Wolf Tooth 8-Bit Pack Pliers review: A rethink of the classic multi-tool
Wolf Tooth’s new 8-Bit Pack Pliers multi-tool looks nothing like the Swiss army knife that most portable bicycle tools are designed to mimic. In fact, it’s unlike anything else on the market at all. But while it’s quite unusual, it’s also loaded with useful functions, offers plenty of leverage, is very well made, and sports an innovative form factor that’s surprisingly easy to stash. I like where Wolf Tooth is going with this stuff.
The new 8-Bit Pack Pliers almost look as if Wolf Tooth just took its existing Pack Pliers and enlarged the dimensions in CAD. The scissor-like machined 7075-T6 aluminum body sports the same handy chain master link pliers at one end — hence the name — along with a convenient magnetic storage pocket for an extra set of links. But otherwise, there aren’t a whole lot of similarities.
Whereas the standard Pack Pliers sport a tire lever at the opposite end, the 8-Bit Pack Pliers has the same indexed and pivoting magnetic bit holder that Wolf Tooth uses on the EnCase multi-tool that debuted last year. As on the EnCase, that bit holder is built around the smaller 4 mm bit format instead of the more standard 1/4-inch one to reduce the overall size, and there’s enough space inside the 8-Bit Pack Pliers body for six interchangeable bits (most of which are double-sided) that include 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, and 6 mm hex, T10 and T25 Torx, a #2 Phillips, and a small flathead screwdriver head. Quite cleverly, the bit holder itself is an 8 mm hex, so there’s not much left off the list.
There’s also a combination spoke wrench/valve core secured in a magnetic pocket on the backside of the body, a tool to clean out your valve stem in the event that it’s clogged, and the business end of the pliers is even shaped to help tighten and loosen Presta valve stem nuts, too.
Helping to hold the pliers closed is another pair of magnets to go along with the ones already used to hold the various pieces in place. In total, Wolf Tooth stuffs five different magnets into every 8-Bit Pack Plier.
Despite all of that functionality, the 8-Bit Pack Pliers weighs just 69 grams, and is only 147 mm in length, 21 mm-wide, and a scant 9 mm-thick. Retail price is US$70 / AU$142 / £76 / €85.
The 8-Bit Pack Pliers may be unusual as compared to more traditional multi-tools, but the design offers some genuine advantages, too.
Most importantly, the form factor and pivoting head provide far more leverage than what you typically find in portable multi-tools. With the head flipped 90°, the handle measures a healthy 13 cm — more than I could find in any other multi-tool I had in the stable (and I’ve got a lot of them to compare against). I was actually able to undo some crank bolts with the thing, and busted a bunch of pedals loose, too. And Wolf Tooth confirms that you can wrench on the 8-Bit Pack Pliers pretty hard, repeatedly testing the head to over 40Nm of torque. Granted, that may not be enough for the toughest jobs, but in fairness, if you need more than that road- or trail-side, you’ve likely got bigger fish to fry.
I was previously skeptical of the downsized 4 mm bit format that Wolf Tooth used on the EnCase multi-tool when I reviewed it last year, but the more I’ve used it since then, the less I’ve found myself worrying about how well they’d hold up under stress. Simply put, it hasn’t been an issue on that tool, and I haven’t found it an issue on this one, either.
The bigger body offers one unexpected bonus as well. One of the things tech editor Dave Rome mentioned in his review of the original Pack Pliers was that they didn’t provide as much leverage for stubborn master links as he sometimes wanted. But with these, that’s no longer an issue.
The 8-Bit Pack Pliers aren’t all about muscle, either; there’s some finesse on hand as well. Water bottle bolts can often present some difficulties given their odd locations, for example, but with the pivoting head oriented inline with the body, even those are no problem to access. And once bolts are loose, it’s super easy to spin them all the way in or out when using one of the tool bits by themselves. If you’ve ever tried completely removing a stem faceplate bolt with a conventional multi-tool, you’ll understand how refreshing this is.
A few loose screws
As novel as the 8-Bit Pack Pliers’ design is, there are some frustrating compromises, too.
For one, Wolf Tooth may include master link pliers and space to store a master link here, but when you actually break a chain on the road, rarely are you left with two clean ends to put back together. What you really need in that situation is a tool to push out a chain pin, and quite ironically, that’s one thing you don’t get here.
As innovative as the 8-Bit Pack Pliers’ design is, there are times when there’s just no substitute for bit length, and Wolf Tooth most definitely sacrifices that in the name of portability here. In most cases, those stubby bits aren’t an issue. However, I still ran into a few instances where I just couldn’t reach a bolt. The 5 mm mounting bolt on many SRAM rear derailleurs is one example, and a handful of seatpost head bolts were problematic as well. Basically, if the bolt head is recessed at all, you’re probably not reaching it with this thing.
Like I found with the EnCase, it can be a little frustrating to access some of the bits. Wolf Tooth has wisely machined the pockets such that, for most of the bits, you can just push down on one, and the other end pops out so you can grab it. That’s not the case for all of them, though, and those of you who clip your fingernails super short might find yourself muttering a few choice words as you struggle to pull out the tool you need.
“Hosting all those functions in such a small package does require some creativity when it comes to storage and removing them,” said Wolf Tooth marketing manager Kurt Stafki. “We have the 5 mm and 6 mm hex bits in the center, and the others on the outsides. For those outside bits, pushing down on either end and sliding to either end of the handle will get them out. The 6 mm bit has a hole in the handle just beneath it that is used for removing the bit, but removing the bits with gloves or frozen hands will prove to be a bit of a challenge. It’s a necessary evil of sorts when a multi-tool is designed to be this small and lightweight.”
Fair enough, but either way, if you have something on your bike that’s not particularly common — like the stupid T20 Torx bolts Pinarello insists on using — good luck with that, since Wolf Tooth doesn’t really intend for the 8-Bit Pack Pliers to be customized. Even if you can find the bit you need, it might not fit in the machined pocket.
A cool tool that Dave Rome doesn’t have (yet)
There are good reasons why that Swiss army knife format is so popular: it works well. But bit-based tools like the 8-Bit Pack Pliers have their advantages, too, as demonstrated here.
Are the 8-Bit Pack Pliers inexpensive? No, but you seem to get what you pay for here, and Wolf Tooth has an outstanding reputation for quality and reliability. It’s also just a darned neat tool that incorporates an awful lot of clever thinking.
Form and function? It’s like the bicycle multi-tool equivalent of a tiny house.
Sign me up. And sorry, Dave, you’ll have to get your own.