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Added a product review for Birzman Studio Tool Kit 8/23/2014 2:43 AM
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Tested: Birzman Studio Tool Kit

Rating:

The Good:

The Bad:

Overall:

by Brandon Turman

For years I’ve gotten by with a beat up, sticker covered toolbox full of tools I’ve collected here and there. Some of the tools are hand-me-downs, others I purchased along the way, and I even made a few. Being the frugal type, a good chunk of them are the bargain bin variety. It’s often said that ignorance is bliss, and a few months ago I learned just how clueless I was. My wrenching world was turned on its head when the Birzman Studio Tool Kit arrived.

You see, I had no idea what it was it was like to own nice tools. Sure, my oddball collection got things done, but I never realized how much needless frustration or fumbling I was experiencing. Just like how high-end suspension can drastically improve how your bike rides, good tools can drastically improve your wrenching experience.

The $400 Studio Tool Kit is a carefully selected combination of tools for the professional or home mechanic. It includes 37 pieces from the Birzman portfolio, all neatly bundled in a heavy-duty PE plastic case with a blow molded tool pallet to protect and organize the tools.

Studio Tool Kit Contents

  • Hex Key Set - 1.5/2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm
  • Torx Key Set - T10/ T15/ T20/ T25/ T27/ T30/ T40/ T45/ T50
  • Patch Kit
  • Tire Lever Set
  • Shimano Cartridge BB Tool
  • Hollowtech II BB Tool
  • Universal Crank Puller - For ISIS Drive and Octalink crank arms
  • Shimano Crank Arm Installation Tool
  • Campagnolo Cassette
  • Shimano HG Cassette
  • Shimano MF Freewheel
  • Chain Whip - 8/9/10/11 speed
  • Chain Wear Indicator - 0.75% to 1%
  • Chain Rivet Extractor - 1/8”, 3/32", 9,10 and 11 speed
  • Link Pliers
  • Cable Cutter
  • Socket Wrench - For 1/2" drive hex bit sockets
  • 8MM Hex Key Socket
  • 10MM Hex Key Socket
  • Adjustable Spanner Wrench - 0-33mm
  • Combination Wrench - 8/10mm
  • Chainring Nut Wrench
  • Spoke Wrench - 12G/13G/14G/15G / Shimano 4.3/4.4
  • Mavic Spoke Wrench
  • Pedal Wrench - 15mm
  • Flathead 5.5 Screwdriver
  • Crosshead #2 Screwdriver
  • Small File
  • Disc Brake Piston Press
  • Rotor Truing Fork - For hydraulic brake systems
  • Disc Brake Gap Indicator
  • Threadless Saw Guide - 1”, 1-1/8” and 1-1/4”
  • Threadless Nut Setting Tool - 1-1/8”
  • Diagonal Pliers (Wire Cutters) - 6”
  • Radio Pliers (Needle Nose) - 6”
  • Dead Blow Hammer
  • Tape Measure

In The Shop

Over the past few months I’ve broken several bike parts, built a new ride up from scratch, and done routine maintenance on other bikes, providing opportunities to use nearly every tool in the kit. Compared to my old hodgepodge set of tools, it’s the precision and lack of slop that really stands out. Everything just feels far more accurate, which has lead to fewer stripped bolts and bloody knuckles. Many of them have a nice handle and are made from high quality tool steel.

Things that stand out include:

Hex Key Set - The cleverly etched hex ends seem to provide added grip on bolt heads, combined with a very accurate fit and sharp edges.

Patch Kit - This is a nice kit that could easily be thrown into a bag for a ride. It contains a reusable abrasive metal surface, three glue-less tube patches, and one sidewall patch. The patches work well.

Tire Lever Set - A low profile design makes tire removal easier. The levers are made from hardened ABS, are quite stiff, and have yet to show signs of weakness, even when installing a very tough downhill tire/rim combo.

Chain Rivet Extractor - Birzman’s chain tools feature very smooth action and a replaceable rivet pin. A clever spring-loaded plate helps hold things in place when breaking and assembling chains.

Adjustable Spanner Wrench - There’s no slop in this tool at all, which is quite nice compared to many run-of-the-mill spanners.

Rotor Truing Fork - In the past I’ve used an adjustable spanner wrench to do this job, but the truing fork works much better. It’s easier to use and has two differently sized slots depending on the size/location of the rotor bend.

Threadless Nut Setting Tool - Installing star nuts has never been easier. No threading of the nut is required, and things line up perfectly every time.

Dead Blow Hammer - A thick nitrile rubber coating makes the tool durable and deadens feedback to your hand considerably.

Tape Measure - The tape auto-locks, which is a small but convenient time saver. Retracting it requires the push of a button. It has both metric and imperial measurements which eliminates the need for unit conversions.

The box itself is rather heavy, especially when fully loaded, but the heft bodes well for durability. There’s a nice big handle and secure clasps. Molded words clearly indicate where each tool belongs. The molded tool slots have much better grip than many similar products, and continue to hold tools securely after two months of frequent use.

Things That Could Be Improved

What’s missing from the kit? Very little. Items I use that aren’t included are a 3-way allen key for convenience, shock pump, razor blade, saw, large file, tire gauge, torque wrench, multi-tool, hydraulic hose cutter, crown race setter, headset press, and cone wrenches. The fact that additional tools are sometimes needed means you’ll either need to condense everything into one toolbox or carry two of them.

Birzman could have included some of these extra tools, but it’d likely come at added cost or the expense of a more commonly used tool. There are a few tools I haven’t yet had the need for though, namely the Mavic spoke wrench (specialty item), Campagnolo cassette tool (road only), 8/10mm hex key sockets (redundant), universal crank puller (old design), and Shimano cartridge BB tool (old design).

When it comes to how the tools actually perform, only a few potential improvements stand out:

Hex Key Set - The ball end seems too rounded, such that the tool sometimes doesn’t fully engage bolt heads. By design, the keys are also a bit of pain to get in/out of the holder. This has improved over time, though quick access still isn’t great. On the plus side they don't fall out.

Tire Levers - The rim hook is quite small which helps prevent accidental tube pinching, but it makes it harder to pull the tire over the rim without slipping.

Cable Cutter - There’s nothing to crimp cable end caps on the cutter. The needle nose pliers do though, so you’ll have to grab another tool to get the job done.

Spoke Wrench - Sharp edges make it harder to fit the tool around spoke nipples, and the surface area that actually touches the nipple is quite small. This has lead to more easily stripped nipples than is reasonable, making the spoke wrench the one and only item that truly needs improvement in the whole kit.

Long Term Durability

Two months in and the tools are proving to be durable even against my ham-fisted, "never tight enough" wrenching technique. Edges are still sharp where they should be and handles are still securely attached. Many of them look brand new despite quite a bit of use.

What's The Bottom Line?

Wrenching on bikes is often a love-hate experience. Birzman’s Studio Tool Kit definitely makes it more enjoyable. These are high-end tools with a clear focus on design, aesthetics, and function with a few clever innovations. The kit contains just about everything you could need to build or maintain a bike, whether you're a seasoned mechanic or new to the game. Some tools you’ll use infrequently, but you’ll be stoked to have the right tool for the job when the need arises. At $400 it isn’t cheap, but quality rarely is. The Studio Tool Kit beats the heck out of that rusty old toolbox you’ve been kicking around for ages.

Visit www.birzman.com for more details.


About The Reviewer

Brandon Turman likes to pop off the little bonus lines on the sides of the trail, get aggressive when he's in tune with a bike, and to really mash on the pedals and open it up when pointed downhill. His perfect trail has a good mix of flow, tech, and balls-to-the-wall speed. He loves little transfers, rollers, and the occasional gap that gives him that momentary stomach in your throat kind of feeling. Toss in some rocky bits with the option to double over them or risk pinch flatting and you've got a winner in his book. In 13 years of riding he worked his way through the Collegiate downhill ranks to the Pro level. After finishing up his mechanical engineering degree, his riding focus turned to dirt sculpting and jumping with the occasional slopestyle contest thrown in for fun. Nowadays he's Vital MTB's resident product guy, putting in saddle time on nearly every new platform and innovation the bike industry has to offer.

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