Park Tool I-Beam Review
Cons: Poor ergonomics, questionable durability, large size
Manufacturer: Park Tool
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you've ever set foot into the repair shop at virtually any bike shop in the world, then you've probably seen Park Tool's distinctive blue handled tools hanging or in the hands of the mechanics. They've been a dominant player in the bike tool market for as long as most people can remember, so we assumed that their IB-3 multi-tool would deliver a similarly high level of performance from one of the industry leaders. It quickly became apparent, however, that this was not the case, as it was outperformed in virtually every way by every other multi-tool in this review.
The IB-3 is equipped with 13 functions, all of which are useful in the field. It has the standard sizes of hex keys, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm. It also has a Torx 25, flathead screwdriver, chain breaker, and a large plastic coated tire lever with an 8mm box wrench and size 0 and 2 spoke wrenches integrated into it.
The ergonomics of the IB-3 are the worst in this test. We feel there is honestly nothing redeeming about the way this tool feels in your hand or the way the tools are laid out. Everything about this tool is awkward, the size, shape, slippery finish, removable tire lever, and the operation of the chain breaker. This comes as a huge surprise to us considering the quality tools that Park Tool has built their reputation upon.
The IB-3 is one of the heaviest models in our test selection. It weighs in at 177g, just 1g heavier than our Best Buy Award winner, the Blackburn Tradesman. It's at least 70g heavier than each of the lightest models in our test, the Lezyne V10, Ninja 16+, and Specialized EMT Pro MTB.
The IB-3 is also one of the most substantial tools in our test. It is the same length as both the Blackburn Tradesman and the Crankbrothers M19 at 3.5". At only 1-5/8" in width, it's a bit narrower than either of those tools, but it makes up for that in its thickness at a full inch. This tool is by far the bulkiest of all the models in this test.
Ease of Use
In general, the IB-3 is relatively user-friendly. There are a few aspects of its design, however, that make it a little less easy to use than some of the competition. One of the first things we noticed is that the tire lever is sort of in the way when you want to access certain tools. Testers found it helpful to slide the tire lever off the track to fold out many of the bits. When it's brand new, the tools are all a little tight and somewhat reluctant to spin. After a little break-in, they do start to spin out a little more freely, but overall, they tend to be a little tighter than many of the other models in this review.
The large chain breaker also has an innovative design. The threaded pin pusher has an 8mm box head, and it is intended to be used with the 8mm box wrench that is in the center of the plastic coated tire lever. It isn't especially difficult to break a chain with this tool, although the tire lever/wrench is a little bit prone to slipping off the head, and if you misplace or lose the tire lever then the tool is rendered useless. While this design works, its just a little more awkward than many of the simpler chain breakers like the Crankbrothers M19.
The very first time we used the IB-3 for anything was to free a T25 brake rotor bolt. Half a twist with the IB-3 and it's Torx 25 head was spun and deemed useless for the rest of its life. We repeat this was the very first use of this tool and an impression that cannot be overcome. Every other tool in this test was used in the same way and did not fail at the first possible moment, or ever for that matter. The longevity of the metal used for their bits is very questionable.
Another major durability concern we have about the IB-3 is the plastic coated tire lever that is attached to the main body of the tool on a slotted track. First, if the tire lever slides off the tool, which it is prone to do, you can lose it completely rendering your chain tool useless. Second, if you leave the tire lever on the track while you twist the tool during adjustments and repairs, you will do damage to the plastic, bending it and rounding it and making it less secure on the track than it already is. Before you know it, you'll have two separate tools. The 8mm hex key attachment is easily lost as it doesn't have the tightest fit on the 6mm hex key where it lives.
At a retail price of only $27, we'd generally be inclined to say the IB-3 is a good value. Because we spun the Torx 25 head on its very first use and this tool has worst in test ergonomics and is generally awkward to use, we would say that your money is better spent elsewhere.
We think it is rare that a bike tool from Park Tool doesn't knock our socks off, but this is one of those times. Their IB-3 multi-tool doesn't compare to the competition in this case. It is bulky, with poor ergonomics and questionable durability. If you're looking for the best value in a multi-tool, we suggest checking out the Blackburn Tradesman which retails for $3 more and has more functions and better overall design.
Other Versions and Accessories
Park Tool makes a full line of workshop and multi-tools. The IB-3 reviewed here is the most fully featured of the I-Beam models.
The IB-1 ($16) has 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen keys, plus a flat head screwdriver. It weighs 91g.
The IB-2 ($17) has 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Allen keys, a T25, and a flathead screwdriver, and weighs 108g.
— Jeremy Benson