Products of the Year  

WomensCycling.net has tested many items throughout the year, on our travels, at races, in races and training. All of the products have been purchased and used in the same manner as anyone else would do - nothing has been received for test from suppliers or manufacturers, the items listed below are therefore considered as serious contenders for something you might like to buy for yourself.

Topeak Alien Multi-tool

click for a larger image Alien Alien - splits into 2 parts

This multi-tool is actually quite old - 4 or 5 years in fact . It has rarely been used 'in anger' or 'in the field', but that is not really the point. The fact is, this tool worked when it needed to -it had not rusted, frozen shut or any of the other possible eventualities which would have made a panic into a disaster! What's more, when it was used, the Alien performed - very well and it did not break or bend or.........

 Having ridden out to watch an event, it was first used to assist with a wheel which had been buckled by riding through a pothole. The spoke key attachment on the (14 or 15 gauge) worked well and allowed enough ham-fisted adjustment to get home on. The fault here was technical wheel trueing ability, rather than any fault with the Alien.

 Second use; one which has been quite regular and increasingly so has been the allen keys for brake, saddle and handlebar adjustments before races, on holiday etc. The keys come in all the popular sizes from 2mm - 8mm and tools  lock out, which is convenient, but also easy to release. There is no feeling that the key is going to give way or bend as it is used, as has been experienced with some other multi-tools. The allen keys have also been used to tighten shoe plates and other, assorted parts of the bike and equipment. Flat head and cross-head screwdriver heads are also on the tool.

 Finally, real panic set in just a few weeks ago, whilst on holiday in Melbourne. Warming up for a Club's Sunday morning criterium, the chain suddenly broke - snapped completely at a link plate (isn't that what always happens - a link plate goes - can't imagine another point of failure, anyway), it took less than 3 minutes to remove what was left of the link and then rejoin the chain. Okay, so it was not so easy to get oil cleaned up from mucky hands when wearing blue  and orange WomensCycling.net kit (as opposed to more traditional black shorts), but the chain was mended in good time to get to the start line for the race briefing. What's more, Australian grass verges (they call them 'nature strips') are as good as any in the world for cleaning your palms and fingers as you rub your hands on them- even the orange tape on my handlebars escaped relatively unsoiled!

 Overall, then, the Alien has probably notched up enough Frequent Flier miles in the hold of various aircraft, Frequent Traveller miles in the back of a car and on a bike to go twice more around the world. But the point is, this little tool has been equal to the task required of it when needed. (Grubby) Thumbs-up to the Alien.

 Additional features such as a lockable knife blade and bottle opener make this a good tool to have with you even off the bike - you could use it for rudimentary computer maintenance jobs, electrical plug re-wiring and so on. The Alien actually splits into 2 parts when in use, something which makes access to the various tools much easier and which makes the tool itself easier to handle - especially if you have a smaller grip. It comes in a sturdy pouch, which has a belt loop sewn along the back - making it easy to secure under the saddle with a toe strap (or, since that does look a bit bulky compared to the size of the tool itself, an old velcro watch strap performs well too. 

One word of warning though, its Achilles heel is reportedly the tyre levers which form part of the joining mechanism and which others report have snapped in use.

Comes with sturdy nylon pouch.

This one came from Phil Corley Cycles about 5 years ago - Phil still sells them.


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