Admittedly I was a little apprehensive about sticking a tool inside my crank at first. Would it be noisy or get too dirty? Would it jiggle around?
The Topeak Stealth series features stash tools designed to fit inside either a handlebar or hollow crankset, with tools for breaking chains, plugging tires, and wrenching on bolts. I put three Topeak Stealth tools through their paces in some challenging conditions over the past several weeks, and found mixed results.
Topeak Plug ‘n Tool
Topeak isn’t the first brand to stash tools inside a handlebar, though their solution is more elegant than some others we’ve seen. Plug ‘n Tools are secured using a rubber collar that expands by twisting the end of the tool to get just the right fit. There’s also a handle that folds out which makes it easy to get the tool off your bike.
The Plug ‘n multi-tool is bit-based with seven common sizes: 3, 4, 5, 6, and 10mm Allen bits plus T25 Torx and a #2 Phillips. While it’s great that Topeak squeezed in a massive 10mm Allen tool, an 8mm would be much more useful for wrenching on pedals. The bit head can be rotated 90° to form an L-handle, and the long length provides good torque for stubborn bolts.
As soon as I installed the Plug ‘n tool kit I noticed a rattle at the front end of my bike. Because the tool is long, heavy (80.7g), and only supported at the bar end, the opposite end flops around inside the bars. My fix: I wrapped the far end of the tool with electrical tape to match the inner diameter of my bars and found that eliminated the noise.
Stretchy bands are used to hold the bits onto the tool handle. Just be careful that you don’t lose any bits on the back side when sliding the band down to access the bit you need.
Tire repair kit
The Plug ‘n tire repair kit includes a tire plug tool plus storage for a few plugs. The included plugs are fat and sticky so it takes some effort to get them loaded into the tool. I was able to preload the tool with a plug, though it’s definitely a tight fit to get everything back inside along with the spare plugs.
I love having quick access to the tire plug tool at my bars. The flip-out handle on the Plug ‘n tool is easy to grab, unlike other stash tools that sit completely flush. The Plug ‘n Tools only work with open-ended grips which for me meant switching to a different set of handlebar grips.
Topeak also offers a Plug ‘n handlebar tool with a chain breaker that I did not test. With just two ends to every bar, buyers are limited to running two out of the three tools.
Topeak BB Hide ‘n Tool
If someone had approached me with the idea of storing a tool inside a mountain bike crank, I would have told them it’s an impossible idea. There are too many moving parts, spindle bore diameters aren’t standardized, and the bottom bracket sits squarely in the mud and dust zone. Topeak found a way to make the idea work, though unfortunately not without issues.
My biggest concern about stashing a tool inside my crank was that the tool would either rattle around while pedaling, or would spin out altogether. I was pleasantly surprised to find it stayed secure throughout my testing without so much as a click. What I didn’t expect was for the tool to come apart. Unfortunately the pin driver on the end of the chain tool unscrewed itself over time and disappeared somewhere between zero and 150 miles ago. Lesson learned; ensure the pin driver is as tight as possible and also add some blue Loctite to the threads before stashing for extra insurance.
I never really thought about it before, but hollow bore crank spindles from different brands aren’t the same diameter as one another. Not to worry, Topeak says the BB Hide ‘n Tool fits SRAM Dub cranksets plus Shimano and FSA too. Mine fit inside a set of Shimano Deore cranks no problem but I later discovered I couldn’t get it to fit inside the spindle on SRAM SX or GX Eagle Transmission cranks. The seven function mini tool is is just a hair too wide for both.
As for dirt and debris fouling things up, the Topeak BB Hide ‘n Tool comes out clean despite rolling through dozens of miles of mud and dust. Like the Plug ‘n handlebar tools, the expandable rubber collar both secures the tool and seals it against water and dirt intrusion. Well, at least from one side, though fortunately very little debris found its way to the tool from the non-drive side.
Reaching down to the bottom bracket to retrieve a tool isn’t the most convenient either. For that reason I prefer stash tools that fit inside a handlebar or steerer tube.
Pros and cons of Topeak Stealth Series tools
- Innovative and secure fit system works for handlebars and crankset spindles alike
- Good selection of tools and functions available to handle most trailside repairs
- Handlebar tools offer quick and easy access
- Handlebar tool rattles around without modification
- Bottom bracket chain pin driver might fall out
- Bottom bracket tool doesn’t fit inside the SRAM cranks tested
While the Topeak Stealth Series handlebar tools aren’t perfect, they’re fine for handling most mechanical issues on the trail. Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the Topeak bottom bracket Hide ‘n Tool which I do not recommend.
- Price: $69.95
- Buy from Backcountry.