SOMA WOODIE MULTI TOOL
210g $32.99 (£26.91 at time of writing)
The Soma Woodie 20 Function Multi Tool is the most comprehensive in their family, and caters for most road/trailside jobs. High quality tooling and ergonomic design are definite pluses, especially when tackling stubborn fasteners. However, the 8mm cap and 3mm key are easily lost and I'd sooner a T30 bit, over the T10.
Pros: Tactile, good quality tooling.
Cons: 8mm cap and 3mm key easy to lose.
Inside the reinforced Soma branded case, we have twenty functions, which should cater for most machines, and situations. In terms of Allen keys, we have 2,2.5, 3,4,5 and 6mm (with 8mm cap). 2 and 3mm versions are of the L bend type, for easier use in confined spaces. T10 and T25 torx wrenches cater for disc brakes.
Screwdrivers are another area, often overlooked but Soma have included #3 and #5 flat, #1 and #2 Phillips heads, tyre lever, bottle opener 14 and 15 spoke wrenches. Finally, there's a "Universal" chain tool, designed for 8, 9, and 10 speed 3/32 chains.
All tooling is hardened chrome vanadium steel, dressed in a corrosion-inhibiting satin finish. One that has remained taint free after several week's casual neglect and bodes well for longevity. However, unlike Blackburn's Wayside there's no lifetime warranty. Though not a deal-breaker, I would've liked to have seen sequential layout (where bits follow in their logical order) since this makes tweaks and more involved repairs that bit more intuitive/faster. Especially on a cold, dark rainy night.
Durability/Corrosion Resistance 3.5/5
Ours has been left in wet jersey pockets, wedge packs, and indeed outside for several nights. Not so much as a solitary freckle, which impressed me. Rigidity, especially when tackling notoriously stubborn fasteners, such as cleats, or chain-ring bolts, is also, reassuringly good.
In my experience, chain tools (spreader and pins) are another notorious multi-tool, weak spot. However, the threaded drive-pin seems more accurately machined, meaning less slop. Oily overspill from chains also helped, but it’s never felt arthritic.
Overall performance is pretty good, but then I'd expect it to be. Slightly chewed cleat, grot blasted mudguard and bottle boss bolts were easily exorcised, using the T25 bit, rather than the 4mm: the Torx splines mate more securely, reducing the likelihood of rounding.
No call for penetrant sprays, or more invasive surgery. That said, a T30 bit would've been welcomed, when extracting a well-worn seat-post binder bolt. It's important to remember that multi-tools are intended for quick tuning, not workshop use.
The 5mm, though shorter than some, still offered ample oomph, given the tool's relatively wide profile and tactile side plates. It’s too short to torque down deeply recessed bolts, such as those used on Carradice SQR brackets.
However, this is the case for many tools. Talking of which, though I don't like cap type 8mm bits, this one is, at least, a very snug fit on the stubby 6mm bit. Torque proved adequate when liberating pedals.
The rounded wooden side plates also fit nicely in the palm, reducing discomfort tackling these and rogue square taper crank bolts. Getting the latter wound suitably tight required some patience but wasn't overly laborious. No grazed knuckles and agricultural language to date.
These qualities came into their own when breaking and re-joining chains. I've had no problems with 7, 8, 9, and 10 speed. It chomps through middleweight track/single speed fare better than I was expecting, too.
The 4mm, though short, also covers most bases. I used ours to perform my Univega's impromptu bar and cage swap. In the latter context, L shaped hex keys are more agile, especially in smaller main triangles.
Ditto mudguard chainstay bridge fasteners. Back on the positives, a set of Philips drivers were very welcome and proved an excellent fit with derailleur adjustment screws, taking the faff out of fine tuning. Spoke wrenches tend to be in get-me-home territory. These were a little different: the 14/15g bits were accurate and less of an afterthought than some.
Tooling and overall build quality are very good. However, Thorn 20 function tool comes in at £19.99 and offers a very similar spec. Mine is approximately 12 years old and save for some minor traces of corrosion, and a distinctive patina, remains in very rude health.
It also features a Rohloff specific tool, which may/not swing your vote. If you can tolerate composite bodies, Passport CDW Fold-up Tool is a wallet-friendly homage to the Topeak Alien, complete with Cordura nylon carry pouch and for £25.
Though well-made and generally nice to use, some of the design is less innovative than I've come to expect from Soma. For example, a longer 6mm bit would've made the 8mm function more effective. By no means poor value, there are several offering similar performance, a more comprehensive range of tools, for similar money.