Blackburn Switch Multi-tool Review: More than its parts.
With just four bits and a wrench, the Blackburn Switch Multi-tool might seem a little over simplified on first glance. But there’s a lot of practical utility built into this little gadget…
The Switch is clearly an ultra-minimal tool kit forgoing key necessities such as a chain-breaker, an eight millimeter allen hex, and a couple other bits typical of most folding multi-tools. It has only of eight functions — five hex bits (2.5/3/4/5/6), two torx bits (T25/T30), and a flathead screwdriver. But even though there’s not much to the Switch, when set amongst other tools on display at Interbike, it immediately caught our eye for a couple reasons. So we decided to give it a try.
The hook was the fact that it features ball-end hex bits. On most trips I carry a set of L-hex keys with ball ends on the long side — mainly to avoid the frustration that comes from fiddling with a small multi-tool during post-flight bike assembly. In addition, there are typically a few inevitable adjustments during the first day or two riding that can be slightly annoying when using a cumbersome multi-tool. Generally speaking, ball-ends on longer wrenches make assembly and adjustment all the more pleasant and allow quick and fluid access to bolts that are in positions encumbered by bags and straps. I typically leave the 5mm and 6mm keys in my top-tube pack for such reasons.
The Switch Multi-tool emulates ball-end L-hex keys in an even more user friendly format — several actually. The main and most obvious is to insert one of the four double-sided bits in the wrench to use the tool in the same manner as a traditional L-hex. But in addition to the main open driver socket, the butt of the wrench has an extra socket which allows the tool to function like a screwdriver. Bits can be also added to both sides to leverage the tool in a T-handle format. It’s safe to assume that the Switch Multi-tool got its name from from the ability to swap between these three configurations. In addition, the wrench socket locks the bits pretty tightly, so they can be used on either side, which allows a shorter L option to access bolts within impeded spaces.
The tool comes in a small cordura wallet-like case with topographic lines printed on it. It has sleeves for each bit and the wrench, as well as a single extra pocket and a rubber band that holds it all together. Also, it has a lifetime warranty.
- Ball-end hex keys allow quick and fluid assembly and adjustment.
- The multi-position format, combined with ball-end bits, allow access to hard to reach bolts.
- Lightweight and seemingly well-built tools.
- It might be nice to see a bigger version of this with ball-ends, regulat hex ends, and an 8mm key.
- A more minimal case might be nice.
- Weight (with case/band) 99g (3.5oz)
- Weight (just tools) 70g (2.46oz)
- Price $19.99
- Place of Manufacture Taiwan
- Contact BlackburnDesign.com
I’ve only been using the Switch Multi-tool for a couple weeks now, but it didn’t take long to realize the practicality and utility within this little gadget. It will more than likely take the place of a set of L-hex wrenches on bigger trips. Couple the Switch with a 8mm allen, a chainbreaker removed from an old multi-tool, and a few other odds and ends, and it makes a good start to a well-rounded tool kit for any multi-day outing. My only complaint is about the case itself. It’s a little too much, in my opinion, and I would have rather seen a different and even more minimal storage solution — especially for using the Switch in a bigger tool-kit. That said, I have used it to house a tire lever and patch kit, which is kind of handy. You can also strap it around a pump with the included rubber band.