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Editors’ Choice: Blackburn Wayside Multi Tool

A multi tool that excels at the "tool" part

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I don’t like multi tools. I’m pretty sure that’s how I started my piece about the Giro Trixter Gloves a few weeks ago … though I probably said “gloves” not “multi tools.” Still, I’ve picked an odd theme for something called “Editors’ Choice.” But I’d bet that you don’t like multi tools either. Regular tools, maybe, but multi tools are a necessary evil. They’re clumsy, fragile, and it seems that the more utility a manufacturer tries to pack in, the less usable it becomes. Unless you take the approach of the Blackburn Wayside. 

Most distinctive is its stack of individual, removable allen wrenches. 2, 2.5, 3, 4 and 5-millimeter allen wrenches that are no different than the ones many of us have in our real toolboxes at home. They’re just the right size to hold between a thumb and two fingers and get just about all the torque you’ll need on any bolt on the 2 to 5-millimeter spectrum. And there’s a ball end on each. A ball end! It’s a luxury you didn’t know was so good for on-trail repair until you’ve had one on the trail. Ball ends are faster if you need to spin a bolt all the way in or out. And speed counts if you’re chasing daylight or holding up your mates while you, I don’t know, move a 5mm spacer from above your stem to below it, which I tend to do once in a while. Plus, ball ends can reach places more easily. It makes it easier to reach under a shifter or brake lever to snug it up without getting off your bike when you don’t have the luxury of an articulating repair stand. They’re just a little cumbersome if you’re using them with gloves. Again, I don’t like gloves.

The rest of the tool has, well, the rest of the tools. There’s a 6mm on there, as well as an 8. You could look at it as a compromise that these aren’t among the removable tools, but I don’t look at it that way. For one, I don’t use either of those sizes as often as the rest, so it doesn’t bother me that they’re not as convenient. But also, they’re used on higher torque items, so it’s nice to have a little more substantial tool to hold on to when you’re using them. Plus, if you need higher torque on one of the smaller allen wrenches, the 8 is hollow and can be used as a breaker bar, but I’ve literally never done it. 

There’s also two torx bits, a T25 and a T30. One of my bikes is a Scott, and they really love their T30s. If a pivot ever comes loose, I’ve got it covered. You, on the other hand, may never use it. But we’re talking about me here. The T25 would have been a good tool to include among the removable wrenches, but that may be my only complaint.

The chain tool even works reasonably well. You don’t have to assemble it, and it’s easy to hold on to, though I do have to keep a thumb over the chain to keep it centered. The spoke wrenches and presta valve tool integrated into the chain tool are actually comfortable in the hand, and don’t take a lot of getting used to, even for someone who once used the real thing every day for decades. There’s also a little chain clip that allows you to keep the chain on the front ring while you repair it, but that’s more of a relic of the days when we couldn’t just lift our chain off our front ring and repair it with all the slack we need. But hey, someday I’ll need a stiff piece of wire, so there’s that. 

Someday I’ll also need the Wayside’s flathead screwdriver, but I’m just checking that off the list so I can talk about the serrated blade. Such a cool thing to include on a multi tool, and such a rare thing. I almost always have a small pocket knife, but it’s not serrated. Having what amounts to a mini saw is useful for the sorts of things you’ll never be able to plan for. I’ve used it to slice a piece of webbing off a pack for an emergency tie down, trimming some excess tire plug, and even cut a couple small but stubborn branches. 

So no, the Blackburn Wayside is not perfect. It’s a multi tool. But it makes every effort not to be a multi tool. It’s like this tool and I are on the same page. I bet we don’t like a lot of the same things.

Photos: Anthony Smith