Best Bike Multi Tool for Bicycle Touring

A quality bike multi tool like the Topeak Alien II folding multitool is ideal for taking on short cycling trips or long distance bike tours.

best bike multi tool for cyclists


Bike Multi Tools For Bicycle Touring

While at home a dedicated bicycle tool kit makes cycle maintenance and repair easier, out on the road, a compact multitool is an essential accessory for cyclists.

You can perform basic repairs and adjustments with a multitool on your bike while on the road or trail, and their portable, lightweight nature means they don’t add much weight or bulk.

A good multitool will form the base of tool kit for bike touring, and you can add more items to the kit depending on where you plan to tour and the time you expect to be cycling. Multitools are also ideal for day rides.

For most people, a good multitool like the Topeak Alien II will contain everything they need. However, if you have specific needs depending on your cycling style, your should make sure that it covers you.

I’ve used the Topeak Alien tool for years now, and find that it has everything I need to make repairs and undertake general bicycle maintenance when cycle touring. 

I’ve found it to be the best multitool for cycling, and used it most recently on my 6 week bicycle tour around Iceland.

The Best Bike Multi-Tools

Lets begin by choosing one to use as an example – Topeak ALiEN II Bike Multitool It's an extremely well made bit of kit, and one of the most popular on the market.

topeak allien II multi tool


I own a couple myself, and happily take them on day rides and tours of up to a week. I have even used them on my previous long distance bicycle tours.

Bike multi-tools such as the Alien 2 have a good range of Allen keys.

What's included on the bike multi-tool

Allen keys

The multi-tool has a pretty good range of Allen keys from 2mm up to 10mm, which covers all the basics that most people might need. On the trail and in an emergency, this can prove to be a godsend, but for regular bicycle maintenance their drawbacks become apparent.

The main complaint is that because of the way they are designed, they can be a bit fiddly to use. It's difficult to get a full turn of the key because of the plastic body on which the keys are attached.

The only solution, is to keep having to take the key out, and re-positioning it to start again. This proves to be quite annoying and inconvenient after a while.

Another drawback, is that after constant use (and I am talking upwards of 5 years here), the Allen keys have a tendency to 'round out'. That is far less likely to happen with a good set of dedicated Allen keys.

The decision then, is whether it is better to be inconvenienced by inadequate tools, or by the additional weight of a full size set. Personally, find it easier to carry a compact multi-tool with me than a bigger kit when bike touring, and replace the multi-tool when needed.

Screwdrivers on the bike multi tool

The Alien 2 Multi-Tool also includes a Philips screwdriver, a flathead and a Torx key suitable for forks. I haven't got a problem with any of these, and the flathead is especially strong. They may still suffer from the plastic body getting in the way when turning though.

A not so useful bike multi tool knife

Perhaps the most pointless part of this bike multi-tools setup is the serrated knife. I have never had to use this, and can't really envision ever having to. It would certainly be awkward! For a tool designed to save weight this seems superfluous. Perhaps at a push useful for cutting brake cables?

Chain Tool on the Alien Multi Tool

One part of the Alien 2 Multi-Tool which I do admire, is the chain tool. Some people don't seem to get on with it at all, but I actually prefer to use it than my job specific tool!

This might not be the same for all bike multi-tools, and I can easily imagine that the cheaper ones would never be up to the task. The Alien also has a compartment for a couple of spare links. This makes it ideal for fixing a broken chain when on a day ride or extended tour.

A chain tool is never going to see daily use, so there is some argument to be made about whether or not to carry a specific tool for this purpose.

bike multi-tools chain tool
The chain tool on the Alien 2 is actually quite good.

The Alien 2 Tyre Levers

The Topeak Alien 2 Multi-Tool has two tyre levers built into the plastic casing. These are fine for occasional use, but after a while, the plastic appears to become brittle. I've had two break on me now when changing Schwalbe tyres, and have decided that carrying better quality levers works best for me.

Spanners ok for emergency bike repairs

My American cousins might know these better as wrenches, and there are various ones to choose from on a multi-tool, including a spanner for the pedals. These are ok in an emergency, but no-where near suitable for regular maintenance. The pedal spanner is also prone to becoming lost (I have lost two out of two!).

That said, because my current toruing bike is well designed, I rarely need to use a spanner. Even the bike pedals for touring I use can be put on and off with just allen keys!

Spoke Tool for cycling

On one of the spanners is a tool for adjusting spoke tension. I have a real problem with these, and would suggest that you don't use them unless there really is absolutely no other choice. Even mild tinkering rounds out the nipples on the spokes, and they eventually do more harm than good. A dedicated tool is far more suitable for the task.

In conclusion about bike multi-tools

A good bike multi-tool for cycling is a must have for the regular tightening of bolts, and some light bicycle maintenance when out touring. Multi-tools are also lightweight sao can be taken on day rides.

They are not as good as dedicated bicycle tool sets, but that’s only to be expected. In general, I’d recommend having a cycle multitool as the base of your tool kit, and then add other items as needed. For example, many of the bolts on my Thorn Nomad touring bike are 5mm and 4mm, so I choose to carry two additional allen keys in these sizes as they get used more regularly.

Dave Briggs cycling in Colombia with a Bob Yak trailer

Related: Why is my bike pump not working

On Bike Tool Kit FAQ

Some of the most frequently asked questions about essential tools to take on a bikepacking or bike touring trip include:

What tools do I need for bike touring?

I take different tools with me for each bike trip, depending on what bike I am using, the length of the cycle tour, and the potential of available parts and repair shops. The further off the beaten path I cycle, the bigger my bicycle tool kit is likely to be.

What tools should I keep on my bike?

You can keep a compact bike multitool in a small under saddle bag which will contain most of the accessories needed for all but major repairs on a bicycle. In addition, it's highly advisable to take along a patch kit, tire lever set, and small pump.

Do I need a chain breaker when cycle touring?

A chain breaker is included with any quality multi tool such as the Alien II, and so is easy to take with you. Knowing how to use all the tools is also important of course!

What every cyclist should carry?

Tire levers, a puncture repair kit, and a small bike pump are the bare minimum of bike tools to take on short rides. When on longer tours, you might also consider a mini tool that includes spoke keys, a chain breaker tool, flat head screwdriver and Philips screwdriver accessories as well as Allen keys.

Further reading about bicycle touring gear

You might also find the following articles about bicycle touring gear and equipment of some use.

Bike Tours- Tips and advice. A look at if multi-tools are any good for bike touring.



5 thoughts on “Best Bike Multi Tool for Bicycle Touring”

  1. Hi from Singapore,
    Best Blog with information on bike tour & how to equip yourself & the bike.
    Already Senior 63, planning to do credit bike tour from Singapore to Malaysia KL. Est 360km
    Will carrying light as per your advise (4~5 day trip). To assist my endurance, will be using a e-bike 🙂
    Weather will be humid & a lot of sunshine not to worry on water as along the route a lot of village/town/petrol station etc.

  2. Park multi tools have really nice spoke wrenches, they don’t round off the nipples at all, I use the MTB3, sadly no longer in production, spoke wrenches all the time.

    I personally think though that these makers of multi tools don’t really have a clue concerning what tools to provide, like who needs a serrated knife, why do some give you tools to adjust your disk brakes but no brake pad wedge, why isn’t there a wire included to hold the chain while you break a chain link, why not make the thing to come apart so you can take the tools out and plug them into a some sort of driver holder with an extension, some will include both a Philips and a bladed screwdriver, while some will give you just the Philips and others just the bladed, some have just one size of spoke wrench others will have 2 or 3. For me it’s kind of strange, almost like the guys who create these things never worked on a bike and thus don’t really know what tools you’ll need, or how they should operate in tight places.

  3. Big fan of the Alien II and I can’t think of anything you could leave off if you were to try to customize it. We have five bikes in our garage and every one uses every tool except each bike just has one size spokes so only needs the one size spoke wrench.

  4. Hey thanks for the read. Do you know of anyone that allows for designing custom multi tools . Something like the industry specific Leatherman tools. Why have a bunch of extra Allen keys if that size isn’t on your particular bike? Ya know? I think it’d be nice to be able to custom design a multi tool for what you need only. Like a 5 6 & 4 millimeter allen and the exact size spanners excetra excetra . That would be sweet! Or even a toolkit that was specifically designed by you for your bike . That would be awesome!

    • An multi-tool that you could order online to your own specifications sounds like a great idea – maybe you should start your own Kickstarter project!
      With most bikes though, almost all those allen keys will do something you find after a while.


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