At 193g the SKS TOM 18 function multi tool doesn't feel overly burdensome and the precision build gives it a definite edge over competitor models. However, riders of bikes with older bikes or cantilever hardware may bemoan a lack of 8/9 & 10mm ring spanners.
TOM is an acronym for Tour mechanic and with technology such as disc brakes increasingly prevalent across cycling's genres manufacturers are producing universal tools. This is great news since competition drives prices lower and greatly reduces the chances of us leaving home with the wrong sort. In the top trumps stakes we've the usual 2,3,4,5,6 and 8mm Allen keys, Phillips and flat screwdrivers, torx wrench, tyre lever, bottle opener, 14&15 gauge spoke keys and chain splitter.
Things get more interesting when you discover there's a handy chain pip caddy, essential for rejoining highly strung ten/eleven speed models and a spreader tool for splaying pads open again should you accidentally engage a (disc) brake lever without the wheel in situ. Tool bits are CNC machined nickel-plated chrome vanadium steel, clearly etched for speedy selection.
The stainless steel side plates are finished in a smart and seemingly hardy black paint, contributing to the durable, efficient persona. Really and truly, multi tools belong in bike luggage but SKS understands our predisposition for cramming stuff into jersey pockets, encasing the lot in a tidy neoprene pouch so you won't get stabbed in a spill.
Bit quality and side plate rigidity mean surprising force can be applied without inducing flex, or rounding the host fasteners, although a little caution's still called for since they don't lock. I was delighted to discover the 8mm key is standalone rather than conversion, spelling the end to lost caps come the crucial moment. We're still talking five minutes' graft to snug a crank bolt tight, mind, but it's superior to most I've used and infinitely preferable to the long walk home.
No surprise to learn others give stubborn seat/stem/pedal fasteners short shrift while the chain tool has chomped through galvanised derailleur types for breakfast and no-nonsense track offerings for lunch. The sculpted tyre lever has been another welcome addition, shifting mid section rubber with expediency; more than can be said for the spoke keys, although in fairness they'll get you out of a jam.
Innovative and refined pocket tool better suited to contemporary road, mountain and touring bikes.
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Make and model: SKS Tom 18
Size tested: One
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?
"All metal SKS Tom Tool 18 features the strength of a chrome-vanadium tool and weight saving framework of stainless steel A selection of metric hex wrenches, screw drivers and other tools in a convenient folding package."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 mm size hex wrenches
Phillips and flat headed screwdrivers
T25 Torx driver
14 and 15 g spoke wrenches
Chain link extractor
Chain pin storage pod and pin breaker
2 tyre levers
Bottle opener and disc brake pad re-setter
All tools fold into the casing which is cleverly designed to be as flat and smooth as possible, to avoid snagging and to stop 'Multi-tool shaped' injuries in the event of a crash
Supplied with a neoprene case
Measurements: 73 x 41 x 24 mm
Does most things exceptionally well but loses a mark thanks to slightly indifferent spoke keys.
Generally very nice to use.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Comprehensive and highly suited to contemporary road/tour/cross/ mountain bikes, SKS TOM18's blend of sensible tool length and high quality materials ensure it's pleasant to use without feeling burdensome.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Precision engineered, quietly innovative and very user friendly.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Spoke keys were a little indifferent and those running old school cantilevers with 8,9 & 10mm hardware might want to look elsewhere.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Quite Possibly
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 38 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
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, mtb,
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)