Topeak Alien X Multi-tool: Quick Review – by Guitar Ted
How many multi-tools have I seen over the years? Hmm….. A lot, that’s for sure. It takes something pretty different to catch my eye these days, and the Topeak Alien X multi-tool has been one of the few that has done that lately. The Alien X is another in a long line of well regarded Alien multi-tools that Topeak has put out over the years. This particular one has a pretty wide range of tools. Let’s take a closer look…..
What It Is: The Alien X is a 34 function multi-tool which splits into two halves for ease of use and to access all the features that it has. Following is a list of the tools and features:
- Torx tools: T10, T15, T20, T25, and a T30 socket. (T30 fits over the 6mm hex key)
- Hex Keys: 1.5mm, 2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, 8mm, 10mm (10mm is a socket that fits over the 6mm wrench)
- Presta Valve Core Removal Tool (Part of the 10mm socket)
- Knife/Saw (With cover to prevent dulling/accidental cutting)
- Chain Tool w/Chain Hook and Pin Breaker. (Chain tool compatible up to 12 speed excluding Campy hollow pin types)
- Chain Master Link compartment
- Disc Brake Pad spacer
- Phillips type 2.0 socket mount screw driver. (Fits over the 6mm hex key)
- Tire Lever
- Spoke tools including Mavic. Shimano 4.5, 15 & 14 gauge, and a spoke holder.
- The two halves hold one half each of a chain master link connector tool.
Whew! That’s quite a bit of stuff there. The Topeak Alien X multi-tool also comes with a Nylon pouch style holder to store it in. The commonly used 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm Hex keys are color coded to aid in identifying those when you are in a hurry or in the dark. That is a nice touch. The Alien X weighed 202 grams, (without the carrying pouch) on my scale. You can pick one up for around $65.00. (Prices seen online at the time of this publishing)
First Impressions: The Alien X is quite compact for all that it features. It measures just shy of three inches in length and a inch and five-eighths in width. It’s about an inch and a third in depth. Not a whole lot bigger than many less featured multi-tools, and smaller than some.
The next thing I noted was how easily the single bits can be unfolded for use. I’ve had multi-tools that nearly separated my fingernail from my finger in an effort to deploy a single tool from its lair. Not very fun, and quite frustrating at times. Then there are other multi-tools which have their various bits flopping around so badly that they get in the way while you are trying to do something. Again- very frustrating. So when I pulled a few bits away from their stowed positions on the Alien X, it was a pleasant surprise to find that they had just the right amount of resistance. Not so much that the effort hurt, but not so little that the tools were getting in my way. Goldilocks there, you might say.
I found separating the two halves a bit more of a challenge, but that may be just me. My son figured it out quite quickly. (Harumpf!) Anyway, this allows you access to the disc brake pad spacer, the stowed sockets for the Phillips screw driver function, the T30 socket, and the Master Link stowage compartment. It also allows you to put the chain master link connector tool together for use, and allows you to use the 4mm hex key as the driver for the chain tool. All that was fairly easily figured out.
The knife cover was a nice touch. I was surprised not to find a standard screw driver tool. Maybe modern bikes are not using that fastener/adjuster anymore, but older bikes do. I also was a bit surprised to see the minuscule tire lever. I was wondering where I might actually use a lever that small.
In Use: So here’s the deal. There was only one way to really get a read on this tool and that was to use it in a shop setting where multiple use scenes play out on a daily basis. I happened to be building up a city commuter from an old, late 70’s Trek frame and fork, so I decided to use the Alien X tool as much as I could while doing the work on that bike. I also used the tool doing some other basic maintenance on some other bikes.
The Good: The chain tool is actually a really good, usable part of the Alien X. The chain hook can be a lifesaver here, and if you manage not to loose it, this makes repairs in the field a whole lot easier. The stowage compartment for a chain master link is great, and the ‘pliers’ that are formed when putting the two halves of the Alien X together to form the master link tool work well enough to do the trick in an emergency.
As mentioned, three of the commonly used hex keys are color coded and while that may seem a little thing, it actually comes in quite handy when you are searching in the Alien X’s forest of tools. The Torx bits are okay. They will get you by in a pinch. The tool steel the bits are made from seems like it will hold up well, but Torx sockets and bits are very easily damaged, so it really is up to the user there. I thought they were decent though.
The ease of deployment and the way the unwanted bits stayed out of my way was noteworthy here. Many less featured, cheaply made multi-tools have jaded me against using a multi-tool, but the Alien X may have changed my mind on this.
The Not-So Good: I was a bit baffled as to why there was no way to have better leverage with the larger bits provided here like the 8mm, 10mm, and T30 Torx socket. While trying to use the 8mm hex key to tighten a crank arm bolt, I was woefully under-torqued after maximum effort. Which leads me to point #2.
The edges of the Alien X are too squared off, and when you tightly grip the housing to torque a rotor bolt, let’s say, those edges are uncomfortable. I would have liked to see Topeak radius those off a bit so the hand feel while using the tool would be less painful.
Again, that stubby 8mm hex key. Seems like an afterthought, and with no good way to get leverage on it, it is even less useful. Speaking of which, the tire lever is almost laughably small and short. I suppose if you had forgotten to bring a ‘real tire lever’, maybe, but I wouldn’t rely on that feature of the Alien X. And I’m going to throw in the lack of a standard screw driver. Lose the tire lever and give me that instead? Seems like a good deal to me.
The spoke wrench was a bit unwieldy, but in a pinch…. Okay, I guess. I wouldn’t build a wheel with what is offered here, but a truing of a wheel to get you going again shouldn’t be impossible, just a bit fiddly.
At The Finish: So, what do we have here? I liked a lot of what the Alien X has to offer. Are the misses too much? Ahh……I’m going to say no. I think this is a great tool from the standpoint of the chain tool functions and the Torx and hex keys are pretty easy to use and cover about anything you could need to do. The big exception here is the lack of leverage for the bigger bits. Here I would pack a ‘real’ 8mm and 10mm hex key. A full length, shop quality key. The reality here is that the Alien X format just isn’t a good one for bits and tools that require a lot of hand pressure/torque. Ditto when you consider the squared off shape of the housing, which is not hand friendly.
Some folks may opine about the lack of any wrenches for hex head fasteners, but the reality of most modern bikes is that they don’t typically have hex head fasteners anymore. So, I give the Alien X a pass on that. (You could say the same about a standard screwdriver as well. I get it.)
This tool would definitely cover a lot of needs on a long, self-supported type ride where you may need to do some repair work to keep you going. It’s got a few things in there that are pretty iffy, (the tire lever, the larger hex keys/sockets and T30 socket) , but for the common repairs I think its a winner. It is compact and wouldn’t take up a lot of room, which is a bonus when space is at a premium.
For more on the Topeak Alien X Multi-Tool see their webpage here; https://www.topeak.com/global/en/products/75-Mini-Tools/1369-ALiEN-X
Note: Topeak sent over the Alien X Multi-Tool to Riding Gravel for test and review at no charge. We were not paid, nor bribed, for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts ad views throughout.