Blackburn Big Switch and Switch Wrap: First Look

We’ve been happily using the Blackburn Switch multi-tool for a couple years now, so we were excited to see the release of a bigger and more comprehensive second generation model of the tool, the Big Switch. Here’s our hands-on first impressions along with a look at the Switch Wrap…

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With just four double-sided bits and a wrench, the original Blackburn Switch Multi-tool is without frills. However, we’ve found it to be incredibly useful, comfortable in hand, and use it regularly. That said, it’s not without faults. In our review from 2016, we acknowledged the fact that the Switch abandoned several key functions and bits typically found on most folding multi-tools, specifically an 8mm hex and chain breaker. Blackburn just answered with the Big Switch, adding both of those functions and a new case.

Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool

  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool
  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool

The Big Switch vs The Switch

In addition to the 8mm hex and chain breaker, the Big Switch Multi-tool has everything you’ll find on the Switch—the exact same two sided wrench, T25 and T30 torx bits, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6mm allen bits and a flathead screwdriver. The chain breaker handle includes size 0, 1, 2 spoke wrenches, a disc pad spreader, and a Presta valve core tool.

So what else changed? While the basic functions are the same, the design of some of the bits are not. Two of the double-sided bits are identical to the ones on the Switch—the flathead/2.5mm ball-end hex combo, and the T30/T25 Torx. However, the 3mm/4mm and 5mm/6mm bits are no longer ball-end hex. On the Big Switch, only the 2.5 and 3mm bits are ball-end. The rest are standard hex. I’m not exactly sure why Blackburn chose to do this. I honestly liked the ball-ends on the original, at least for bike assembly. That said, standard hex bits have tighter tolerances and are better for higher torque adjustments, without the risk of stripping bolts. I kind of wish they made all of them standard hex on the Big Switch and left the Switch all ball-end.

Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool

  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool
  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool
  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool
  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool
  • Blackburn Big Switch Multi-tool

The case is only other differentiator on the Big Switch. While it’s generally the same size, it got a new color and has a few more details than the original. Changes include a useful mesh pocket in the center panel and a different bit holder design with two flaps instead of one. The flaps are held together by a strip of velcro. Although it’s not a deal breaker, I prefer the first single-flap design which is a little cleaner. To top it off, Blackburn added a little decoration to the Big Switch, a graphic depicting how to use your hand to estimate the last bit of daylight.

  • Weight 134 grams
  • Size 2.5 x 4.0 x .75″ (6.4 x 10.1 x 1.9cm)
  • Bits T25/T30/2.5/3/4/5/6/8
  • Price $29.99
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Manufacturer’s Details Link

Pros

  • Easy to use as screwdriver, T-handle, or L-hex
  • More complete set of functions than the original
  • Well balanced design

Cons

  • Odd choice to leave only the two smallest bits as ball-end hex
  • The rubber band, while useful for other things, is kind of annoying. I’d prefer another closure to make it more of an expandable wrap.

The Switch Wrap

The third product in the Switch family is the Switch Wrap. It comes with all the same tools as the Big Switch, but has a different case altogether. The case is made from heavy duty nylon, elasticized nylon fabric, and reinforced velcro. It features a small pocket at the front which houses the Big Switch tool in a removable two-sided sheath. On one side the bits and wrench are stored in several elastic loops. On the other, the sheath features a mesh pocket where the chain breaker is stowed.

Blackburn Switch Wrap

  • Blackburn Switch Wrap
  • Blackburn Switch Wrap

The wrap itself was primarily designed to attach to saddle rails, but as bikepackers, this placement is generally used by a seat pack. However, there are other options. The first, as shown below, is to simply strap the tool to the bike frame. The back of the wrap has a rubberized dott-patterned coating which can be positioned against a frame to prevent slippage. And with the large 17″ strap, you can also add a spare tube, lever, and sealant, which adds some utility.

Blackburn Switch Wrap

  • Blackburn Switch Wrap
  • Blackburn Switch Wrap
  • Blackburn Switch Wrap
  • Weight 179 grams
  • Bits T25/T30/2.5/3/4/5/6/8
  • Price $44.99
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Manufacturer’s Details Link
  • Blackburn Switch Wrap
  • Blackburn Switch Wrap

Wrap Up

As with the original, the Big Switch allows its two-sided bits to fit into the handle end of the wrench for use like a screwdriver, or alternatively in the socket end. You can also do both and it becomes a T-handle bit driver. Ultimately, this is what makes it a great tool. It’s easy to use, and without a bunch of tiny bits, it’s easy to keep up with. The addition of the 8mm hex and chain breaker are certainly icing on the cake.

On the flip side, I wish they would have made all of the bits standard hex. Perhaps the ideal scenario is for Blackburn to keep the ball-end bits on the regular Switch to add some differentiation in the range. As for the new case design, I like the mesh pocket addition, but probably prefer the simplicity of the bit area on the original. But that’s neither here nor there, really. It’s still a great usable tool, just like the original.

As for the Switch Wrap, we really haven’t tried it, but I generally prefer the small, pocket case of the Big Switch, overall. That said, the tiny sheath stored in the Wrap could be used the same way. So if you don’t mind spending the extra $15 and have some use for the external wrap, it might be of interest.

P.S. we’re giving one away in our Collective Reward #007.

  • multisportscott

    Just a wee word of warning/comment, the ball end hex bolt bits on the original Switch are terrible, my example didn’t “bite” bolts at all and burred two bolt heads which was super frustrating on a ride. My colleagues found this as well. I ended up throwing mine away. Hopefully the new version has improved this.
    I would however highly recommend the new Prestacycle T-Handle Ratchet kit https://www.prestacycle.com/product/prestacycle-t-handle-ratchet-3-way-ratchet-and-t-handle-tool/ along with the Chain Accessory https://www.prestacycle.com/product/prestaratchet-chain-accessory/ as an awesome multitool.

  • Huh, I’ve been using it for a while off and on and haven’t had that issue. I wonder if it was a batch of them?? I’ll check out that Prestacycle tool as well.

  • multisportscott

    Hi Logan, maybe, I hope it was just a batch thing. I was testing them to re-sell for work and three of us suffered a similar experience with the ball heads. My burred seat post bolt was a right royal PITA but there ya go, lesson learned. So we don’t sell them but are about to buy and sell the PrestaCycle tools. Keep up the great work!

  • Hi,
    I agree with you. I am a technician and I think we all know that when we have to tighten some hex bolt hard we can’t use the ball side of the wrench. It is a pity that unlike usual hex wrenches we cannot use the bit after the ball is broken. I have this tool also, it is really nice and attractive but I also feel it is not the best option for “heavy” interventions using hex bits. Torx is OK, but I use the torx to remove/install the brake discs when travelling and then I use a mini torque wrench to keep disc straight. Adding that there is no chain tool, I ended up leaving the nice switch at home…

  • Todd Brockway

    Thanks as always for great coverage of all things bike packing. I absolutely love this site. Keep up the great
    work.

  • Kyle Trebotich

    Cool tool set. What’s size chain can the chain breaker accommodate? I looked on Blackburn’s website and they don’t list that specification. Cheers

  • Chris Lowe

    Agree. The ball end bits leave much to be desired. Nice thing is it uses standard sized bits so you can add/remove just the ones you need. The simple design is so much better than the Swiss Army knife style tools.

  • I asked Blackburn and they said up to 12spd…

  • Chris Leydig

    Does that extension piece fit in the switch?

  • Charles Lai

    Looks like a good toolkit for the SWAT compartment on my Specialized Camber Expert. Right now I just have a spare tube and tire levers in there. I’ve been looking for a good compact toolkit to put in the SWAT.

  • Teamdarb

    Is there a USA made counter part to these type of tool kits?

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