TOPEAK ALL SPEEDS CHAIN TOOL
The Topeak All Speeds Chain Tool is aimed at home mechanics. It’s a very refined, high quality option reckoned to tackle everything from a single speed track chain to the latest, super skinny 12 speed derailleur types. Suffice to say it’s become my go-to for workshop duties. However, measuring 8.6x2.8x12.8cm and nudging 275g, I’m sticking to the multi-tool for mid ride remedials.
Pros: refined, efficient and pleasant to use.
Cons: Weight, shallow chain cradle means super narrow chains less secure.
Standards of construction are reassuringly high. The chain cradle and drive pins are made from hardened steel. An obvious choice perhaps, but I have a workshop model that used an aluminium alloy pin, (which proved the Achille's heel in an otherwise excellent design). There’s a cradle for “relaxing” stiff links and a Rivet anvil for Campagnolo hollow pin models.
The drive bar nicely machined from aluminium alloy, ditto the handle, which also carries a replacement plunger (drive) pin. There’s also a little chain hook, made from Cro-Moly steel to keep everything nicely aligned while you drive the pin home. Replacement plungers are available (£3.99 each).
With this standard of specification and weight, I’d expect it to last and remain taint-free in the hands of a home enthusiast.
The electroplated finish seems rugged enough and with accumulated oily patina transferred from chains, corrosion/taint should be a moot point. Ours has also been subjected to the usual, everyday carelessness (knocked from workbench to hard, concrete floor). No loss of accuracy and only some tell-tale chips in the black finish. Some people reckon they’ve found the pins a little soft, getting through two in a matter of weeks but they didn’t say whether they were using it commercially.
Put simply, it’s lived up to the hype and is very nice to use. Threaded sections are very precise, and the pin is better aligned than most stand-alone chain splitters I’ve used (and in some cases, broken). I’ll confess I’ve not tested ours on the complete spectrum of chains.
However, I’ve frequently split and re-joined 1/8th track, 6,7,8,9, 10 and 11 speed derailleur chains over the past few weeks. Now, in my experience, most chain tools (including those on multi-tools) will, in a pinch, split a single-speed chain without dying. I’ve also witnessed some spreader slots imploding and drive pins shear clean off.
First up, my fixed gear winter trainer’s Sram PC1- a worthy, wallet friendly model. The All Speeds held everything in perfect alignment and drove the pin through like the proverbial knife through butter.
I’d decided to relegate this to the spares tub, in favour of a mightier KMC half-link. The Topeak All Speeds cruised through that with similar ease - no hint of resistance, or strained digits.
Correcting a stiff link was equally effortless, thanks to the cradle design, although most of the time, this is easily corrected by gently manipulating the chain by hand. 3/32 chains were easier still. Weathered examples required marginally more effort, but it never felt like the pin, or my thumb and fore-finger joints would implode.
Arguably, a drop of chain lube/shot of maintenance spray would ease things along a bit, but I wanted to see how it would fare, pitted against scabby, neglected chains: the sort shop mechanics see on a regular basis. A minor point but worth noting, is that 11 speed chains were a slightly looser than ideal fit within the shallow cradle. Mildly irritating, but something I quickly adapted to.
Before I forget, while not essential, the chain hook makes rejoining that little bit swifter too, although care’s needed to avoid losing it - especially if you’re working outside.
There’s a lot of cheaper around; a good deal more expensive, too. Park Tool Chain Tool CT3.3 is a similarly universal design and one popular with shops and enthusiasts alike. It will join but not split Campagnolo 11 and 12speed chains, which may be a deal-breaker for some and it’s also a good bit dearer at £34.99.
Closer to the Topeak pricewise at £24.99 is the Lifeline X Tools Pro chain rivet extractor. This is made from hardened steel throughout, comes complete with spare pin and a rubberised handle for additional comfort/grip.
Some minor points aside, I’ve found the Topeak All Speeds very pleasant and very effective. I certainly won’t be lending it anytime soon! Well worth a closer look if you want a nigh on universal chain tool for the home workshop.