Shimano's own cockpit and accessory brand, PRO, is upping its commitment to the enthusiast bike tinkerers.
PRO tools are something you're likely to find for sale in your local bike shop and typically represent strong value for money. We’ve had some of the tools in our office for years and our experience is that they offer improved function, better precision and increased durability than the generic tools sold under numerous brand names, but remain cheaper than the likes of Park Tool, Pedros and Unior.
Shimano does offer its own range of workshop tools and the pricing of those is a strong indication that they're built for the professional. While there are professionals that use PRO tools day in and day out, the range is built with the enthusiast and casual user in mind.
Tech writer Dave Rome is currently reviewing PRO’s new XL toolbox for Cyclingtips.com. He also managed to get a quick look at a few other new workshop items from the brand and provides his first impressions here.
Looking to start servicing or even building your own bikes, but don’t have any tools? The Toolbox XL offers tools for 60 functions in a neatly organised blow-mould travel case.
The kit is a fairly comprehensive example of what an enthusiast home mechanic would need to do most of the common repairs on a built bike. Building a bike from scratch with this kit is possible too, but there are a few specific items missing for the task (of which PRO offer as well).
There’s a good mix of tools to service both older and very modern bikes, across multiple price brackets and disciplines. A range of disc brake tools show its suitable for the mountain biker or recent road bike buyer – of note is the little alignment gauge tool that uses thin shims to evenly and easily setup of a caliper to be drag free. Press fit bottom bracket tools are given too, which is a true surprise.
Being part of the Shimano family, it’s no surprise that a number of the tools are designed specifically for the Japanese company's componentry, such as the multiple external bottom bracket tool sizes. However, such tools as chain masterlink pliers and various spoke nipple wrenches are an unexpected sight. Standard and versatile tools such as a file, dead-blow hammer, adjust wrench, pliers, side cutters, screwdrivers and even a tape measure are given too. This is clearly built with the enthusiast in mind. While it’s a pretty comprehensive kit, buyers or giftees will likely want to add a couple of longer hex keys for pedals and crank bolts, a chain wear indicator and a torque wrench – all items that sadly won’t fit within the case provided.
Essential Starter Toolkit
Designed for the beginner mechanic, PRO's new Essential Toolkit offers eight tools (ten functions) and is wrapped up in portable nylon tool roll.
This kit isn’t designed as a starter do-it-all tool kit, but rather a cycling-specific kit that builds on the hex wrenches, Torx keys, spanners and other tools most people already own. Put another way, it's a solid collection of the most used cycling-specific tools that can't be found at a hardware store.
Included in the wrap is a chain breaker (with spare pin), tyre levers, chainring nut wrench (with 8 & 10mm spanner slots), disc brake rotor straightening tool, cable cutter, cassette lockring tool, 15mm pedal wrench and a chain whip (for use during cassette removal).
The supplied tool roll is a little limiting in that it arrives full, so you'll need to resort to other storage methods to handle other important tools. It’s a shame, as the wrap would make for an amazing travel toolkit if it had space for a few more things.
This kit weighs 1,400g.
Bottom Bracket Stand
Designed to slot into the hollow spindle of Shimano HollowTech2 mountain bike cranks or similar, this basic alloy stand holds the wheel off the ground and allows the cranks to be turned. With a long footprint that continues beneath the bike, it’s fairly stable too and so is well suited for an event storage, as well as performing basic bike maintenance and cleaning.
It’s a bike holding method first seen with the Scorpion stand (now a part of the Feedback Sports brand); however, this PRO version is lighter (just 1.05kg), folds when not in use.
Sadly this stand won’t work with Shimano-equipped road bikes as it requires an open end in the crank to slide into. For this, the likes of many FSA, SRAM and RaceFace cranks will work with it too.
Chain Tension Device
Designed for bike travel, this tool slips in place of the rear wheel and provides a pulley for the chain to sit safely on. Most bike cases require the rear wheel to be removed, leaving the frame vulnerable to damage. Slip this 115g item into the rear dropout and you have peace of mind. The skewer offers spacers to work with either 130 or 135mm quick release dropouts. A pulley that slips over 12mm thru-axles is also available.
Another use for it is cleaning your chain and bike without worry of damage to the rear hub bearings due to degreaser.
Bottom Bracket Press
We're very much in the age of press-fit bottom brackets. Previously home mechanics would confidently tackle a threaded bottom with just a few low-cost tools, but the press-fit system isn't as foolproof and so the task of servicing is often left to a store.
If you're keen to tackle the task, a key tool needed is something to help press the new bearings or cups back into place with.
Designed to work with the two most common spindle sizes - 24 and 30mm, the PRO BB press is a relatively affordable workshop tool. We say relatively, as most other large cycling tool brands require you to buy both the bearing guides and a suitable press separately.
The two perfectly parallel bearing guides are the key part of this tool and help to set the bearing into its critically straight position. From here, a nicely padded handle and your favourite 8mm hex key are wound until the bottom bracket is pressed flush with the frame.
You'll need another tool (a large pin punch works if you're careful) and a hammer to remove the original/old bearing and cups. So factor that into the cost. PRO offers such a specific tool for Shimano 24mm bearings. Both the press and remover are included in the Toolbox XL.
T-Handled Hex Wrench Set
A good quality set of hex (aka: Allen Keys) keys is the most important tool(s) when working on modern bicycles. Take a peek into the workshops of most bike stores and you’re likely to find a wide assortment of different types of hex keys in use but most likely, it’s the comfortably handled ‘T’ or ‘P’ type that are most prevalent.
These get their name from their shape, with the PRO’s set roughly forming the shape of the letter ‘T’. Sold as a full set ranging from 2mm through to 10mm, they feature padded handles (at the T), square hex ends and an angled ball drive at the long end for easier access to tight spots and quick winding at lower torques.
Perhaps most notable is the metal stand that keeps all eight tools neatly aligned and at easy access. The stand is free-standing on a bench or can be mounted to a wall.
All of the above PRO products are new for 2017. Many are expected to arrive in stores before Christmas.