Mineral Design Bar Stow and Mini Bar: Quick Review- by Guitar Ted
There are a lot of clever designs out there for tool kits. As a bike shop mechanic, it is pretty easy for me to find fault with many of these choices though. While good intentions are always at the heart of many multi-tools, the usability factor gets short shrift many times. There is nothing more frustrating than having flopping wrenches, unusable bits, and poor ergonomics whilst trying to execute a repair in the field. What to do then? Bring along the shop tools? While that is sometimes an appealing thought, it is impractical. Mineral Design, a new company that has had a successful Kickstarter introduction of their products, sent us their solution to this problem.
What It Is: The Mineral Design Mini Bar is the multi-tool that is a bit different than the majority of multi-tools on the market. However; it really only becomes a gravel rider’s complete system when it is paired with the Bar Stow. Together, these clever designs work together to provide just about everything you might need for simple, in the field repair work. First, let’s take a look at the Mini Bar.
This part of Mineral Design’s product range is their take on a basic Allen, Torx, and screwdriver set. It contains the bits you might find in most ordinary pocketable multi-tools for bicycles. With the Mini Bar you get the following bits: A 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen bits, a T-25 Torx, and a Phillips and Standard screwdriver bits. The tool rack will hold six bits, so you can customize the tool set to your needs. Let’s say that you have a cantilever equipped bike, so you might forgo the Torx bit, for instance. Or, perhaps you are running SRAM components on another bike, so you won’t need the Phillips driver. You get the picture here.
The bits are held in the tool rack, or in the steel handle, by strong, neodymium magnets. The entire Mini Bar tool can be stowed away by placing the tool rack over the holes in the handle and in turn this is held together with neodymium magnets as well. The design is clever, for sure, but thoughtfulness in the tool’s usage was apparent as I checked the Mini Bar out and used it. The handle has three “sockets” in which you can place a bit. One on the long end of the handle for reaching into hard to access areas, like maybe a water bottle cage bolt that needs tightening. The other two sockets provide a bit different positioning options, but more importantly, it allows you to generate a higher amount of torque. This without painful edges or pain from having to grip on other tools not being used. The design is clean, well executed, and not clumsy or complicated. The using of this tool is an enjoyable experience and allows you to get the job done efficiently and well.
The Bar Stow, as it may sound, is a tool that stows into a handle bar. It takes the wedge type handle bar end cap idea and allows you to add two tools which then will always be with that particular bike. So, not as portable, but if you have one adventure bike which you are trying to maximize carrying space in a minimalist way, these bar end caps make a lot of sense. One is a tire lever based upon the popular “Quick Stik” design, only slightly downsized from that seminal shop tool’s original design. The other side is a clever chain breaker/chain quick-link holder. So, you can easily stow a quick-link in your handle bar for safe keeping as well as have the chain breaker. It is also worth noting that Mineral Design sells the bar end plugs without tools, or you can get one or the other of the tools. They come in a few snazzy anodized colors with the laser etched Mineral Designs logo, so they are rather distinctive little baubles which can dress up your ride as well. By the way, these fit flat bars as well as drop bars.
How Do They Work? Like I stated in the opening paragraph, there are a lot of clever designs that fail when you go to use them in the field. The Mineral Design tools hold up to my measure of usability rather well. The Mini Bar is really one of the best multi-tool designs I’ve used in years. Take for instance the oft made seat height adjustment. Let’s say you noticed your seat post has slipped a bit after a particularly rough section of road. Well, obviously you will need to raise that saddle again. Leverage to undo and re tighten that Allen bolt is going to be necessary, because you need to generate a pretty high amount of torque with a relatively short lever. Most seat post binder bolts are in the 6nM to 9nM range, (nM = Newton Meter), and while that doesn’t sound like much, it can be hard to get that kind of leverage with many multi-tools on the market, especially discreet, smaller ones. Not to mention the fact that many multi-tools hurt your hand when using them to generate that kind of force.
The good news is that not only is it easy to generate that kind of force with a Mini Bar, but it is not a tool that hurts to use. Plus you have a couple of options available for placing the bit in a socket that will allow a high torque effort. Obviously, you have to be careful with certain fasteners on delicate, lightweight components, and that may require you to carry a dedicated pre-set torque wrench, but for many tasks, the Mini Bar is really a good solution. At only 133 grams for a full tool rack and the lever, it is also a good choice for the minimalist packer.
The Bar Stow tools are a little different, in my opinion. The chain breaker is really a bail-out tool, but honestly, who would think it was anything else? That said, it is not nearly a shop quality tool, so there is a bit more finesse needed to make a good field repair. It can be done though, and I guess that’s all you need there. The chain quick-link holder is a neat idea, and you may never have to use it, but when you do, the link should be easy to find. That can be half the battle right there for the fatigued, brain addled long distance rider.
The tire lever could be all you need, but I have found that a bit more of a spoon-shaped end, thinner, and not so bulky a lever is best. Levers like this Quick Stik inspired Bar Stow tool are harder to use on tubeless tires especially since the bead seat is so tight on many of these types of set ups. Be aware of what you will need to have for a tire lever, because this one may not be your best choice, and you don’t have to get the plug with that tool, should you decide it isn’t quite right for your needs.
At The Finish: The Mineral Design Mini Bar is probably one of the nicest mini tools in existence for its simplicity of design and ease of use. The clever use of neodymium magnets makes it a sleek, lightweight choice for the ultra-distance, minimalist packer or the weekend wanderer. The Bar Stow plugs are also a great idea, but they may not necessarily be the right choices for your needs. Especially the tire lever. The chain breaker’s little slot for a quick link is a neat idea, but the tool requires a bit of finesse to use in the field. However; if you are looking to maximize the cargo carrying capacity of your bike, placing some tools inside your bar’s ends behind a nifty set of bar plugs might be appealing for you.
Find out more about the Mini Bar and Bar Stow at Mineral Design’s site: www.mineralbikes.com
NOTE: Mineral Design sent over the Bar Stow and Mini Bar tools for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.