Thursday, December 11, 2008
Bondhus Ball End Hex Wrenches: The Best Tool on Earth!
Earlier today I was adjusting the front derailleur cable on my winter bicycle while thinking about the next piece of cycling equipment that I would review. Like a flash, as I utilized the convenient ball end of my favorite hex key, I realized that I had to tell my readers about my incredibly durable, functional Bondhus wrenches.
As a few of you know, my family owns an industrial supply company. I have inexpensive access to any conventional tool that I need. I purchase 15mm wrenches in half dozen lots, since they tend to disappear and I keep one in every one of my courier and race bags. I have lots of tools and multiples of many of my favorite tools.
That said, my favorite tool/set of tools of all time is the metric Bondhus ball end Allen wrench set. I have had a few sets, but have never worn one out. Bondhus’s motto is “Gorilla-proof Tools,” and indeed you will destroy every nut and bolt on every bicycle you own before you damage one of these wrenches. Bondhus claims that its “Protanium High Torque Steel is up to 20 stronger than competitor’s tools.” Obviously, I haven’t measured and I sort of doubt that these are a full twenty times stronger than other wrenches, but they are surely durable and strong.
The ball end of the wrench allows you to get at inconveniently placed nuts without the danger of striping them with an incompletely engaged standard hex key. After inserting the ball end in your hex head, torqueing is a forefinger and thumb operation, no matter how extreme the angle.
The ball end is indispensible for fine operations like 1.5mm hex head reach adjustment bolts on brake levers and other easily striped hex heads. Moreover, the convenience and easy of the ball end allows you to get a nut snugged down 95% of the way without removing the wrench from the head, which reduces wear on the head. Awkward operations like holding a cable while tightening down a retaining nut become simple. With a ball end wrench you are no longer obliged to change hand positions after torqueing the nut 1/8th of a turn, remove wrench, return hand to original position, reinsert and turn another 1/8th of a turn.
Another thing that I have noticed is that the tolerances on these wrenches are much finer than any other that I have used. When you insert one of these wrenches in a new, high quality bolt head, there is no play. In fact, you may have to use a light lubricant to get the wrench in smoothly. Since there is little to no play and the engagement is so positive, the wrench does not cause the bolt head to wear. Play is the reason that a bolt head gets stripped as the unintended lateral movement shreds the insides of the bolt head.
I have a tendency not to dry out my race bag after rainy events. I have ruined 3 or 4 multitools when they corrode in my spring-classic-damp race bag. Bondhus wrenches are coated in a matte back metallic corrosion inhibitor. The pictured set of hex keys has been in and out of my race bag for two seasons with no evidence of rust.
The holder is simple, yet effective. When the keys are aligned as pictured, they remain fixed in place. When you want to remove one, you twist the short side away from the holder and then the key slides easily out.
The entire set of wrenches is compact and thin, easily fitting into the back pocket of even the tightest trousers. I find individual hex keys easier to use than a set that is connected like a Swiss Army knife (Bondhus offers one of these, which I have used).
My only complaint is that they don’t include the rarely used 7mm wrench with the set. I have an old Campagnolo crankset that has a 7mm retaining bolt, which is the only call that I have for a 7mm. Every time I have to adjust this bolt (very rarely) I fruitlessly search for the correct wrench amongst my well used set.
Bottom line: I have many tools that I use regularly, but my Bondhus ball end hex wrenches are my daily go to tool. I even bring individual wrenches on the road with me if I am dialing in a bike during a ride, since I am so used to their convenience and positive engagement. If I lost all of my tools, this would be the first tool I would purchase to start my new toolset.
These are not for sale in many bicycle shops, but I recently spied them on the for sale rack at the Broadway Bicycle School, which is 4 doors down from my workshop. Happy wrenching.