Tools might not be the most glamorous topic, but Silca is leading a bit of a functional renaissance. The original inception of Silca goes way back to Milan in 1917. That's when they started building a reputation for legendarily high quality floor pumps but it wasn't until 2013 when the company was sold to, Joshua Poertner, that the company moved stateside and started reinvigorated with new products. There is definitely one thing that hasn't changed through the transition, or in the life of the company, it's their dedicated focus on building beautifully functional and reliable products. Since the change in ownership, I've keenly watched their growth and like everyone else, lust after their floor pumps.
One Silca product in particular that had caught my attention was the T-Ratchet & Ti-torque. Why? First, it has a bit of a backstory. The product development story for the T-Rachet & Ti-torque begins as a fully funded Kickstarter project. (I secretly love crowd sourcing) In fact, Silca raised over $300,000USD from nearly 300 backers and that's got to be one of the most successful cycling related crowdfunding projects ever. But why does a well established company like Silca even need to raise a Kickstarter? It's a bit of a surprising answer. One thing that people don't appreciate is just how expensive it is to tool up a factory with the manufacturing equipment needed for a new product. On Cycling Tips podcast episode 16, Josh Poertner, the new owner of Silca, is a guest panelist who does well to explain in greater detail some of the reasons behind their go to market approach. Check it out. It's 60 minutes well spent.
Back to the actual product. The T-Ratchet & Ti-torque are not my first Silca products, I've also have and love the EOLO III, as well as their new Apron Premio (more on these in the future I'm sure). Yet, when I saw the Ti-torque hit the shelf of the local bike shop I had to grab one. After some time in the home workshop with the tool, I want to share some more of my perspective on this pocket-sized torque wrench.
Should you care about any torque wrench at all?
Well, if you do any maintenance on your bike at all, you NEED to have a torque wrench of some sort. That's because as bikes and their components become more and more sophisticated, they arguably become more and more delicate too. Don't believe me? Check out the installation instructions for any parts. For everyone of them you're going to find a very specific torque spec. I can't stress how important it is that you follow these specs in order to avoid damaging your parts, your frame, or at best to avoid any parts slipping. Failing to follow these specs will likely void your warranty. Lastly, while there are all sorts of coffee shop tales on how to feel the right specs by hand, don't believe any of them. Every time I've cracked a carbon part (yes everyone does it at some point) was when I was not using a torque wrench. Torque wrenches aren't cheap but they are definitely cheaper than replacing a cracked seatpost or handlebar. Think of it as a wise investment.
What is a torque spec? Read the Park Tool Torque Specs and Concepts
Ok but why a pocket sized torque wrench? The best answer is that most good quality torque wrenches are far from portable. I can't remember where I heard it, and I don't have any way to concretely validate it, but the most common way bike parts are broken from being over torqued is during roadside repairs. Think about it, your parts slip during a ride and you pull over to adjust them. You're in a hurry, the group is waiting, and you just want to get on with it. You turn your tools until it feels good and tight, worried it will slip again…… then crack! Unfortunately now you're day is done and your wallet is going to be a bunch of bucks lighter. With that scenario in mind, let me ask you, now doesn't the idea of a pocket sized torque wrench make more sense? That's the key reason I picked one up.
So how does the Silca T-Ratchet & Ti-torque stack up to the task? To best answer that question I see that there are some ups, and some downs;
- Beautiful design
- High quality components, solid construction, and clean finish
- T shape handle creates more consistent leverage
- Versatile: Works as torque wrench, ratchet, or screwdriver
- Includes a wide assortment of heads required for varied bike maintenance
- Labeled bit heads for fast size identification
- Quite heavy (230gr whole package, 94gr for ratchet and Ti-torque w/o heads or case)
- Included case is bulky
- Multiple components and loose parts
- No click points
- Torque guide is very minimal and hard to read. Can lead to over torquing. Only indicates even numbers, hard to identify odd or partial specs
- Torque range is limited (goes to 8nm)
Who are the Silca T-ratchet and Ti-torque right for?
Honestly I think everyone should have a torque wrench and know how to use it. The Ti-torque is a great option if you need one and portability is a purchase criteria. For those that travel with their bike and need to assemble/disassemble their bikes, the Ti-torque is a good option. Especially over some other hand held torque wrenches that are limited to a single Nm limit. And finally, if you're someone concerned about roadside repairs then the T-ratchet and Ti-torque may be what you're looking for.
Tip: Never use the Ti-Torque or any torque wrench to loosen bolts or screws. Torque wrenches are finely calibrated tools and should be cared for. Loosening bolts can destroy the calibration. On regular torque wrenches, always return them to zero when not in use.
At $98USD, the Silca T-ratchet and Ti-torque are not the cheapest hand tools. They are going to take a noticeable bite out of your wallet, but you do get what you pay for. The construction quality is what you expect from Silca. It is a very well made product right down to the included case. The full package includes everything you need for basic maintenance, travelling, and roadside repairs. If you are travelling with your bike, the included heads will have you covered for tear down and build up. Because of its limited torque range (8Nm max) and that it is hard to identify odd or partial torque specs, I don't advise this be your only torque wrench. Start with a good click limit torque wrench and then add this to your mobile repair repertoire.
If you're intending to put this into your on road essentials kit, you can reduce the size and weight by leaving the included case at home and putting a small section of the hex bits into a small plastic hex bit storage. You can usually find them as spare parts in any hardware store. I took a 5 piece one out of an old Stanley ratchet set in my basement and slipped it all into my saddle roll.