Tuesday, April 02, 2024

Review: Equipt Sardine Tool

Note: Equipt sent over their Sardine Tool for test and review at Guitar Ted Productions at no cost. I was not bribed nor paid for this review and I always strive to give my honest thoughts and opinions throughout.

Equipt is a brand out of Japan that makes a small multi-tool for cycling called the Sardine. I was contacted by Koh who runs Equipt and was asked if I would consider taking a look at this tool. You can follow Equipt on Instagram HERE if you are interested in more details. 

What It Is: The Sardine is a basic multi-tool with a 3-D printed mounting base/holster that mounts to a water bottle boss on a bicycle. The tool itself is made from aluminum with tool steel bits in 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm sizes along with a T25 Torx bit. the tool ends flip out or rotate 180° for access to the different sizes. The bits can be angled as well to increase leverage or for reaching fasteners at an angle. 

The Sardine body is aluminum which can be had in several anodized colors. I have green and purple anodized Sardines and N.Y. Roll has a green anodized one as well. These tools also come with a 3-D printed holster which the Sardine can be snapped into. You can mount that all on the bike or simply carry the Sardine in a tool bag or other bag of your choice. It is not recommended that you carry a Sardine in your pocket/jersey as the bits could cause injury if you were to fall on the tool.

The Sardine mounted to my Singular Gryphon Mk3.

Impressions: The Sardine tool is definitely one of those minimalist tools seeing as it has only the basic bits for most fasteners on a bike. The aluminum body seemed to be robust and the anodization was done quite nicely. No faded portions or variations in the hue were noted. 

The tool bits are easily rotated but will not flop around or rotate at will. The bits have just the correct amount of friction to prevent them from rotating freely. This is a nice detail for this sort of tool and one that not every tool gets right. 

The length of the Sardine, not including the bits, is approximately 85mm. This and the gently curved and rounded shape give the Sardine a good amount of leverage when tightening or loosening a fastener without any sharp corners that could cause pain when applying a lot of force. I also appreciated that the 6mm hex bit was placed more towards the middle of the Sardine's body so you can really get a grip on the tool and apply maximum force. This was a smart idea since the 6mm size fasteners typically are going to require more force to tighten and loosen. 

The tool bits seem to be precisely sized and made well. I used a Sardine for a day in my work at a bicycle collective and it did all the tasks I required of it with ease and it felt good to use this tool as well. So, in terms of the design and functionality of the Sardine, I can give it high marks. 

The holder is a nice feature, but I did not think I would like it as much as I ended up liking it. Well, "appreciate" might be a better term here. See, I carry most every multi-tool I own in a bag. Top tube bags, seat bags, tool bags, etc, but I haven't ever really given thought to mounting a multi-tool off a water bottle cage mount. 

First off, I was fearful of knocking the thing off the bike and then what? You are out of a tool. Well, I decided to test this out when I went on my ramble through the Washington-Union access which saw me bushwhacking my way through some thick underbrush and downed trees. 

Through all of that the Sardine was not moved. It stayed securely in the mount, so that fear was dispelled. But would this external mounting of a multi-tool really be necessary? I mean, it is nice to show off that brilliant anodized Sardine tool body, I'll give you that much. However; would that mounting idea ever be practical or better than having the tool in a bag?

That question was answered at Mid-South this year. I was not intentionally looking to use the Sardine in such an event. In fact, I was hundreds of miles away from the Sardine when I realized that I could have benefited from the tool and its mounting from a bottle cage boss. 

I had a multi-tool at Mid-South, but it was in a tool roll hanging off my saddle rails. Fashionable? Yes, but functional? Eh..... Digging out my multi-tool twice convinced me that had I run a Sardine tool off a bottle cage mount I could have saved a bunch of time spent fiddling with a tool roll on the side of the road. 

Lesson learned.

Conclusions: The Sardine tool is a well thought out multi-tool with a unique take that feels good to use. I liked the external mount, but what I did not see coming was how that mount makes the tool more readily available since it is at hand when you need it instead of floating around in a bag. You know at a glance whether or not you have it with you and because of that you are less likely to forget where you put the Sardine. Of course, this is all predicated on the assumption that the mount is secure and stable, which, as far as I can tell, is the case. 

What's not to like? Well, this tool costs $60.00USD, which is a premium price for a tool that carries only five bits. That kind of money can buy a Topeak Mini PT 30, as an example, which has 30 functions, so it might be hard to justify the Sardine based upon that alone. However; the minimalist amongst us might appreciate the Sardine for its ergonomic design, economy of choices, and for its aesthetics. Not to mention the mount, which has its own appeal. 

I like the Sardine as a functional tool that has bits that are easily accessed, easy to use without the other tool bits interfering, and that it has the basic fastener bits most bikes need. Nothing more, nothing less. Oh.....and it looks cool. Yeah...sixty bucks is a lot of cash for this tool, but it isn't without value. It just depends on whether or not you can see that value and whether or not that matters to you. 

The Sardine Tool is also a bit hard to come by, so there is that as well. You can get one HERE if you are interested.


NY Roll said...

we need to chat about the tool on the podcast. I like the tool you let me test, but I do have some ideas for improvement. Could they lengthen the bits by a few mm to get more cleanrance on items?

Guitar Ted said...

@N.Y. Roll - I suppose they could do anything, right? The thing about lengthening the tool bits is, with the current design, the exposed bit sticks even further out and could cause issues with bag storage, or whatever. Plus the cavity in the body would have to be enlarged maybe causing it to be weaker?

That is the limitation of that layout. The rotating bits cannot be too long or things start getting weird.