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Between building and maintaining a small fleet of bicycles for my family as well as friends and neighbors, it made sense to purchase a professional repair stand and tool kit. Although my initial tool kit cost several hundred dollars, the specialty tools that I have picked up over the years has easily doubled that, to the point where my total investment in tools, stand, shop apron, and incidentals like gloves and various lubricants is probably approaching the $1,000 mark. It’s not so bad when I consider that expenditure took place over more than ten years, but when someone asks about a decent tool kit for starting out, I’m sometimes at a loss. It certainly doesn’t make sense to suggest a $300 kit to someone with a $300 bike. Recently, I was given the opportunity to review the Prestaratchet from Prestacycle, and it’s made that question much easier to answer.
The Prestaratchet is a lightweight (28 grams) hex drive tool. It uses the same six-sided bits as cordless drills, which means that there are hundreds of options available for it. But Prestacycle offers two bit sets specifically for cyclists that contain the most common sizes for bicycle maintenance and repair. I received their Pro kit, and immediately went to work on a couple of bikes I’ve been meaning to tinker with. For adjusting brakes, replacing MTB levers, as well as a stem swap, using the thumbwheel to get the bolt started, then snugging it down with the ratchet mechanism was indeed easier than using the T-handle or three-sided allen wrenches. Seatposts have always been a pain, since nearly every wrench hits the post with each twist, but that’s no longer an issue with this compact ratchet. I do have a socket wrench (a torque wrench, actually) that I use for components such as DH fork crowns or carbon fiber parts, where correct torque is critical. But it’s heavy and unwieldy when it’s got a tiny H5 bit in it. More than once, I’ve slipped and smacked my frame with it. The Prestaratchet fits entirely within my palm, and in the unlikely event that it does slip, the hard rubber grip is not likely to scratch or dent a frame. For delicate components, I can still finish with the torque wrench. So the Prestaratchet may not replace all my nut drivers, but it’s certainly going to get more use than the others.
From a practical standpoint, Prestacycle hasn’t really left anything out. There’s no fastener on a bike that requires a huge amount of torque, and the small handle assures that you’d have to work really hard to overdo it. The ratcheting mechanism held up to what might be considered an abusive amount anyway, as part of our testing. In addition to the 100mm magnetic extension and 1/4″ socket adapter, there are three 100mm long bits for getting into brake levers. The shaft on each one has been turned down so it’s round, making it easier to get into those narrow spots, and less likely to catch on anything as it turns. The ability to use hex bits plus a 1/4″ adapter makes this tool extremely flexible not just for bicycle repair, but any job that requires compact, precision tools. And it’s small size means you can get it into tight places, as well as making it easy to store and transport. I’m tempted to buy an extra one for one of my non-bicycle tool kits.
Speaking of which, the $12.95 Prestaratchet can be purchased on its own, if you already have a set of bits. For the casual mechanic who doesn’t use the tools on a daily basis, the standard kit at $12.95 should be fine. The $19.95 Pro bicycle bit set, which has hardened tools for longer life, runs $19.95. Best deal is the Prestratchet with Pro bits in a combo for $29.95. Both sets include the following: HEX: 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm TORX®: T6, T8, T10, T15, T20,T25, T30 SCREWDRIVERS: PH0, PH1, PH2 1/8 flat, 3/16 flat LONG ARM: 5mm hex ball head, 4mm hex ball head, T25 TORX® 1/4 socket adapter, 100mm magnetic bit extension.
For about $36 (that includes shipping) this makes a great starter tool kit for the most common bicycle maintenance items. Sure, you’ll still need a pedal wrench, cable cutters, and some cone wrenches. But for less than 1/2 the price of an 8 piece allen set from the “big blue” tool company, you’ll have a handy ratchet and over 20 different bits. Once you try it, you’ll find other uses around the house too. www.prestacycle.com