Features: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6mm allen keys, Phillips and
flat-blade screwdrivers. Removable chain tool.
* Also available: Excel 8 Metro featuring all the above except the
chain tool, £9.99, Excel 11 Professional with 8 and 10mm sockets
and 8mm allen key, £14.99
Web page: www.minoura.co.jp
Test log: There is no test log - but given Mike's tendency to destroy componentry, we reckon it was pretty well used.
Handy Tools have been around for a while in many different formats but always as compact as possible and packed with features. This time round though with the Excel series, a re-design of the old Handy Tool, they have opted for simplicity (and hence reliability) over more features than the opposition.
The Trail 9 drops into the slot where the Handy 14 stood previously and gets the nine most useful tools for the average trail ride. The awkward to use 8 and 10mm spanners from the Handy 14 have been dropped. Across the range the metal tyre levers have gone too, as have the spoke keys. This leaves a tool that is lighter and slightly more compact with less chance of bits dropping off and getting lost.
All the tools are made from the same heat-treated, anti-rust, hardened steel with a satin finish. The plastic body is a more ergonomic shape than before, it is backed up by aluminium plates for a little extra stiffness and features a rubber pad on one side for grip with greasy hands. Although not truly re-buildable, because individual components aren't available to buy, the Trail 9 is serviceable, you can adjust the binding bolts with a 4mm allen key to
tighten the tools at their pivots. You could also pull the whole thing apart to grease the pivots and add thread-lock to the binding bolts if you choose. What you get for this little extra attention is a tool that operates easy, its not too tight that you can't get the tools out to use but sturdy so you can get torque on the bolts/screws.
The removable chain tool, operated by the 5mm allen key, is a simple but neat extra though it should never be viewed as the only chain tool you'll need just like the allen keys won't replace a set of quality ball ended ones in the workshop. It doesn't try to be a portable workshop tool, it's just there for emergencies and in this situation it works fine. The handle is a little short so pushing rivets out can be hard work on the fingers but you can let the chain wrap around the tool to steady it. There's not a loosening shelf but taking out stiff links is easy enough with you hands and those things tend to bend anyway on small tools like this.
In use the trail nine can get plenty of torque from the solid, ergonomic, enough to snap light weight bolts actually so be careful. The absence of tyre levers and spoke wrenches is probably for the better. Tyres you can remove with your hands if you have to and single plastic tyre levers are cheap and light. If you bend a wheel so much you can't ride then a spoke key alone won't help you. If there was one improvement we would like to see though it would be an 8mm allen key for crank bolts, then all the major common fixing bolts are covered. As it is we have been carrying an 8mm key along side this in our camelbaks anyway.
Verdict: A redesigned classic made lighter and simpler, nearly every thing you'll need in a hand held tool for weekend rides. Missing an 8mm allen key really but all the tools included are useful and the quality is there. The chain tool is small but workable and there are no unnecessary gizmos to get one more tool in over other models. Treat it good and it should last years too.