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by David Rome
September 28, 2017
Photography by David Rome
TECH NEWS BROUGHT TO YOU BY BIKEEXCHANGE
Feedback Sports is a company that’s surprisingly new to the tool game, and yet, not a fresh face for those working on bikes. The American company’s hugely popular workstands have long held bikes for repair, but hand tools carrying the Feedback name have little more than a single year of history.
I’ve owned one of the company’s Pro Elite folding workstands for some 14 years (old enough that it carries the previous Ultimate branding, from before the bike company split from its music-equipment stand origins). At the time it was my first major tool purchase and followed me from hacking my way through DIY repairs through to an obsession (and profession) in wrenching on bikes.
To this day, that stand still functions perfectly. So when Feedback Sports announced it was joining the hand tool game, I was both excited to see what they’d offer, and at the same time, concerned that they’d just stick their trusted name onto some generic tools and call it good.
Having spent the past three months using Feedback Sports’ Team Edition toolkit and T-Handle hex keys, I can attest that my initial concerns were completely unwarranted. Read on to learn why I believe this brand’s first foray into cycling tools should have a number of more established players worried.
Unlike any other cycling tool kit on the market, the Team Edition kit has been made with a workstand in mind. After all, it’s highly likely you’ll be using one if you’re looking to own a toolkit like this.
A collapsable pole runs along the length of the case, propping it fully open when hung.
Stored in the centre of the case when not in use, the pole unfolds to prop the case open.
A view from behind. The case creates a work station out of your workstand.
A close-up look at the workstand mounting straps. They’re certainly grippy.
The Team Edition tool case (left) and T-Handle toolkit case (right) folded and ready for transport.
Both items are shipped in surprisingly small boxes.
The TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) nylon coated zippered binder case features velcro straps with grippy rubber in its center, designed to wrap around the central pole of Feedback or similar workstands. Where these straps can’t be used, you can hang the whole kit with its hanging strap. Regardless of how you hang it, the kit employs an optional small rod, not too dissimilar to a tent pole, that forces the case to stay flat and wide open. It’s a neat trick and one that works effectively.
In case you’ve got the bench space or prefer to work from the floor, the case lays flat with all tools at easy access. It’s certainly fastest and easier to work with than a blow-mould plastic box, and far more organised than a tool box where everything is just chucked in.
All the tools are held in with elastic loops, and while the supplied tools use up the majority of the loops, there’s a pinch of room to customise and add more (an aspect I disliked about the PRO toolkit reviewed recently). That said, the room for expansion is somewhat limited unless you’re happy for the added tools to sit uncaptured during transport.
All told, the complete kit weighs in at an impressively low 3.93kg, or 3.55kg without the added T-handle wrenches.
Unzip the case and you’re greeted with a mix of tools: some with bright, mirror-finished chrome; some with a satin-finish covered in red and black file-treaded rubber handles; and a few matched composite plastic items.
All of Feedback Sports’ tools are made in China to the company’s own designs (none of these tools are generic or sold under other labels, they’re Feedback’s own), and are clearly from a manufacturer with experience in making quality tools. The chrome is even and perfectly smooth, and the tolerances are respectably tight for reduced risk of damaging fasteners. Tools that need to be cranked on offer comfortable ergonomics, as do the items for smaller, more delicate tasks.
Feedback themselves say the kit, and its contents, are made for the traveling mechanic and home user. Comparing absolute quality is always hard to do, but I’m confident to say they’re a reliable choice at the mid- to upper range and would last reasonably well in a professional environment. They’re way ahead of the cheap generic paper-mache tools you’d find in those grey blow-mould cases at Aldi, eBay or as the house option of nearly every single major online cycling store (can you tell I’m not a fan?).They’re comparable (and in a few ways better) to the likes of PRO and mid-tier offerings from Park Tool and Unior.
With the inclusion of 19 tools that cover 25 functions, there’s plenty to tell. And I’ll start with my favourite, the Cassette pliers (also sold separately at US$40/AU$80). Built using a similar design to a sliding-jaw plumbers pliers, these are quick to use, easy to adjust for various size cogs and lock onto the teeth – all with one hand. The design is somewhere between Pedro’s Vise Whip and Park Tool’s Chain Whip Pliers, and given how easy it is to use one-handed, I actually prefer it to both of the more expensive and pre-existing options.
Left is Abbey Bike Tools’ Crombie Wrench, right is Feedback’s cassette tool. It’s the right design to copy.
The cassette lockring tool, sitting at the opposite end of the external bottom bracket wrench, is simple and functional. The splines of the tool protrude from the long chrome handle, while the gaping hole between the splines allows you to install and remove cassettes without needing to remove most quick release lever nuts (oversized ones, such as Fulcrum, still get in the way). Credit for such ingenuity must be given to Abbey Bike Tools though, with the hollow cassette tool design leading to the birth of that premium American tool brand. And yes, unsurprisingly Abbey has the upper hand in absolute quality and no doubt, longevity, too.
A Shimano crank cap tool sits at the end of the #0 Phillips screwdriver.
Similar integration and space saving of combining tools is seen again with the pedal wrench doubling as a 15mm ring spanner and the strong steel-core reinforced tyre levers doubling as disc brake pad spreaders. Another clever combination is seen with the smallest Phillips screwdriver (one of three included screwdrivers), which features a Shimano HollowTech crank preload cap tool at the end of its handle. This cap tool proved perfectly functional, and the screwdriver tip is conveniently effective at lifting the edge of the stopper plate found between the retaining bolts of Shimano’s cranks.
Another nice addition is the long handled 8 and 10mm hex keys that feature the same comfortable file pattern grip. The long handles of these give plenty of leverage for tight pedals and crank bolts, while the length of the L-shape keeps knuckles safe and will work with Campagnolo Ultra-Torque cranks, too.
The dental pick and valve core tools are both welcomed additions.
An item so commonly left out of most toolkits is the dental pick. This simple tool is often replicated with a sharpened spoke and is invaluable to have. It’s great for picking out seals, cleaning out threads or opening up the ends of cable housing after a cut.
Also included is a valve core tool for both Presta and Schraeder users, disc brake rotor truing fork and cable cutters. The latter offering a clean, fray-free and easy cut to housing and inner cables.
Lastly, there’s the chain breaker with its large metal body and long but thin plastic handle. This tool features a spring-loaded chain carrier to work with everything from 1-12 speed chains. This tool did the job, but the carrier didn’t allow much spare room once a Shimano replacement pin had been pushed through, making it a fiddle to release the chain. Additionally, I found the carrier a little simple and a considered approach is needed to ensure the chain stays put and that the pin is driven in square.
There’s no such thing as a perfect toolkit, and while the Team Edition kit has one of the most well-thought-out selections, it’s still missing a few small tricks.
To test this, I fixed and built a few modern (of the past four years) road and mountain bikes using nothing but this toolkit, however, where I hit a dead-end, I’d go and grab that tool from my own collection and set it aside. While there are a number of tools that would be nice to have, time and time again I found myself missing four. These were scissors, a chain wear indicator tool, tape measure and a torque wrench. All four are relatively small and will fit into the Team Edition’s case with careful placement. Likewise, all but the torque wrench are cheap to include.
A few useful tools are missing, such as a torque wrench, but thankfully there’s still some room in the case to add them.
It would’ve been great to see scissors and basic stamped chain wear tool included, likewise for a small tape measure. The torque wrench is far easier to excuse — it’s expensive and is often excluded from most other brand’s toolkits, too.
In addition to this, notable missing tools (which may or may not be needed depending on your bike) included needle-nose pliers, a hammer, chainring nut wrench (for holding the back of some chainring bolts) and chain connector link pliers. Cone wrenches (used for cone and cone bearing hubs, such as lower-end Shimano) aren’t in this set, but I can’t help but applaud Feedback for excluding such a tool that’s used less and less these days.
Additionally, like nearly every other toolset available, this isn’t for Campy lovers. While the supplied 10mm hex wrench is great for Ultra Torque crank users, you’ll still need to add a cassette lockring tool and 11-speed chain breaker with peening anvil – two items Feedback doesn’t currently have in its catalogue.
The T-Handle toolkit is sold separately, but compliments the Team Edition toolkit perfectly.
The T-Handle toolkit comes with its own high quality case, which too, offers some space for extras.
The Team Edition case awaits the addition of such a T-handle set.
T-handles in place and ready to wrench.
The Team Edition kit comes with two 3-way hex keys covering 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm sizes, while large 8 and 10mm sizes are provided too. Sitting at the bottom right on a removable ‘tool pallet’, the kit comes with empty space to host a hex key set, something Feedback Sports sells separately in the form of its T-Handle Toolkit.
These compact T-Handle wrenches include hex sizes from 2-6mm and a Torx T25, which is useful for disc rotor bolts and some derailleurs. The tools come with a case made of the same nylon to the Team Edition kit, something that features a neat fold-up stand for the keys.
The tools are made of a hardened S2 steel, a popular metal choice in high-end hex keys. The sizing of these offer a snug, but not too tight, fit with fasteners. The T-handle design is one that’s long been loved by professional race mechanics, with the likes of USAG and Beta previously filling the need prior to the likes of Feedback Sports, Silca and Pedro’s joining in with options.
While the T-handle keys from Silca and Pedro’s are extremely similar to those long-offered by the classic European tool brands, Feedback’s are different. Most notably, they’re far shorter than the other options, offering just enough leverage and nothing more.
Feedback Sports’ T-Handles are certainly compact. Here’s a 5mm against a 5mm Beta 951 wrench.
Personally, I’m a fan of longer hex keys. They do the hard work of breaking free over-tightened bolts and keep your hands clear of banging into things. That said, the shorter length chosen by Feedback proved perfectly functional, was easy to handle, even easier to spin and I was never not able to perform a task that a longer key could.
At US$130/AU$210, it’s easy to see why Feedback left the T-handle set out of its Team Edition kit. While it’s a worthy addition to the kit, a simpler and cheaper L-shaped hex key set would be too. Given the choice of the Team Edition kit costing over $100 more to include these, I side with Feedback on the decision to sell it separately.
There is lots to like about this kit. Given Feedback Sports has been creating some of the best portable work stands for as long as I can remember, the late arrival of its tools may be a surprise to some. However, given just how good this kit is and the general value for money it represents, it’s as if they’ve just been sitting back, watching the market develop and waiting for a time to show-up a number of other established brands.
The quality of these tools is perfectly up to the rigors of shop use, and so the casual user should get a lifetime of use from the shiny items. Sure, they’re not on the same level as premium items, but that’s not the market Feedback is seeking here – instead, they’ve absolutely nailed the brief for high quality and user-friendly tools at (relatively) affordable prices.
There are many choices out there for solid starter toolkits and as it stands, this one is fighting in the big leagues. I’m not going to say it’s the new benchmark, as that really depends on your exact needs, but if the tool selection within makes sense and you’re happy with the asking price, you should probably buy this kit.
Adding the extra T-handle set is a different matter, and if this were to be my only set of tools, I’d suggest spending that money on a decent set of L-handled keys, torque wrench, chain wear checker, tape measure and some needle nose pliers.
Included items in Feedback Sports Team Edition Kit (US$250/AU$410):
T-Handle Torx/Hex Key set (as pictured) is sold separately at US$130/AU$210.
Laid flat, the Feedback Sports case is easy to work out of.
The Team Edition toolkit as it is sold (no T-Handles).
3-way keys are included in the set. The quality of these is good, with great comfort in hand.
A closer look at the 3-way hex wrench.
Comparing 8mm hex keys. The Feedback Sport’s version affords plenty of leverage, even if it’s dwarfed by Park’s version.
In many ways, i prefer the operation of the Feedback Sports Cassette pliers to Park Tool’s more expensive Chainwhip pliers.
Combination bottom bracket and cassette tool.
Closer look at the double-sided valve core tool.
The multi-size spoke wrench also features a valve extender wrench.