Blackburn Switch Wrap Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Portability, on-bike storage, ergonomics
Cons: Slower to use, multiple pieces
Manufacturer: Blackburn Design
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Unlike the other models in our test, the Blackburn Switch Wrap performs double duty as both a multi-tool and a frame-mounted hauler for your flat repair kit. While traditional multi-tools are meant to be stashed in your saddle bag or pack, the Switch Wrap is its own pack. It features storage space for a tube, C02 cartridge, and tire lever along with its ergonomic tool kit. Mounting it to a frame takes just a few seconds with its sturdy velcro strap, and you can choose from a few viable on-bike locations depending on your frame style and your personal preference. When we received the Switch Wrap, we eagerly strapped it to a top tube, and it quickly became a favorite among our more pack-averse testers.
The Switch Wrap carries a useful 15-function tool kit inside of a small velcro pocket. It doesn't match the most fully-featured tools in our test, but it has everything that you'll need for common trailside mechanicals and a few more for good measure. It packs all of the common hex sizes necessary for modern bikes with 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm wrenches. Additionally, it holds the two most common Torx sizes, T25 and T30, a flat head screwdriver, and a chain tool. On the chain tool are also size 0, 1, and 2 spoke wrenches, disc brake pad spreader, and a Presta valve core tool. With this arsenal of tools at your disposal, you can conquer a wide variety of mechanical mishaps.
The Switch Wrap's 15 functions sit roughly at the median of the tools we tested. It is far from the most capable model we tried out, but also offers more than just the barebones essentials. The Switch Wrap offers a happy medium between the extremes. Tools that provide similar functionality include the Crankbrothers F15 with 15 and the ToPeak Ninja 16+ with 16, but neither of these tools offers the portability and carrying capacity of the Switch Wrap.
Blackburn's Switch Wrap design breaks the mold of traditional multi-tools and more closely mimics what you would find in a workshop setting. Rather than a self-contained unit with many functions, the Switch Wrap gives users a socket handle and a set of bits that can be configured as either T or L-handle wrenches. This versatility allows you to access hard-to-reach bolts in tight places and provides more leverage than you typically get from a multi-tool. When assembled, the wrenches fit well in the palm but are shorter than typical workshop T-handles. Despite the length, the Switch Wrap's tools were the most ergonomic in our test.
In the process of testing, we discovered the small handle flap on the Switch Wrap's chain tool makes it difficult to find leverage with your left hand when punching out a pin. This was a common ergonomic issue that we experienced with many multi-tools in our test including the Pedros Rx Micro-20 and the Lezyne RAP-21 CO2, and it was one of the only things that held the Switch Wrap back from a perfect ergonomics rating. Regardless, the Switch Wrap's ergonomics impressed our users throughout the testing process. Only the ToPeak Ratchet Rocket Lite DX topped it in this category.
The Switch Wrap's frame-mounting velcro strap makes it one of the most portable models in our test. Out of the box, the entire wrap including all of the tools weighs just 178 grams. Considering that this tool can haul your flat repair kit and allow you to forgo your saddle bag or pack, we think that the weight is very reasonable. Initially, we had fears that the wrap might scuff or mark a frame when mounted, but we took it for numerous rides mounted to multiple bikes without a hint of a scratch. Once it's strapped on you can forget about the Switch Wrap until it comes time to use it. We mounted it to multiple locations on the frame as well as the saddle rails and had no issues or bothers while riding. The velcro strap's length can be easily adjusted to fit any mounting location and, when pulled tight, it locks the contents in place. In the past, we've experienced problems with tubes and CO2 being jostled free from similar carrying systems, but the Switch Wrap gave us no such issues through countless hours of rough singletrack riding.
The Switch Wrap received our highest possible score in the portability metric. Only two other models, the OneUp EDC, and the ToPeak Ninja 16+ matched its performance. The OneUp EDC is the only other tool in our test that offers an on-bike carrying system, but unlike the Switch Wrap, it doesn't offer the luxury of hauling a tube as well. Riders who are looking for a more traditional portable multi-tool might want to take a look at the Ninja 16+, but anyone who dreams of breaking free from their pack would be well served by the Switch Wrap.
Ease of Use
While the Switch Wrap shines in its portability and ergonomics, it also sacrifices some speed and simplicity to more traditional multi-tool designs. We found that when we encountered an issue on the trail, the repair process took a bit longer with Blackburn's socket system. When compared to some of the simplest tools in our test, the process of opening the wrap, removing the tool kit, and assembling our desired socket wrench seemed like an involved ordeal. Once you're used to it, the process doesn't take longer than 20 seconds, but if you're in a hurry that time is valuable. Additionally, we found that when the Switch Wrap is fully loaded with a tube, C02 cartridge, and tire lever it can be a tight fit, and it might take some elbow grease to get the tool kit back into its velcro pocket when your repair is complete. Overall, however, the Switch Wrap was still relatively easy to use, and we loved the freedom from a pack that it provided.
Among the tools in our test, the Switch Wrap scored lowest in the ease-of-use metric. The difference between the speed and simplicity of this tool and the highest scoring tools in our test is relatively small, but it's enough to be of interest to riders and racers looking for quick repairs in the field. When you're up against the clock, a few extra seconds on a repair can be costly. Riders who value speedy repairs and adjustments may want to pass on the Switch Wrap.
Throughout our testing process, we didn't experience any problems with the Switch Wrap's tools, but we did have some concerns with the durability of the nylon carrying case itself. Despite extensive use in the field and the workshop, our Switch Wrap's wrenches didn't show any wear and tear at the end of our test, but parts the wrap itself did. After just a couple of uses, we noticed that the mesh pouch that holds the chain tool was starting to tear. This likely occurred during the high-friction operation of taking the tool kit in and out of the fully-packed wrap.
We have confidence in the material quality of the Switch Wrap, but a nylon case relying on velcro inherently lacks durability when compared to the metal construction of the traditional multi-tools in our test. While the velcro strap is robust and we didn't have any problems with it in testing we couldn't quite rank it at the same level as all-metal tools.
At $45 the Switch Wrap sits at the higher end of our test's price range, but, when considering the portability and storage benefits it provides, we think that it's a solid value. With the Switch Wrap, Blackburn provides 15 functions and reliable on-bike storage for your flat-repair kit at a comparable price to the Specialized EMT Pro and the Pedros Rx Micro-20. If you prize the unencumbered feeling of pack-less riding, the Switch Wrap is without a doubt a great purchase.
The Blackburn Switch Wrap offers a unique feature that none of the other tools we tested can claim. In addition to its carrying capacity, riders will be well served by this tool's ergonomic wrenches and its set-it-and-forget-it portability. Once it's mounted on your frame, you'll never have to worry about forgetting part of your repair kit at the house. Those looking for speedy trailside repairs might want to look into a more traditional multi-tool design, but we found that the sacrifices in ease of use were more than made up for by the freedom from a pack that the Switch Wrap provided.
— Zach Wick