SILCA have been having a bit of a renaissance under the stewardship of Josh Poertner. Yes the classic pumps are still very much at the heart of their range, but it has also expanded into tools and bags - using a blend of SILCA's engineering expertise and Josh's genius for finding fresh solutions to age-old problems.
But moving into the high quality bike tool market is a brave move, "Big Blue" casts a long shadow… Park Tools are omnipresent in Pro workshops around the world (including our own) and have long been the default choice for anyone looking to equip their home toolbox with bike-specific tools.
So I was intrigued to see SILCA broadening their tool range with the HX-Two and HX-Three hex/allen key sets. Can they compete with the established leaders? What do they offer that the "cheapo" alternatives don't? Lets take a look:
It's not often you get to do an "unboxing" with a new set of bike tools, but SILCA have paid attention to the packaging. That definitely makes them attention grabbers on display in-store, but it also means that this would make an excellent gift for a cyclist. The sturdy box clicks shut with a neat hidden magnet and is lined with a laser-cut foam insert to stop the keys from rattling around.
9x Hex Wrenches in 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10mm
9x Torx® Wrenches in T7, T8, T9, T10, T15, T20, T25, T27 and T30 sizes
all fitted neatly into a plastic holder.
The hex keys have a red polymer coating, whilst the Torx have a grey coating. Both are made from heat treated S2 steel with a chromed finish. Each wrench has the size and a Silca logo laster etched into it.
The polymer coating is useful as it gives some resistance to slippage when you have oily hands, compared to a bare metal finish. It's more hard wearing than a painted finish, and easier to keep clean than a rubber coating.
The chromed finish is, in my experience, more durable than the matt black finish you often see on cheaper tools, and it certainly feels nicer in the hand.
above: don't risk damaging those sparkly anodised bolts! quality tools like the SILCA have the precision fit needed to avoid rounding or marking fasteners
The hex wrenches have ball ends on the longest side. This is invaluable when working on awkward to reach fasteners. If you've ever tried doing up a bottle cage bolt on a frame with very little clearance you'll know what I mean! The ball head means that you can easily tighten or loosen with the tool held at an angle (up to roughly 15 degrees off centre) without fear of damaging the bolt.
Additionally the shorter ends of the hex wrenches have a chamfered tip. This is another welcome sight, not found on cheaper tools, which is particularly useful for avoiding damage to anodised or painted components.
Weighing in at 575g including the holder, and with a total of 18 tools to cover pretty much every eventuality, these are not intended for a jersey pocket. This isn't intended to be a "multitool replacement", they're designed to sling in your travel bag or toolbox, for fettling your bike at home or away on holidays or race days.
One thing I'd like to see modified in future versions would be with the plastic holder. The holder looks like it should fold open like a book, but it's actually moulded as one solid piece. I'd like to be able to open out the holder to see both sets of wrenches in one row.
For some reason SILCA decided to print the size labels for both the hex and torx keys on the same side of the holder... Which means that when the holder is fully loaded the size labels for the hex keys are completely obscured by the torx keys. It's not a major issue, but it means you sometimes take a moment longer to check what size you're grabbing.
Still, that's my only real issue, so you can see I'm being forced to nitpick (and in any case, tools - even the best ones - are designed to *use*, so scratching the numbers into the back of the holder can almost be considered a rite of passage - there, now it's no longer pristine, and you can get on and use the things without babying them!).
The holder does have a useful loop moulded into the side which can be used to hang the tools for storage, or you could clip them onto your belt loop via a carabiner if you're working on your bike out in the field, so they're always at hand (they're held snugly enough that they're not going to fall out).
below: Torx bolts used to be a rare sight on road bikes. But the spread of disc brakes, and increased use on other components, means a decent set of Torx wrenches has become a toolkit essential
Buying cheap tools is a false economy. That's as true for the home toolkit as it it for the Pro mechanic.
Yes they will feel nicer in the hand, yes they'll last longer - but the most critical thing is that they won't damage the fasteners that you're using them on.
The Silca set costs a bit more than the Park equivalent, but has a much nicer finish. Price (and quality) is on a par with high-end specialist tool brands like Wera or Snap-On.
If you already have a folding set of allen keys, don't overlook just how useful a full-size set is. Folding tools are great for carrying around, but these full length keys are much more comfortable to hold and give better leverage.
all photos copyright © Bespoke Cycling 2018
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