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The LifeLine Pro Sliding T-Bar Hex Set is good, but it could be better. The quality of the heads is encouraging, but the design could be improved – as it is, using these tools on a daily basis is trickier than it should be.
Sliding T-handle hex (aka Allen) keys seem to be popping up all over the place and LifeLine has its own version at a very tempting price.
The sliding section at the top of the T allows you to customise the tool to better fit awkward spaces or add leverage, while the alloy sleeve allows the tool to be spun quickly – I found it ideal for driving in long bolts or working at weird angles.
My biggest gripe is that identifying which size you're picking up means either squinting to read the tiny writing on the spinner, or honing your pro mechanic's size-judging instincts razor sharp.
Bigger numbers or, better still, colour-coding – as seen on the likes of the Fabric Hex Key Set (£19.99) – would make regular use far easier and quicker. Personally, I reached for the Sharpie and wrote the sizes on as big as possible. Looks be damned, I want ease of use.
The lack of a ball end is slightly annoying too – being able to drive bolts at angles other than 90 degrees makes life a lot easier when space is tight.
Interestingly, these two problems are shared with the more expensive Park Tool THH-1 Sliding T-Handle set Mat reviewed last year.
One end of the top bar features a twisted head designed to dig into and extract rounded-out hexes. I have successfully used this on one bolt and, despite my best intentions, will undoubtedly need it again. It's a useful feature to have.
This top section slides from side to side, too, but it's awkward. A sprung ball bearing holds the tool as a T, and it takes a bit of force to overcome it.
There is a bench/wall stand included with the set. It is quite basic, but works pretty well.
The best part about the Pro Sliding T-Bar Hex Set is the bit that does the spinning. Hold this simple alloy sleeve and you can freely spin the tool to quickly drive long bolts in or out, though to be fair, there aren't many on a bicycle that really beg for the extra speed.
The length is also very welcome when accessing recessed bolts – I'm thinking of some Campagnolo chainsets – but again, it's not overly common on road bikes now.
Although £89.99 is a good chunk of money for a set of hex keys, this is still one of the cheapest of its kind. The Park Tool set I mentioned is now £127.99, and the differences are minimal.
Overall, the LifeLine set is a solid choice for a budding home mechanic, though it isn't without its flaws. The lack of ball ends is annoying, as are the tiny size markings, but beyond that it does the job and does it well.
Good tool set, slightly let down by a lack of attention to detail
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road.cc test report
Make and model: LifeLine Pro Sliding T Bar Hex Set
Size tested: 9 piece
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?
LifeLine says: "The LifeLine Pro Sliding T Bar Hex Set exudes quality. The 9-piece Chrome Vanadium set covers off key sizes for the home bike mechanic. Included alongside the steel mounting bracket is a 2,2.5,3,4,5,6,8,10 and T25.
"The T-Bars are sliding allowing access to multiple locations and leverage options. Each of the T Bars comes with an alloy speed sleeve. Pinch the sleeve and freely rotate the T Bar allowing a quick spin-up of longer bolts."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Chrome Vanadium Construction
2,2.5,3,4,5,6,8,10 and T25.
Matte Chrome Finish
Speed Sleeve for quick spinning up of long bolts
Twisted Hex for rounded & oversized hex bolts
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Okay. They're decent quality keys that fit very nicely into bolt heads.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The spinner adds functionality and ease of use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
For regular use, size identification is tricky; I'd like to see bigger numbers or different colour spinners.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
LifeLine seems to be making one of the cheapest sets. The Park Tool equivalent, for instance, is £127.99.
Did you enjoy using the product? On the whole, yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but not at full price.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The heads of the keys are well made and the spinner adds some functionality. But the tiny printed sizes makes them tricky to grab, the lack of a ball end is annoying and sliding the top of the T-section is a bit tricky. All these things need addressing for them to score higher, despite the competitive price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.