My Favorite Multi-Tool

Like most cyclists, I’ve tried many a multi-tool over the years.  But, my Topeak “Alien” multi-tool, which I purchased sometime in the 1990’s, is my favorite.  I’ve been using this tool for decades, and it still looks and functions as new.

There are many things to love about this tool, not the least of which are the many individual tools available.  I think this model has 26 altogether.  While some of them may only be needed occasionally, when cycling far from resources, or just commuting home on a miserable rainy Portland evening, the abundance of tools available in this single mechanism has meant the difference between needing a rescue or being able to make it back in one piece.

Because I ride so many different bikes, some of them many decades old, having the box wrenches (8, 9 & 10 mm) on hand has helped me adjust Mafac brakes, tighten fender bolts, and make derailleur and shifter clamp tweaks.  Two of the box wrenches also feature 15 and 14 gauge spoke wrenches.  There is a serrated knife and bottle opener which can come in handy while camping, as well as a chain breaker.

There’s even a pedal wrench which can be deployed by attaching it to the supplied 8mm Allen key.  I’ve never had to use this, but it’s nice to know it’s there.

The multi-tool comes in two parts which are separated when you depress the Alien logo button, which allows the two sections to be pulled apart.

One of the most useful features of this multi-tool is that the box wrenches, knife, chain breaker, and screwdriver can be locked into place so that they don’t move around as you are trying to use them.  The plastic body also has two integrated tire irons. I’ve never used these because I always carry separate tire irons, but in case you find yourself without your favorite tire irons, these are always there.

My version of the Topeak Alien tool came with instructions which I am amazed that I still have, as well as a handy carrying case.  The weight of the tool is about 275 grams on my scale.  That’s sort of like carrying around an extra bottom bracket, and really is nothing to seriously worry about.  My model is no longer produced, and has been replaced by the Alien II and Alien III models.

The individual tools in this kit are made from stainless steel, and they have really held up well.  A close competitor is the Crank Brothers M19 multi tool, also made with steel (high-tensile), which I’ve also used over the years.  While both multi-tools are excellent choices, I think the Topeak’s range of functionality across different types of bikes from different eras gives it the edge.

12 thoughts on “My Favorite Multi-Tool

  1. Yeppers , I never ride anywhere without my Topeak multi . I’ve even used it for roadside medical first aid.

  2. I experienced that a carefully serviced bike quite rarely needs a tool when being outside on a tour. Nevertheless, I’m quite happy to have the SWAT-box on my Specialized gravel bike and when riding one of my vintage bikes my Crank Brothers multi tool is always with me.
    Do you also have a favorite air pump (what I consider more important than a multitool)?
    Cheers from Germany

    • The Alien multi tool has several that I’ve never used myself, but it turned me into a Good Samaritan on occasions when I’ve assisted with a chain break and helped adjust an out of true wheel on other cyclists bikes stranded on their way to work. Commuting cycling is hard on bikes and most non geeks are not diligent with maintenance. For pumps, frame pumps are my favorite, and if the bike I’m riding won’t accommodate that I use a variety of portable pumps, none of which have impressed me.

      • Haha, you’re right, as a samaritian it’s always a bless to have suitable tools. I’m myself quite active in a non-profit bike repair shop and I know quite well what sub-quality many “bikes” on the road have.
        Cheers from Hamburg and I’m always happy when you launch a new article.

  3. I have a multi tool but I can’t remember the brand. I have only used it once or twice but nice to know it’s there. I have a Swiss Army knife on my Mondia that has quite a few gadgets that would assist me in case I needed it. I use the Bontrager tire tools I have a set on each bike .

  4. Thank you, I have wondered about Topeak, with the plastic and the little alien face it put me off. Reminded me of other cheap plastic tools. I have tried to have a kit for each bicycle but find myself borrowing pieces back and forth. Trying to bring all the tools I might want for everything gets out of control.
    How about a follow up with what you take on a typical ride?

    • With panniers I pack a small trauma kit. On my bikes with only an under saddle bag, I squeeze in a mini mini first kit: band-aids , gauze pads, alcohol prep pads Have stopped to treat many road burn falls And lidocaine wipes for the inevitable summer Yellowjacket stings

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