Friday, May 6, 2011

the ratchet

Like anyone who has worked on bicycles for more than the last few years, I have seen them change from machines equipped with bolts requiring a good set of spanners, to those that require a few allen keys and now, Torx screws. Whilst I am the first to admit that hex keys and Torx screwdrivers are portable — ideal for keeping in your jersey pocket in one of those pocket-knife like mini-tools — in the workshop I miss the tactile sensation of tightening and loosening bolts with a hefty set of spanners. That sensation has been eliminated apart from on the wheel nuts of my track bike.

The snug fit of a Torx driver is comforting, but turning it is not satisfying. I have never been a fan of allen keys. The bolts always feel to me like they will round out and the keys break, especially in the smaller sizes when operating stuck bolts. The keys themselves lack the solidity of a properly made spanner and operating them is fiddly and uncomfortable. Until now...

I recently acquired a 1/4" drive (square tip) ratcheting handle that takes the set of Torx tips and hex heads from my torque wrench. Where the torque wrench is slightly wobbly due to its two-piece handle (that releases when correct torque is reached), the new ratcheting wrench is firmly and sweetly made.

I can now tighten hex or Torx bolts with one hand, without needing to extract and reinsert the key tip in the limited space amongst the bicycle's many restricted working areas. The other hand can now be used to hold a cable tight, or to keep the bars from turning, or to stop the seatpost from sliding or to maintain seat level. I am a convert! Sure, I will revert to the torque wrench when working on carbon fiber. But for a real workshop experience, when I dig out the old steel machines, I can now enjoy the sensation as much as I like changing wheels on my track bike.

Happy wrenching!

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