The Multi-Tool Paradox
by Mark V on Jan 30, 2014 at 8:32 PM
I believe that a person cannot know himself without first understanding his limitations. I’m not good at pure mathematics, and as a consequence I have only a tenuous grasp of physics properties such as wave behaviour or quantum mechanics (I’m better at Newtonian physics, metallurgy, and manufacturing processes). My omelets are mediocre (but cheese solves many problems). I’m rubbish at giving or following driving directions. I am however, better than most people at bike mechanics. And when I say better than most people, that’s me being modest. So when I talk about how useful a bike tool is, rest assured that there is a certain weight behind my statements. And something that I can state is that the more features a tool has, the less useful it becomes. I call it the Multi-tool Paradox. In short, as a tool is heaped with more and more features, it quickly becomes so ungainly that it becomes inefficient to use for any purpose. This phenomenon is something that the typical cyclist often doesn’t see.
The concept of the multi-tool is nothing new, but in the late 1980s they really rode the coattails of the mountain bike boom to popularity. The real reason that mountain bikes became so popular was that the industry was selling a lifestyle not sports equipment. Mountain bikes’ image broke free of the stodgy, tradition-laden roadie scene. It was California hippies enjoying the outdoors, bros getting dirty and drinking beer. Grassroots inventors making new stuff in their garage. People grew dreads and wore dead fish corpses as jewelry. Mountain bikers were rugged individuals who were adventurous and self-sufficient. They of course needed portable tools so that they could be prepared for anything in the field. And the more features in the tool, surely the more prepared the individual would be. Folding set of Allen keys? What are you, a total noob?! My tool has 39 features including a bottle opener!
(Sidenote: Oh please god/yahweh/buddha…please, please, please let there be more bottle openers integrated into bike tools/frames/components. There is a distinct lack of options. And I would simply LOVE to write about innovations in bottle openers)
Just because you have 3 dozen features incorporated into your multi-tool doesn’t mean that you have the knowledge or experience to use them. In fact, unless you have the advanced skills, you’ll find that using a small hedgehog of metal tool fittings will impede the repairs you are capable of doing.
Oh wait, you say you’re an expert at home mechanics and DIY bike maintenance? Now I’m really worried. Few things wind me up as much as when a rider comes into my shop, drills me with questions about what’s wrong with their bike, declines to hire me to fix it, and then proceeds to whip out a multi-tool. I’d rather watch parents beat their children, because kids heal up for the most part, except perhaps the mental scars….and there’s a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry catering to that. Crimes against bicycles are etched in paint and gouged metal. The absolute worst is watching someone try to true his wheel with a crap multi-tool and no truing stand. They look at me in pride, hoping that I’ll be impressed. I’m looking at them like they just performed self-circumcision with an old Swiss Army knife. Horrifying.
I’m a professional mechanic. In the shop, I almost never use a tool with more than 3 features. There are three reasons for this: speed, leverage, and potential damage to the bike fittings. In the shop environment, tools get much more use than in the hands of consumers. They tend to be heavier for durability and leverage, single purpose for speed and ergonomics. High-quality tools are less likely to strip or round out fittings. The moment I think a spoke wrench is a little worn, I throw it out. It is not worth the risk of rounding nipples on thousand dollar wheelsets. Same thing with chain tools in an era of $100 11sp chains. You can do a lot of damage with a bad tool.
Here’s my advice. Keep it simple. Never buy a multi-tool with more than 6-8 features (although I have seen a couple Lezyne tools with 10 features that didn’t seem too awkward). Instead buy multiple tools and keep them in a tool roll
. Choose your multi-tools carefully. Don’t buy one that has a lot of features that you don’t need. For example, older road bikes have almost no Torx head fittings. Be aware of how much leverage you’ll need for the components on your bike. For example, a modern, high-end carbon road bike has very few bolts that require that much force, so even a diminutive tool would suffice. An older bike with a quill stem will need a heftier tool to get enough leverage. If you often make adjustments to your bike, perhaps a loose 4mm and 5mm Allens with a Bondhus heads on one end would be a good idea. I can’t recommend any tool with integrated tyre levers. Tyre levers all eventually break if you use them often enough, or at least the plastic ones do (and unless you’ve got extra gnar gnar downhill tyres, you should only be using plastic tyre levers). The best tyre levers on the market are the Soma Steel Core Levers.
A multi-tool with too many features is not a sign that you are prepared. Rather it is a dead giveaway that you don’t know what it takes to repair your bicycle in the field, and that you thought a $40 gadget would be an acceptable substitute to learning. I weep for your bicycle.
Don’t Let Facts Get in the Way of the Media
by Mark V on Jan 30, 2014 at 5:54 PM
“The 112mph BICYCLE: Bike shop owner spends £5,000 building a vehicle that has earned him a place in the record books”
This is a headline from the website of Daily Mail (UK). Granted, this is not a cycling publication, but it’s sooooooo irritating to me to see such a lackadaisical approach to simple, expository writing. I mean, a few minutes on google would have cleared up a lot of the errors.
Guy Martin is a British motorcycle racer who has had moderate success, even several podium appearances at the Isle of Mann TT, but he is perhaps better known as personality than as a champion sportsman. Recently he has been featured in Channel 4’s series Speed. The Daily Mail features Martin’s attempt at a motorpaced speed record. Beyond that, the tabloid newspaper’s writers manage to bullocks up every other pertinent fact.
Jason Rourke is the bike shop owner named, and the business includes a framebuilding operation. Rourke built the bike in “ten days”. That’s not exactly a big deal if you’re talking about fabrication; it would depend on whether or not that included design time. However, that five thousand quid price on the bicycle is rather unimpressive. I can spend that pretty easily with just 10min on the Competitive Cyclist website and have it delivered blue label within three days. Big deal. But that is just a matter of perspective. That and I’m not actually sure how Rourke, shop owner/framebuilder, actually earned a place in a record books, being that he didn’t actually ride the bike. But the rest of the article is actually wrong.
Guy Martin rode 112.94mph, but that was no “world record”. It couldn’t actually even be called a “world record attempt”. Frenchman José Meiffret rode 127mph behind a modified Mercedez….FIFTY YEARS AGO. In 1985 American John Howard (Olympic cyclist, 4x US road champion, 1x Kona Ironman Champion, 2nd place inaugural RAAM) rode 152mph motor-paced across the salt flats of Bonnevile, Utah. But the current absolute record belongs to Dutch professional Fred Rompelberg, who in 1995 motor-paced to a speed of 167mph. Daily Mail, be assured that Martin and his support staff would have known that they wouldn’t be setting a world record.
I mean, 113mph is scary fast for those of us with average size testicles, but that doesn’t pass as world class in this century. Later in the article it is stated “Mr Martin broke the previous record set by Dutch cyclist Sebastiaan Bowier who reached 83.13mph (133.78 km/h) on a pushbike in September this year.” Bowier set a WORLD RECORD for human-powered vehicles in a fully-faired recumbent bicycle, unpaced. That differs from motor-paced absolute records in that in the latter uses a motorized vehicle speeding in front to shelter the cyclist from air drag. Furthermore, motor-paced absolute speed records allow the rider to be towed by the motor vehicle till almost up to speed. So Martin’s British record has nothing to do with Bowier’s record at all.
I despise television for the most part (too many stupid people, too many adverts, too many stupid people in adverts), so I had to research a little to figure out who Guy Martin is. The message boards abound with comments saying that Martin’s personality is something that “the British nation could stand to have more of” and that he is great on television because he is so “un-telly”. Is it me, or does no one else notice the innate self-contradiction of that latter comment? You do know that reality television is an oxymoron in practice?…. like a sociological corollary to Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle.
I’m just irritated because some git wrote an article about speed records and got all the facts wrong. THEY’RE FACTS. THEY’VE BEEN RECORDED. YOU JUST HAVE TO LOOK THEM UP. WHY DO YOU THINK THEY CALL THEM “RECORDS”? That and the people who actually hold the world records and their support staff seem to have put a lot more effort into their accomplishments.
FYI, Bowier beat the previous HPV record by a scant 0.37mph (specifically flying 200M time trial), set by Canadian cyclist Sam Whittingham of BC. Whittingham, who still holds several other cycling speed records, is also the founder, designer, and framebuilder of Naked Bicycles. Thus Sam Whittingham is a bike shop owner who has actually earned a place in the record books.
PS. Wikipedia had it wrong too…..I corrected them.
SXSW 14: In the Space Where the Bike and Tech Meet
by Byron on Jan 30, 2014 at 2:56 PM
We’re in the Create tent during SXSW Interactive
We’re back in Austin during SXSW in the space where the bike and tech meet with rides, talks, and Nokia mobile photography. While we’re still finalizing the schedule, here’s what the weekend will look like:
A focus this year for SXSW is on Sports and Create where we’re hanging out with wearable tech, health, fitness, and wellness.
Taking part in SXSports Too
Of course, our annual ride is happening too with our friends from Tern. That looks like this
What them MoSos look like
A PNW Roadie Has Fenders
by Byron on Jan 29, 2014 at 11:54 AM
Pacific Northwest roadies know that winter training bike in this How To Be A Road Biker video wasn’t properly fendered at all AND no mention of Tuesday Worlds or Sanctioned Racing v. NON. Riding in the rain here cleanses your soul and destroys your drivetrain, that’s why we have bikes with fenders, like this and this
Issue 08: Disc Brake Rants
by Byron on Jan 28, 2014 at 10:15 AM
Spiteful Mark V wrote TWO rants about road disc brakes in Issue 08 of our Magazine available now on iTunes. He’s installing mechanicals on the Crux this week and I haven’t seen him this agitated since I declared I’d worn out a Ti bike from the massive miles I ride. A recent text from him said, “I sliced it off like a cancer, doubled-bagged b/c the tumor is bleeding DOT.”
Immediately attempting to change the narrative, I responded with, “where we riding next week? Iron Horse Trail?”
If you’re not already subscribed, subscription revenues directly support the writing, editing, and production of Bike Hugger Magazine. That’s where you can read Mark’s take on disc brakes and how he’s recommitting to Cantis.
Our magazine is ad free and published monthly on iTunes for $1.99 per month or $3.99 an issue. Droid users you can find us on Google Play where we recently published an exclusive story about Stages.
The Grammys: Hat So Big BMX Bike Jumped It
by Byron on Jan 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Like a sorting hat for pop music
A large fedora stole the show at the Grammys last night and it was launched by Pharrell on Instagram with a BMX trick last week by Nigel Sylvester.
We last saw Pharrell with bikes, and freak bikes, in the Blurred Lines video. BMX isn’t new at the Grammy’s either, Hoffman was there performing with Arcade Fire. Like I said about Sundance, they need to roll a fat bike parade at these events.
And from my hometown, Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis won Best New artist. Earlier this month, he played at CES and I was there with Nokia and this photo was taken by pketron with a Lumia.
It was a good show, different style, but a similar positive change vibe from Franti’s show I shot with Glass. Best part, on the stage are fly girls dancing to each song with 20 dollars in their pockets.
Sundance Schwinn and Snow Sports
by Byron on Jan 26, 2014 at 12:19 PM
Scwhinn at Sundance
Just as the traffic in Park City ground to a halt during Sundance and I thought, where are the bikes?, saw Scwhinn signs. After snow biking and returning to Seattle, I contacted their PR about that they were doing at a film festival, and this is what they said
The idea was to bring bikes into an atmosphere and event where they typically aren’t seen, so that Schwinn could encourage bike riding, show of new product models for 2014 and get the actors/filmmakers/fans at Sundance excited about the rejuvenated Schwinn brand while also doing something good for a charitable cause we care deeply about. It was such a great experience!
Right on and what I’d like to see is a Snow Bike Mobile Social there one year, like Bikedance, only fatter.
US Freeskiing at I Ride Park City
We were in Park City to cover snow sports and snow bike. Also walk main street during Sundance where all we got was waitlisted. See the biking photos on G+, freeskiiing, and the halfpipe through Glass.
12th Man Rides a Bike
by Byron on Jan 25, 2014 at 9:12 AM
12th man creme
Occasionally when we were riding in Maui during the holidays, we’d hear a “Go Hawks!” Curious I thought, how do they know Hugga is from Seattle? Then, oh wait, our kits resemble the Seahawks jersey colors! That’s an unintended, 12th-man football affinity from die-hard cyclists, but we’re going with it!
Sure, football isn’t our thing, but pride in a hometown is. Next week, I’m in NYC to celebrate with all the other Hawks fans at Superbowl parties in Times Square. For a thoughtful take on Seattle and the billionaires that live here, see Timothy Egan’s editorial, “Billionaires and Boasts”
My city is famous for its retail exports: coffee and Costco, Microsoft and Macklemore, Boeing’s jetliners and Jeff Bezos’s business model.
And now Richard Sherman’s rant. Back from Park City, I rode past our stadia, near the one where the 12th man roars, up an urban climb to the top of Queen Anne. Then descended past the Foundation where Bill G is changing the world and back with Starbucks logos in my line of sight most of the time. As complex as our city is, where the politics are passive aggressive and a giant boring machine is stuck below Pioneer Square, there’s one thing we can agree on, “Go Hawks!”
Green, gray, blue
And Sherman is that good, like the rest of the team.
Like that kit design? the Team Version was made for us by Nalini Custom Apparel.
Latte photo: Angela Wissmar
What We’re Riding With: Nokia Lumia 1020
by Byron on Jan 24, 2014 at 5:17 PM
‘member when David wrote about the death of the DSLR? See this video from Nokia…that’s one of the cameras we’re traveling with and it makes calls too.
Issue 08: New Year New Rides
by Byron on Jan 21, 2014 at 2:23 PM
Issue 08 Cover
Issue 08 just dropped. It’s about a new year new rides and includes articles from Matt Hill, Mark V, and Patrick Brady. Patrick helped me compose the editor’s letter that includes this passage
A New Year’s Resolution is spring cleaning for the mind, and if you do it right, for the body. It’s a chance to take stock and issue an epic course correction. Too much fast food? New diet. Too much cheap beer? Microbrew. Too many short rides in the same old places? New bike, new places, new experiences.
If you’re not already subscribed, subscription revenues directly support the writing, editing, and production of Bike Hugger Magazine. It’s ad free and published monthly on iTunes for $1.99 per month or $3.99 an issue. Droid users you can find us on Google Play.
See this post from yesterday for the types of rides we’re doing in 14 and the fun we had on the snow with fat bikes. Also this edit
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