Pro is Shimano’s component and tool arm, offering everything from dropper posts to water bottles, and a host of repair instruments. I have been wrenching with their 38-piece Pro Toolbox XL for several months now, wiping grease on roughly 80% of the handles throughout. Tools are one of the only pieces of the mountain bike puzzle that might last as long as you do, and there’s value in having a solid set. Below are my thoughts on the Toolbox XL, divided up by a selection of instruments that work well with modern mountain bikes, and a few that I would replace.
Before diving into the tool selection and construction, it seems important to look at the plastic box that holds it all together. The case is made of lightweight plastic, taking up roughly as much space as a large briefcase, and it’s all held shut with four sturdy flip-clamps. The closure is secure enough that I would take it on an airplane without any added straps or tape to keep it sealed. Each tool has its own home inside the case and the anchors for nearly every tool are sufficient to keep them in place when you open and close it. The only tools that have fallen out of their anchored imprints while closing the box are the spoke wrenches, which are on the side that will typically sit against the ground as you close the box, so this hasn’t been much of a hassle.
Each of the tools slot in with the Pro logo facing out, making it easy to know which way everything fits back together. The overall layout allows you to quickly see if everything is along for the ride when you pack up the set to head off for a race or ride.
Now on to the instruments themselves.
Most useful bits
The Pro Toolbox XL is equipped with a smattering of tools to repair nearly every piece of your bike. The more general-use subset includes a shockless rubber hammer, adjustable box-spanner, sizes 2-10mm hex keys, T10-T50 Torx wrenches, a Philips and flathead screwdriver, needle nose pliers, wire/zip-tie cutters, a 10ft measuring tape, and a 2-sided mill/convex file.
The file is likely the best addition to these general-use tools. This is the first preassembled bike tool set I have seen that includes this type of file, and it is a super useful one. From cleaning up fresh-cut steerer tubes and handlebars to roughing up noisy brake pads, the file is a smart addition to the lot.
On the bike-specific front, this kit is on the cusp of being “dialed.” For your hoops, there are four spoke wrenches to cover every nipple size, alongside a set of 3 tire levers. Moving to the drivetrain, there is a sturdy chain-whip, cassette tool, chainlink spanner, chainring bolt wrench, crank cap tool, and a chainbreaker for 8-11 speed chains. Most bottom bracket repairs are covered with the bearing press tool, bearing extractor, external BB spline bit, and a trusty cartridge-BB tool.
The bearing press and extractor are a welcome addition to the set. I have used the press to seat wheel bearings, and it worked swimmingly. The bearing extractor is a bit large for some wheel bearings, as it is designed for larger BB bearings, but It worked okay to pop out cartridge bearings in my front hub.
Disc brake repairs and adjustments are taken care of with the pad spanner tool, rotor truing tool, and a handy caliper alignment gauge. I try to keep these bits as clean as possible to avoid contaminating the brake pads and rotors.
Arguably one of the most precise and important tools that every bike mechanic needs is a cable and housing cutter, and Pro has included a solid one. The cutter is wicked sharp, and its two main pieces can be tightened together as it wears over time. The handle is pushed apart with a small spring and clasped together at the base for storage. The handle has a good amount of grip, which is a nice touch for those of us who frequently drop things. I have used this tool to chop brake hoses and shift cables alike, and it leaves a proper clean edge.
Less useful bits
Every toolbox has a few odds and ends that you won’t need, and in the Pro Toolbox XL there are seven instruments I could do without. The crank extractor and cartridge-BB (square taper) tool are not something most folks need to work on modern bikes, and they take up loads of space. Likewise, the four cone-wrenches occupy a healthy bit of real estate that could be swapped for something more useful. Lastly, the 15mm pedal-wrench that comes in nearly every toolset is a complete waste of space and metal. All modern pedals can be installed or removed with the 6mm or 8mm hex keys that are already included in the kit.
Tools that I would add or swap
If this tool kit were redesigned specifically for modern mountain bikes, there are a few things that could be added in place of the less useful tools listed above. First off, a sealed space for a brake bleed kit and a small oil container would be a helpful upgrade. In the interest of having one toolset that you can do nearly everything with, brake bleeding is a must. A press to insert the barb into hydraulic brake hose would be a small and helpful tool to have on hand. Maybe it could be integrated into the chainbreaker?
A torque wrench with a set of hex-bits, in place of the static-handle driver that the set comes with, would also be welcome. When my bike is creaking like a tugboat deck, the issue is often a loose bolt or linkage axle, both of which require proper torque. If Pro added the appropriate size bit to remove the air spring from your fork when you want to swap volume spacers it would be some tasty cake icing for sure.
Lastly, every toolset needs a pick of some sort. They come in all forms, from sharpened spokes to dentist style pokey headed handles, and they are all useful. I have a few different homemade picks that I use to open up brake hoses before inserting the barb, or to catch internal cable housing as it passes a frame port. This is the one tool that no toolset should lack, and I have crammed a few different pick-like objects in this kit.
A packable toolset can’t include everything that everyone would need, but these few changes would make nearly any parking lot repair possible.
The Pro Toolbox XL is designed for home and parking lot repairs, and with a few small additions, it will allow you to fix almost every issue your bike might have. The case is solid, well organized, and easy to close up when it’s time to head off to a race or ride. All of the tools feel sturdy, made from high-quality steel that should last about as long as you do, and rubberized handles to make them comfortable to grip. If you lose or break any of the bits, replacements are available on the Pro website. Some tools, like the chainbreaker, may need to be upgraded to accommodate 12-speed drivetrains and other innovations. For now, I am all set with this set.
We would like to thank Pro for sending the Toolbox XL for review.