First Impressions: Wolf Tooth 8-Bit System
But wait, there's more
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To get it out of the way right up front, these are my very first impressions. I haven’t fixed anything with the Wolf Tooth 8-Bit System yet. I haven’t adjusted a saddle height or a brake-lever angle. I haven’t even gone on a ride with it. The first and last time time I saw it was just this past weekend at Sea Otter, but I did get a chance to fiddle with it for a day once we’d taken our photos. And I actually learned a lot. After all, “fiddly” tends to be a good way to describe tools that are both super compact and super comprehensive. Getting the 3mm hex wrench of a 20-function tool anywhere near your lock-on grip clamp can be like a game of Operation. Using the chain tool can be a bit like solving a Rubik’s Cube. And still, it’s hard for tool makers to actually include everything in a single package. If “everything” is what you’re after, you’ll probably still need, for example, a plug kit or a tire lever or master-link pliers. And in that case, why bother using a jack of all trades multi tool every time you need to tighten a bolt if it that multi tool isn’t actually ready for all trades?
The Wolf Tooth 8-Bit System takes a different approach. Yes, it packs down to be one solid object, but it separates very readily into three solid objects. Some magnets and pins hold the separate components flush and lined up, though not especially tightly. They’ll release if you drop it, for example. One of those three pieces, the 8-Bit Pack Pliers, has already been around for a while. It includes your standard 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm hex wrenches, a t10 and t25 torx wrench, and a flat and phillips screwdriver, all meant to plug into a hollow that’s inside a hinged 8mm hex wrench at one end of the tool. There’s also a rasp for cleaning clogged valve stems, a 3.3mm spoke wrench (“green” in Park-Tools-speak), and a valve core remover. Everything’s housed in the handle of what is also a set of master-link pliers.
But the other two components in the 8-Bit System are entirely new: the tire lever / rim-dent straightener, and the chain tool / tire plug / utility knife. Neither are as complex as the Pack Pliers, and both can be purchased and used entirely on their own. The chain tool, for example, doesn’t require you to have a separate 3mm hex wrench to tighten its pin driver. There’s one included inside the handle of the chain tool, and it’s opposite a plug insertion bit that can be positioned inside the chain tool body in a way that makes a t-handle plug insertion tool.
Also inside the handle is storage for five small bacon-strip-style plugs and a small slide-out two-ended utility blade, along with a spare blade. The tire lever is connected to something I haven’t seen before, especially in a multi tool. The rim-dent straightener, of course, only works on alloy rims. But even still, aluminum rim walls can tend to crack if bent back too far, so use it carefully, but it may actually allow you to keep rolling after a hard impact without needing to install a tube.
So, the “impressions” part will mostly be about the fit and finish, and Wolf Tooth has this department down. Everything they do is clean, simple, and made in the US. That may be part of the $140 price tag on the 8-Bit System, but if you were to buy tools of similar quality on their own, you wouldn’t be to far off. And they would not have the unbeatable efficiency of size as the 8-Bit System. There are spots in your pack that may be meant for a CO2 cartridge or a tire lever that could fit the entire 8-Bit System. There may be no other object in the history of cycling so dense with utility. Not a single cubic millimeter is wasted. For some, that may not be a good thing. Like if you pack your closet to the same level of efficiency, you may end up pulling out your sweaters to get to your socks. Some of the small (and proprietary) hex bits are difficult to get out of their magnetic homes to hook them into the driver. The 8-Bit’s tire plug, which you’d usually want to access quickly, takes several seconds to hook up and load.
You are definitely making some compromises to get this form factor. But that’s the case with every tool that isn’t hanging up above your work bench. Optimizing on-trail size and weight will probably outweigh convenience for many riders. Sometimes, that’s to an extent that might justify going without certain tools. Tools that you’d rarely need. Rarely, but not never. The 8-Bit System eliminates excess weight and bulk as an excuse not to be prepared. And its very buttoned-up design eliminates the excuse of forgetting or misplacing a necessary item. It makes the ultimate case for putting everything you need, all in one place.
Photos: Ryan Palmer