by Mark V on Mar 19, 2014 at 7:50 AM
A month ago I wrote about being selective with your portable tools, and I explicitly recommended the Soma Steel Core tyre lever. Funny enough, seems that some people read the prose I spew on this blog; the guys at Portland Design Works took issue with my choice of tyre levers. So I said I’d take the Pepsi Challenge. A few days later a PDW 3Wrencho arrived in the mail.
A little explanation about the name of the tool. 3Wrencho is a play on San Rensho, which was the brand name of legendary keirin (Japanese professional track racing) framebuilder, Yoshi Konno. The name San Rensho roughly translates into “three victories”, where “san” means “3” in Japanese. By coincidence, San Rensho at one time marketed some keirin-specific tools for adjusting regulation track bikes at the velodrome. Though San Rensho doesn’t exist anymore as a builder, the tool is still available (at least a few years ago), and I have one. However, that tool is too big to use as on-the-road repair kit, and neither does it have a tyre lever. And why would it? Keirin bikes only use tubulars anyways.
Back to the actual 3Wrencho tool: is it the best tyre lever ever? Well, it just might be. It matches my criteria in terms of shape, and it is nylon-coated to protect your rim. But it is definitely beefier than a Soma Steel Core, and I’m not quite sure what it would take to break it. Despite this, the 3Wrencho isn’t so thick that you can’t get it under the bead of tight fitting tyres. The 3Wrencho also incorporates a 15mm box wrench to fit track hub fixing nuts, the tyre lever portion is even angled out so that you can spin the wrench on the nut without catching on the bike’s stays. Compared to Surly’s Jethro Tool, the 3 Wrencho is miles better ergonomically for hossing on track nuts while only marginally longer, while the shape of the 15mm box fits better than the Jethro’s on the fixing nuts of certain internally-geared hubs. And the Jethro doesn’t have a superb tyre lever integrated into the other end like the PDW product. The Jethro just has a bottle-opener….and it’s not like there is any great shortage of bottle opening technologies in the world.
PDW 3Wrencho has a 15mm box wrench end for the fixing nuts of track hubs and internally geared hubs.
So final verdict? Is the 3Wrencho the best tyre lever ever? Hmmmm, I’m not gonna say that that for a couple reasons. First, it costs $25 which is a lot for a tyre lever if you rarely need one in your travels. Sure, it has that 15mm box wrench, but if you have quick-releases on your wheels then that’s not doing anything for you. It would no doubt last longer than a Soma Steel Core in a shop environment. But even if it doesn’t break, in a shop environment you will eventually wear through the nylon coating, depending on your technique. And in a busy bike shop, tyre levers are like Bic pens in a office: they disappear constantly. I can buy 10 Soma Steel Core levers for the price of one 3Wrencho, lose 3, have another 3 stolen, break one, give one away, accidentally take one home in my pocket, and still come out ahead (yep, that about describes what actually happens).
However, if you look in my own personal tool kit, I keep a 3Wrencho. It is handier than the Jethro Tool as a track nut wrench and better than the Soma as a tyre lever, so I could reduce the number of tools I’m carrying while simultaneously improving ergonomics. If you want an utterly dependable tyre lever for your portable tool kit, there is no finer. And if you ride a bike with some sort of fixing nut for the hub, then without a doubt this is your tool.
Soma Steel Core lever on left, PDW 3Wrencho on left