Blackburn's Grid 13 Multitool occupies the middle ground between minimalist and pocket workshop. A penny shy of £20 buys 13 functions, as the name suggests, which doesn't sound like phenomenal bang for buck, but they're nicely executed and pleasant to use – hence, I've tended to reach for it when fettling at home too.
Most manufacturers have come along with a duff concept, but with just one notable exception, I've always been very impressed by Blackburn stuff. The lifetime warranty is a definite plus, and on the one occasion that a rack failed while hustling through E7 in the wee small hours, Blackburn honoured it.
Back to the Grid, it's pretty comprehensive but relatively compact. Sandwiched between the die cast A383 aluminium alloy side plates, emblazoned with the Blackburn logo, we have pretty much the full complement of Allen keys: 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 mm. There's a T25 driver for taming disc callipers and a pad spreader for those moments when you've absent-mindedly engaged a brake lever with the wheel out. This also incorporates a bottle opener – a welcome touch and highlights the subtle, intelligent use of available space.
Given torx heads are no longer limited to disc brake callipers, I was pleased by the inclusion of a T30 as well as the T25. Primarily intended for chainring bolts, it also came in handy on some models of cam-type security skewers and proved a useful alternative to 5mm Allen keys where extra bite was called for.
Bits are made from aircraft grade 6150 chrome vanadium steel, which enjoys higher resistance to wear and corrosion than other grades of hi-tensile steel. Lengths are about right – long enough to persuade higher-stressed or badly weathered bits to budge, yet nimble enough in confined spaces.
The 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 4mm bits are L-shaped, which certainly helps in tight situations – when nipping mudguard bolts snug at the chainstay bridge, introducing additional bottle cages to smaller main triangles and the like. Conversely, because of the short length, the 4mm key was less convenient when tackling a recessed brake lever mounting bolt.
Summing up, the Grid tackles most jobs I'd ask of a pocket tool on a day-to-day basis, and caters for both road and mountain bike audiences. However, it's a buyer's market and choice depends on your machine(s), what you want from a pocket tool, and, to some extent, your approach to maintenance.
Generally well engineered and pleasant to use, but I'd like a longer 8mm bit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn Grid 13 Multitool
Size tested: 13 function, includes disc brake pad spreader
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Blackburn says: "Contains the most common tools to interface with modern bicycle components, and oriented in the best way for their intended use."
I'd generally agree, though would prefer a longer 8mm bit.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Die-Cast Aluminum alloy A383-better corrosion resistances, is lightweight, and its benefits include ease of casting, good mechanical properties, and dimensional stability.
-E-Plated- Gives it that slick look, helps with corrosion resistance, wear resistance
-Laser etched logo details.
-Material is CR-V 6150 heat treated for hardness. High resistance to corrosion. CR-V steel helps to hold an edge and is resistant to going dull after repeated use.
Well made, using high quality materials.
Comfortable to use, well machined for an accurate fit, with surprising amounts of leverage although it's surprisingly compact.
Seems very solid and backed by Blackburn's lifetime guarantee.
Intelligently designed and pleasant to use.
In a fiercely competitive market, the lion's share of £20 sounds a little steep and there are plenty of brands offering similar spec for less. However, the Grid is nicely executed and on the one occasion I've had to call upon Blackburn's lifetime guarantee it was honoured.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Grid is a well conceived midweight and relatively compact tool that is pleasant to use and tackles most fasteners effortlessly. The stubby 8mm bit stirs mixed emotions in me and there are other respected brands, offering better spec (chain breaker, longer tools) for similar money.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Intelligent design, high quality tools, lifetime guarantee.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing per se. Not so keen on the stubby 8mm bit but it's not going to get lost like the cap type and is functional enough in a jam.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but there are better equipped models for similar money.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, with the above priviso.
Use this box to explain your score
It's a well engineered tool that's nice to use and caters for most common fasteners without being too bulky. The lifetime guarantee is another definite plus. It's good but not quite an 8, and there are better equipped models for similar money that might be more appealing.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)