Practical Advice for Transportation Cycling

Sometimes, all that matters is getting from Point A to Point B as cheaply, safely and efficiently as possible. You don't need a fast bike, you don't need a pretty bike, and most of all you don't need an expensive bike, you just need one that works.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Has It Got In Its Pocketssss Part 2: My Preciousss, the Ringtool

Aha! Finally a ring-related review to follow along with my nonsensical Tolkien kick.

After a few postal mixups, the folks at Reductivist were kind enough to resend my Ringtool, and it arrived within a few days of shipping. For the first part of my review, I can, in fact, state that the makers of this tool are courteous and helpful in the case of postal SNAFUs!

So, on to the tool itself.

I recieved my Ringtool in a padded envelope, which contained this snazzy little recyclable packet.

Unboxing revealed this surprisingly compact little widget.
It's not actually that tiny, I'm kind of a Wookie

Around the circumference are 3,4,5,6 and 8mm Allen wrenches, a T25 Torx wrench, flat and phillips screwdrivers and a pair of notches for spoke nipples. the center of the tool, of course, acts as a bottle opener (I don't think you're allowed to make bicycle multitools without adding a bottle opener if there's room at all). The whole thing is made out of a single piece of stainless steel and is both light and sturdy-feeling.

Because of it's ring-shaped form factor, the thing easily attaches to a keyring, or better yet, a carabiner clip with your keys.
This is pretty convenient and plays into the Ringtools main purpose. It's not meant to replace a rack of shop-quality tools, or even a heavy-duty multitool for touring or serious adventures, but is rather geared towards being the "always with you" tool for commuters and casual riders (and possibly weight-conscious road riders). After all, the best set of Park or Pedro's wrenches aren't any help at all when you've got to make a quick fix or adjustment halfway home from work.

In fact, a neat thing about the ringtool as a commuting tool as that if you use a Timbuk2 messenger bag, or something similar, you can keep it on the keychain leash and just whip it out to quickly tighten a loose handlebar bolt or make a seat adjustment without even taking your bag off.
Of course none of these clever design features would be any use if they Ringtool sucked as a tool, and I'm happy to say it works really well.

I had a few quick tweaks on my commuter bike that I needed to do, so rather than reaching for my Park wrench, like I normally would, I decided to try them out with the Ringtool.

First, I installed a mini-pump bracket under my water bottle cage...
...which went without a hitch. Then I made a slight adjustment to my seat height...
...which worked just fine, but revealed the one minor shortcoming of the Ringtool's form factor.
If you look close at the above photo, you'll notice the 5mm wrench is bumping into the seatpost collar as I try to tighten the seat clamp bolt.

I won't call this a "problem" or "defect" so much as a shortcoming of the compact tool's design. In order to make the Ringtool pocket-friendly, the designer's kept the tool bits relatively short, which means they don't have the clearance that a full-size shop tool would have. I've run into similar issues with other multitools as well, and in cases like this, it just means you can't move the bolt through a full rotation without pulling the tool out and sticking it back into the bolt head, which is a minor inconvenience at worst. However, if you have any deeply recessed or difficult-to-reach bolts on your bike, you're going to to wait till you get home to adjust them.

Overall, though, the Ringtool works wonderfully. The bits are perfectly machined and engage bolt heads firmly. The disc-shaped form factor gives you plenty of leverage and I imagine in the case of a badly stuck bolt you could even jam a bar of some sort through the center to really bear down on it (probably not a recommended use, but the thing feels sturdy enough, and in fact the shortness of the bits makes them less prone to deforming than my shop wrenches in that case).

The only things the Ringtool can't handle are bolt-on axles, such as those on my commuter bike, but in that case I'd recommend supplementing it with either a cheap adjustable wrench or something like the Park SS-15, which would give you a pair of light, sturdy, do-it-all tools with no moving parts (and an overabundance of bottle openers).

The Ringtool is light, compact, well-designed and made in the U.S. All in all a great addition to any commuting cyclists keyring. At $28, it's priced competitively with a lot of basic multitools (most of which are bulkier, have more moving parts and usually some plastic pieces). Right now, to the best of my knowledge, it's not available in many local shops, but hopefully that will change, and in the mean time, you can get it directly from the manufacturer:

Ringtool by Reductivist

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