife with serrated edge, and a bunch of wrenches. Who knows, there might be more tools hidden there that I never noticed. All I know is, I’ve never had a problem that I couldn’t fix well enough to get home with the original Alien.
The body of the Alien cleverly separates into two parts, making it easier to handle, but also to give you two tire levers.The latest version of the Alien has 25 tools and includes a disc brake spacer, something that probably wasn’t necessary when the Alien first came out. The tool comes with a very durable ballistic nylon carrying pouch.
There are only two negatives that I can come up with for the original Alien. First is the weight. Weight weenies might cringe at the thought of hauling an extra 9.5 ounces around with them but walking home isn’t fun either. Secondly, the ergonomics of the Allen key module can be uncomfortable to hang onto when you’re really reefing on a tight fitting. I haven’t actually used the latest version of the tool so maybe they’ve improved the ergonomics. When weighed against all of the fabulousness of the tool, the negatives I mentioned are pretty insignificant.
Don’t go out into the woods unprepared. If you’re looking for a great gift for a cyclist who doesn’t already have one, you can’t go wrong with a bicycle multi tool, no matter which one you decide to go with. They’re relatively inexpensive, but you can’t put a price on their McGyver like ability to get you out of a scrape.