In September of last year, Seattle-based PNW released a minimal yet beautifully designed bike tool dubbed the Pebble. The Pebble caught everyone's attention with its built-in Dynaplug bit and hot colors. Over the past few months, Gerald has been testing the Pebble in Austria to see how it measures up against his beloved Crankbrothers tool.
I never leave on a ride without a mini-tool, a mini-pump, and a decent tire lever. For the past few years, I have used the Crankbrothers m20 (the 20 stands for 20 tools!) which has saved my butt more than a few times. Personally, I find it one of the best all-in-one tools on the market with a hard-to-beat value-for-money ratio. It comes with almost every possible tool one could need: all sorts of hex and Torx bits, a chain breaker, spoke wrenches, a rotor alignment tool, and more. Having a lot of experience with such a maximalist tool, I was quite curious about the new Pebble from PNW and if it could fit my needs.
PNW is a fairly young company from… you probably have already guessed, America's Pacific Northwest… Seattle to be exact. They may be young, but PNW has quickly made a name for itself as a solid manufacturer of quality mountain and gravel bike components. I first came across them while searching for a new drop bar. I was looking for something wider than a standard bar with a shallow drop and finally ended up getting PNW's Coast Bar which I highly recommend. They offer a range of products including dropper posts, handlebars, stems, apparel, accessories, and the aforementioned Pebble tool.
Honestly, I was quite skeptical about the Pebble. I have had my Crankbrothers m20 for a long time now and have become quite comfortable with having all 20 tools with me while riding. The Pebble and my m20 are on opposite sides of the bike tool spectrum. While the Pebble can be considered a minimal tool the m20 is something for the over-prepared rider. When the package arrived at my door, I quickly opened it and found a small, well-designed cardboard box about the size of a box of matches in it. And within this box was, the blood orange colored Pebble. I was immediately impressed by its size, color, and design
Taste might be subjective but like most people on earth, I am a sucker for any well-designed product. And the Pebble definitely checks this box. Beyond the Pebble's minimal size and weight, it just feels solid in your hand which is usually a good signal of high quality. It has no sharp edges and nothing rattles. The Pebble is available in four lovely colors: Blood Orange, Golden Daze Bronze, Blackout Black, and Fruit Snacks (aka purple). The Pebble clearly is a thing of beauty. All its bits offer the same impression of quality with hyper-close manufacturing tolerances. Stunning.
I am a mechanical engineer by trade and can't help but get caught up in the details of how products like the Pebble are created. So, what do small and light actually mean in numbers? The PNW mini tool measures: L 65mm, W 21mm, H 15mm and weighs just 51g. A tool so small it will fit any pocket or bag, and so light you will hardly notice it's even there. It features 6 tools: 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, and 6mm hex and a T25 Torx which is hidden under a Dynaplug tool. That may not seem like much compared to other “mini” tools that often come with 20 or more. It seems the Pebble was designed as a minimalist tool with modern bikes in mind.
The stand-out feature on the Pebble is by far, the Dynaplug tool. To be fair, I have yet to try a Dynaplug but there are many, many reviews out there claiming it to be the best solution for plugging tubeless tires. I “unfortunately” did not have a puncture during the test period so we will need to assume that Dynaplugs are awesome. And after watching this video, I would have to say that assumption is safe.
The Pebble doesn't show any noticeable flex under load, however, to be fair, I have to mention that smaller screws and bolts do not require a lot of torque. Most of the smaller hex screws in the range of 3-6mm require about 3 to 10Nm. On the other hand, the 8mm hex screws used on cranks ask for something around 40Nm, so a tool with an 8mm hex should handle greater forces and therefore might need more solid construction. Should you need a little more pressure to open or tighten a screw, the smooth pebble-like edges ensure the tool is easy on your hands—a godsend if you are doing a quick trailside fix. Due to its compact design, it is hard or impossible to reach some of the screws, for example, the ones for the adapter of my front brake. However, this is not a unique problem to the Pebble and an issue that many bike tools face. Another small challenge I noticed, is that it can be tricky to unfold the individual bits due to the Pebble's size and rounded parts. A challenge sure, but not a show-stopper by any means.
The Pebble is a lovely designed tool but can it replace something like my beloved Crankbrothers m20? Well, that all depends on your expectations. If you are looking for the 'one tool to rule them all', then the Pebble might not be for you as that's obviously not what it's intended to be. For example, I still run square taper brackets on some of my bikes which require an 8mm hex key. And then there is the lack of a chain tool.
I will admit that the Pebble has changed how I look at bike tools. Just maybe… I do not need a big bulky all-in-one tool for every ride. The Pebble has me covered for a ride on my local trails and groads and it is so small and light that I can put it in any of my pockets and not be distracted by it.
The Pebble might not be the cheapest tool out there (Dynaplugs are rather expensive on their own) but for its quality, it seems like a sweet deal. Also, a good multi-tool should last you a long time and PNW offers a lifetime warranty making the deal even sweeter.
Get it here for $37 USD.
|Ultra light and well designed|
|Not the cheapest|
|Bits can be fiddly to unfold|
|No chain tool|