Topeak's Ninja C Chain tool sets out to solve a problem you never knew you had. Unfortunately, while it's a pretty decent chain tool, it's a duff way of plugging your bar ends, on drop bars at least.
'The Ninja C chain tool stores inside your handlebar to keep the uncluttered lines of your bike', says Topeak's website. It's an old advertisers' trick: worry you into thinking you have a problem that only this product can solve. Just as Listerine convinced 1920's Americans they had halitosis, now you might understand why nobody in your cycling club wants to ride alongside you. It's because your chain tool is cluttering your bike's lines.
Never mind, Topeak to the rescue with this two-piece tool (chain breaker on one side, hex wrench and chain holder on the other), which takes the place of your bar end plugs to keep it up tight and outa sight. Except it didn't, or at least not on any of the road bikes I tried it on.
The tool relies on two squashy rubber bungs that sit between the business end and the bar-end plug to keep it in place. By twisting the knurled, carbon fibre-weave end plug, you can compress the band to force it against the inside of the bar to hold everything tight.
The problem is, your road bike almost certainly requires bar tape. There's a good reason why those cheapy plastic end plugs supplied with your tape are a tight fit. Some even need a mallet to drive them home. More expensive ones use an expanding plug that's tightened by means of a bolt. That reason is that the end plug is there to keep your bar tape under tension and tucked away. Loose plugs are soon pulled free by the stretch of the tape. That's what happened with the Ninja C. No matter how much I adjusted the compression on the rubber ring, I couldn't get it to stay in place.
You can learn quite a bit from the kinds of warnings companies print on their instruction sheet. 'Periodically check that NINJA C is seated in handlebar properly', is the advice printed in bold under a yellow and black exclamation mark. Imagine what happened in product testing to make Topeak think that was a necessary precaution. Well, it happened to me, too. In my case, 'periodically' meant every six miles, which was how far I'd got before the tool itself fell out for the first time, and for every six miles after. The other part, with the hex wrench, stayed in better (probably because it isn't as heavy) but even so, both tools rattled annoyingly inside the bar ends for the duration of the ride.
You might have better luck if you ride a road bike with flat bars. I fitted the Ninja C to my mountain bike where, because the rubber bungs press against the bare metal of the inside of the handlebar, it stayed secure. This only works if your grips are the sort where the end plug is a separate piece. Even then, if your grips are the lock-on sort, you will need your multitool to get at your chain tool. I hope your multitool isn't spoiling the clean lines of your bike.
It's a pity because, as an emergency chain tool, it's pretty good. Breaking a chain is, for good reasons, a difficult job and one that many smaller tools struggle with. This one pushed out pins from a variety of chains, old and new, without snapping or bending the pushing pin or the teeth that the chain sits on. The 90 degree hinge gives you a usable handle (though the knurled end cap is a bit hard on the palm of the hand) and the 4mm hex wrench you use to turn the tool is long enough and strong enough for the job, though if you are carrying a multitool anyway it's questionable as to whether it's needed at all. A plastic bracket on the hex tool holds a nice aluminium chain hook, which is useful but, I fear, all too easy to lose. You can also store chain pins in it.
The 4mm socket on the end of the chain tool pusher can be used to snap off the pins, though I think a quick-link is a better answer to on-the-road chain failures. When pushing pins in, I found the teeth on the tool a bit low-profile for holding the chain completely straight, requiring a one-finger-pressing down-on-the-link technique. If you do insist on joining your chain with a pin, the tool has a fold-out 'anvil' which you can use to peen the end of the new pin, as required by Campagnolo chains.
My preferred chain tool for on the road is the Park CT-5, which is strong, simple, weighs less, is £13 cheaper than the Ninja C and slips flat into a pocket or saddle pack so nobody knows I'm carrying it and I can do all the things I normally enjoy doing without embarrassment – even riding a bike.
Not a bad chain tool but as bar end plugs it's not secure enough for taped, drop bars. Oh - and, just...why?
road.cc test report
Make and model: Topeak Ninja C
Size tested: Fits in to bars with 16.5-20mm internal diameter
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?
Topeak's website says:
The Ninja C chain tool stores inside your handlebar to keep the uncluttered lines of your bike, yet can be easily accessed when you need it. This 11 speed compatible chain tool includes a chain pin compartment, chain hook, and 4mm Allen wrench for easy operation.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
ADDED FEATURES Rivet anvil for 11 speed Campagnolo® hollow pin
Secondary chain link fence, Chain pin breaker
Chain pin compartment
ALLEN WRENCHEs 4 mm
BODY Lightweight aluminum
CHAIN HOOK Hardened steel
CHAIN TOOL Hardened steel
LIMITATIONS Road handlebar with minimum 70mm straight section end
Fits inner ø16.5 - ø20 tube
MOUNT Handlebar ends
SIZE8.6 x 2.3 x 2.3 cm / 3.4' x 0.9' x 0.9' (Chain tool)
8.5 x 2.3 x 2.3 cm / 3.3' x 0.9' x 0.9' (Chain hook)
SPEED Multi-speed chain up to 11 speed hollow pin chain
WEIGHT 77 g / 2.72 oz
Clearly well-made and finished piece of kit. The actual design, though, is another matter.
Actually quite good as a chain tool, pretty useless as bar-end-plugs. You could just stick it in your pocket, I supose.
Seems strong and had no problems pushing out tight pins.
Fair for a chain tool. It could be lighter if Topeak assumed everyone already carries a few hex wrenches.
Reasonaby ergonomic in use. The knurled bar-end plugs are a bit rough on the palm of the hand when using the chain tool.
Quite a dear way of solving a not-very-significant problem.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a chain tool, not too fiddly and certainly strong enough not to let you down when you need it. As a set of bar end plugs, only really suitable for flat bars with grips.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Attractively machined and finished; pretty effective chain tool and the chain hook is a nice touch.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It wouldn't stay in the ends of my handlebars and rattled inside.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your score
It's a perfectly decent chain tool made worse by someone being too clever. You could just carry the business-end of the tool in your pocket, but there are cheaper tools that are just as effective.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAAD10 My best bike is: Tomassini Prestige
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,