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Verdict: 
Lovely machined multi-tool with neat ratchet and quality bits for tightening and loosening things – just not chains
Weight: 
173g
Unich Stepless Tool
9 10

The Unich Stepless Rachet Multi Tool Wrench is a multi-tool that looks a bit like a CO2 inflator – compact enough to carry for beside-the-road adjustments, with an unusual ratchet giving instant engagement. It houses a good selection of durable bits, providing most of the tools you're likely to need while out on a ride. It's a pleasure to use, although its design means there's no chain tool.

If the concept seems familiar, it is not dissimilar to that seen on the Fabric Chamber that we reviewed not that long ago. Unich says that the patented design of the ratchet mechanism is a key advantage for when you're working on hard-to-access parts of your bike.

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A conventional ratchet has a certain number of engagement points (just like a freehub), and this means you can have a few degrees of rotation before you start to loosen or tighten the fastener you're working on. Here, a miniature clutch mechanism means there are effectively infinite starting positions. Compared with using a fold-out multi-tool, this certainly makes it much less fiddly to access bottle cage bolts, for example. For any bolt where you've got a very limited space and hence less than 60 degrees of rotation, it's a really benefit.

The body of the Unich tool is made from CNC'd aluminium and is pretty nicely finished, appealing to the engineer in me. The bottom cap unscrews smoothly to allow the bit clip to be removed. There's a small magnet fixed to the inside of the cap, presumably intended to prevent rattling. It's quite a satisfying process putting it together, although it takes a few seconds longer than just folding out the tool you need.

There are hex bits in 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm sizes as well as T10, T25 and T30 Torx bits, and a flat and a Philips screwdriver bit, giving pretty much everything you're likely to need to tighten or loosen anything on a ride. Through the centre, there's a 55mm extension piece like you'd find in a socket set, which is really helpful for getting access to fiddly screws.

Unich Stepless Tool 2.jpg

Unich Stepless Tool 2.jpg

It's a different approach to that seen on the Fabric Chamber, which has long, double-ended bits with detents to allow different positions through the head. To my mind, the Unich's extension is a much better solution – as our reviewer found, the Fabric tool's longer bits would protrude out of the other side of the Fabric, which could make access trickier.

The round head of the tool also unscrews from the barrel and can be used to finger-tighten a screw, although the time taken to do so meant I usually just did this with the bit between finger and thumb before using the whole tool to tighten fully. You can also get significantly more leverage than with a fold-out tool thanks to the barrel acting as a comfortable handle.

One inherent downside to this type of tool, compared with the sort of ratchet you'd get in a socket set, is that to reverse the direction of rotation, you need to pull the bit out of the head and push it in from the other side, rather than being able to just flick a switch. This is particularly bothersome when you need to just loosen something enough to make an adjustment before nipping it up again; an Allen key can be wielded with one hand – this can't.

> Read our guide to the best multi-tools

For me personally, a bigger issue is the absence of a chain tool, given that for a similar price and weight you can get multi-tools with one. You also don't get a blade, useful for digging sharp things out of tyres and sabotaging your foes. Consequently, I mostly ended up keeping the Unich by the back door for last minute fettling before heading out, a role that it performed with some flair, and reverted to carrying my fold-out Birzman tool on rides with me.

Weight is 173g so it's heavier than the Birzman and slightly more than the Fabric tool, but I didn't feel the weight was unacceptable. Pricing is keen, at £23 compared with £35 for the similar Fabric tool.

I really enjoyed using the Unich tool – it's a pleasing concept, well made and with a good selection of tool bits. Whether it is for you will probably hinge on whether you think a chain tool is a must.

Verdict

Lovely machined multi-tool with neat ratchet and quality bits for tightening and loosening things – just not chains

road.cc test report

Make and model: Unich Stepless Tool

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Patented light weight & unique stepless ratchet design.

Different from regular ratchet, UNICH stepless tool operates with zero degree start angle when you turn the ratchet.

No blind spot for any location while maintaining your bike.

Removable Stepless tool head can be used as finger ratchet.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Weight 163g (claimed - we measured it at 173g)

Tools

*Hex 2mm

*Hex 2.5mm

*Hex 3mm

*Hex 4mm

*Hex 5mm

*Hex 6mm

*Hex 8mm

*Star shaped T10 , T25 & T30

*Phillips Screwdriver

*Flathead Screwdriver

*55mm tool bit extender

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Very nicely machined housing and good quality bits.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

Pretty nice to use, but I found it a bit fiddly to switch from loosening to tightening.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

No issues during testing, except my idiot propensity for losing bits in the lawn.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
7/10

More conventional multi-tools can be lighter but the ratchet function is arguably worth some extra weight.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
10/10

Much nicer to use than a fold-out multi-tool.

Rate the product for value:
 
10/10

Usefully cheaper than its only obvious direct competitor.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Really well - it's nicer to use for screwing and unscrewing than any other multi-tool I've used.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

It's just rather pleasing to unscrew the cap, remove the bits and then put it back together.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

If I went out with this instead of my usual multi-tool, I fretted a little over not having a chain tool with me. It's a bit more fiddly than an Allen key if you want to just slacken something off a touch, adjust it and nip it back up.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

It's really nicely made and significantly cheaper than its main competitor. If you carry a separate chain tool (or don't want to carry one) I'd say it's a great option.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 37  Height: 188cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh  My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking

Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels.  His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding. 

5 comments

Avatar
hawkinspeter [525 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Looks intriguing. I found it a bit cheaper (£19.99) from Absolute Cycles: http://www.absolute-cycles.com/index.php/unich-stepless-rachet-mtb-road-...

Avatar
KiwiMike [1269 posts] 8 months ago
1 like

Chain-tool-schmain-tool. In the last ten years I've had to weild a chain tool on the roadside exactly once. And that wasn't for me. That's including doing around 5,000km/year, twice-weekly club runs for between two and twenty people for five years, of all price-points and levels of Fettliness of machinery.

If you keep your chain within wear limits (meaning no more than  0.4mm over 127mm or ten full links new) and do any link removal at time of fitting using a decent tool done right, there is just no issue.

Carrying a chain tool on a MTB ride is much more sensical, as the likelihood of catching a rear mech on a rock/branch and requiring single-speed conversion to get home is much higher. Still very, very rare, but you're also much more likely to be a loooooong way from a taxi or spouse/friend rescue.

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guyrwood [639 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

That's a very good point Mike, I don't recall ever having to use mine in anger whilst out on a ride.

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bobbypuk [41 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Never mind chain tool, I can't remember the last time I used more than a tyre lever whilst on the road. When I did LEJOG I did carry 4mm and 5mm allen keys just in case but didn't use.

Just about the only useful thing on a well maintained bike is a spoke key for emergency pot hole repair. And this doesn't have one.

Avatar
Jez Ash [224 posts] 8 months ago
0 likes

Fwiw I can recall using a chain tool approximately 5 times ever, while on a ride. Two of those times, not having one would have been a very big inconvenience indeed.

If you don't need one, buy this tool  1