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Things have never been easier if you’re looking to click your fingers and start working on your bikes. For approximately every seven cat videos, YouTube has an instructional video explaining how to do common and not-so-common cycling repair tasks. And from there, you’re just a few tools away from feeling like MacGyver.
Tool brands know this too, and recent years have seen a surge in quality starter toolkits to get you set up and wrenching with the same items the mechanics at your local bike shop would use.
Tech writer and loyal tool nerd, Dave Rome, has been testing a number of these pre-assembled kits as of late. First was PRO’s Toolbox XL, then Feedback Sports’ Team Issue, and more recently the Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Toolset. This time, Rome takes a detailed look into the Pro Home Kit (1600CN) from Slovenian steel hand-tool specialists Unior.
A little Unior history
- What: Professional-grade starter tool kit for modern bikes.
- Place of manufacture: Slovenia
- Price: US$404 / AU$699
- Number of tools: 18
- Weight: 3.41kg
- Highs: Tool quality, great leverage, comfortable to use, durability, ease of use, compact case
- Lows: Price of kit, provided truing tool at the expense of other more important tools, case lacks space for additions
Established in 1919 as an agricultural tool maker, Unior is now one of the old guards in European tools. Not too long ago, Unior acquired a majority stake in a steelworks company, becoming a company that predominately owns its supply chain. From a public-facing standpoint, Unior is best known for its hand tools, but the company also does steelwork for the likes of VW, BMW and Renault.
In 2005, Unior took its hand tools expertise – which was mostly being used in automotive markets – and started producing dedicated bicycle tools. Only recently has Unior made a name in cycling tools beyond its surrounding European nations – certainly helped by sponsoring the likes of Team Sky, Movistar, Trek-Segafredo, Deceuninck–Quick-Step and its own Unior Tools World Cup downhill mountain bike team.
Unior was quick to enter the US cycling market, but quickly found itself unable to sell tools in a market where Park Tool owns a trademark for blue cycling tools. To get around this, Unior introduced red/orange tools for the US market in 2015, while other markets remain with blue, a colour Unior had used for its handtools since 1991.
I give all this background about Unior’s European manufacturing simply because the tools are priced well above the other kits (which typically feature tools made in Taiwan or China) I’ve tested recently. The US$404 / AU$699 price tag on the Pro Home kit will be a hard pill for many to swallow, especially given it includes just 18 tools.
The 18 included tools are centred around repairing modern-day road and mountain bikes. This kit pleasingly lacks the somewhat dated headset spanners, crank pullers, cone wrenches (still needed for many Shimano hubs) and freewheel removal tools still found in a number of other kits. Instead, every single tool provided is likely to be used when working on quality bikes of today.
What’s provided is ready for professional use, too. The cassette tool features its own integrated handle, as does the external bottom bracket tool (also good for oversized centerlock brake lockrings), and both feature extremely generous length handles with comfortable shaping. Leverage is no issue here.
There’s no chain whip for removing a cassette. Instead, Unior provide its “Freewheel removal tool”, a simple tool that fits in with either the 11 or 12T cog of your cassette. Such a design has long been proven by Stein (the original) and more recently Pedro’s, with some mechanics unwilling to use anything else. This and the matched cassette tool were my favourite items in the kit to use.
For chain maintenance, Unior provides its high-quality Pro Chain Tool, and chain link pliers too – two items that I’ve tested separately and found joy in. Unior also supplies its quality drop-in chain checker, a handy tool for preventing drivetrain destruction that offers staggered chain wear indication. And should your shifting go haywire, a quality pair of cable cutters is supplied.
Disc brake users will likely find use in the pad/piston press and rotor straightening tool – both doing the respective jobs nicely.
While I missed not having a full set of L-shaped hex keys (I’ll come back to this), the three included Y-wrenches are extremely good. They’re comfortable, offer tight tolerances and wear well. These cover the sizes of 2-6mm hex, and T10, T15 and T25 Torx. There’s an acceptably long 8mm L-wrench provided for pedals and crank bolts, too.
The one odd addition is that of the Pocket truing tool. This item attaches via its velcro strap to a seatstay, chainstay or fork to assist with trueing a wheel on the bike. It certainly works, but a zip-tie can perform much the same task.
Rounding out the kit are a quality Phillips #2 and flat blade screwdriver, a pair of Unior’s impressively good tyre levers, a Campagnolo-inspired multi spoke wrench and a Shimano Hollowtech bearing preload cap tool which is magnetically attached to the bottom bracket wrench.
Many of the tools are chrome plated for surface protection. It’s not the usual mirror-finish associated with chrome plating, but rather a rougher finish that is a common sight amongst other European tool manufacturers such as Gedore and Stahlwille.
All of these tools are housed within a compact and high-quality plastic case. Each tool is carefully stored and shadowed within a laser cut foam inlay – something Unior does better than anyone else in the cycling industry. It’s all done to a visually appealing level, but as I’ll soon explain, I don’t love it.
At 3.41kg and only 380 x 330 x 95mm, this kit is light and small enough to stick under a car seat or carry into an event, so if you’re seeking such a thing for mobile mechanics, then this or the cheaper Feedback Sports Team Edition kit could be right.
The simple truth of pre-assembled service kits is that the contents will never please everyone. No matter how good a kit is, I always find myself not needing one or two items and wanting others. And that also applies here.
The mix of tools leaves little wasted space and I was able to get my way through a number of bikes without having to reach for many extras. Notably, a small pick for seals and opening cable housing remains a tool that only Feedback Sports has thought to include in a kit of this level. Ditto for the valve core tool (or a pair of pliers).
The Y-wrenches are great, but there are times where a basic set of L-shaped keys are needed to fit into cramped spaces. Similarly, I haven’t needed a Torx T15 in recent memory, meanwhile, I was left scratching my head when trying to understand why Unior left out the T30 which is widely used for chainring bolts.
Most quality pedals use an 8mm hex for installational and removal, but some require a 6mm hex, and others a 15mm pedal wrench. The included 6mm hex is on a Y-wrench and lacks the leverage required for pedals. Again, I miss not having a basic set of hex keys. And then if you do require a pedal wrench, well, Unior completely left that one out of the kit. Hey, it’s not like people actually use Speedplay or older pedals, right?
The included truing tool frustrated me. It takes up so much room within the foam layout, and has a habit of dropping out everytime the case is opened. It also doesn’t strap onto thin frame tubes with the security I want when truing a wheel, and I’d sooner reach for a zip-tie around the frame if a truing stand weren’t available. Speaking of which, with the exception of the cable cutters, there’s nothing to cut zip-ties or trim bar tape with.
If there was one tool Unior should consider leaving out, it’s the truing tool, and it would free up plenty of space for more useful additions.
Unior also recently announced a new disc brake tool which combines the rotor truing fork and pad spreader into one. I’m sure they’ll eventually update the kit to include it, but for now, your money (and case space) is going toward two tools.
And while I’m nitpicking, the included Shimano crank preload cap tool works, but a few extra millimeters added to the spline length would see it not scratch a bunch of cranks that countersink this bolt.
And with a few small tools missing, that quality storage case and its fixed tool layout is all but a waste. As mentioned in the Park Tool Advanced Mechanic tool kit review, it’s hard to beat a basic toolbox that allows space to grow and customise. No doubt, someone using tools of this quality will have their hands on more tools – it’d be nice if the case they were paying for offered such space.
Lots to like, but a tall ask
Many of the included tools you’ll use the most are made to a professional quality and with great comfort, and I’d have no qualms in using them on a daily basis. Unior certainly knows steel, and many of the tools are comparable to the professional line from that other blue tool brand. Add in a lifetime warranty on the tools, and certainly, these tools will be good to pass onto the next generation.
At an average cost of over US$22 / AU$38 a tool, this kit speaks to a specific market. In my opinion, that market is users seeking professional-quality tools for a strong foundation in building a toolset that should last a lifetime, regardless of whether that’s personal or professional use. However, given you’re also paying for a velcro-based truing tool and a limited storage case – I can’t help but suggest to just buy the best bits of this kit separately.
- 2, 2.5, 3mm hex Y-wrench
- 4, 5, 6mm hex Y-wrench
- T10, T15, T30 Torx Y-wrench
- Pro chain tool
- Master link pliers
- Pro chain wear indicator
- 16-notch bottom bracket tool
- Shimano crank cap tool
- Cable housing and wire cutter
- Disc brake spreader
- Disc rotor trueing fork
- Triple spoke wrench
- Pocket wheel truing tool
- Cassette lockring tool with guide pin
- Freewheel remover (replaces chain whip)
- Pair of resin tyre levers
- #2 Phillips screwdriver
- Flat blade screwdriver