Industry Nine are best known for their wheelsets, exotic creations that are handbuilt using spokes and hubs manufactured in their Asheville, North Carolina, factory.
Flying a bit lower on most people's radar is I9's $160 USD MatchStix multi-tool and axle combo, which is also made in the same facility and is designed to ensure that, as long as your front wheel is still on your bike, the vital tools you might require will be there as well.
The MatchStix thru-axle multi-tool consists of three elements. First, the handle, which is available in eleven different anodized colors, functions as a chain tool, spoke wrench (common 3.23mm), and a bit holder. The chain tool is driven by a 3mm bit that's attached to the axle core (more on that below), and a 5mm bit is permanently installed into the handle as well.
• Thru-axle w/ integrated multi-tool
• Compatible w/ Fox and RockShox 15 x 100mm and 110mm
• Integrated chain tool, spoke wrench, 5mm hex in handle
• Included bits: stainless steel 6, 4, 2.5, 2mm hex, T25 torx
• Manufactured in Asheville, North Carolina
• Weight: 103-grams (Pike, Boost)
• MSRP: $160 USD (chain breaker handle, axle, bit sleeve, 6 bits, end cap)
All of that attaches to the end of the axle via an interference fit by way of an O-ring that's recessed into the handle, and there's another O-ring on the opposite side that helps to hold in whichever of the removable bits you may need to call upon. I would have called it the 'Smuggle Skewer,' but that's just me. The handle pulls off and is also a chain tool, 5mm hex, and spoke wrench.
The axle itself, which is available to fit Fox and RockShox forks with 15 x 100mm or 15 x 110mm (Boost) spacing is butted, with extra material removed from its center where it isn't required, and Industry Nine has anodized the sizing and torque directly onto it to prevent to prevent any confusion.
Wondering how the hell I9 managed to fit four different bits, as well as a spare chain link and valve core remover, inside of the axle? The answer is a combination of cleverness and... rubber tubing. The stainless steel bits - you can find replacements and other sizes at any hardware store - all slide into a short section of clear rubber tubing, with room for four in total. You can access the innermost bits without having to slide all of them out thanks to small slits cut into the tubing, and the tool snake is pushed onto an insert before being slipped down the center of the axle. The opposite end of the axle works as a valve core tool, bit holder, and home for a spare link. It plugs into a clear rubber tube inside the axle that holds four bits that can be popped out of slits.
This short insert, which can also be used to hold a chain link (not included) is held in place by way of another O-ring, and it's used as a handle for the 3mm bit that drives the chain tool. I have a feeling someone at I9 is really, really good a jigsaw puzzles.
A complete MatchStix multi-tool axle costs $160 USD, which is, I'm sure you know, a lot of money for a multi-tool. Park's MT-40 retails for $54.99 USD and includes more tools, but there are way less expensive options than that as well. It's also a lot of money for an axle - a replacement Maxle Ultimate for a RockShox fork is around $75 USD. But if you need (more like want
) both an axle and a multi-tool, and like fancy things, the US-made MatchStix's price might not look crazy to you.
The Boost-compatible MatchStix setup for a Pike weighs 103-grams on my scale, which includes all of the bits, while the stock Maxle Ultimate weighs 77-grams. A true comparison would obviously depend on which multi-tool you're going to be leaving at home if you bought yourself a MatchStix axle.
I replaced the Maxle Ultimate Boost axle on my Pike with the MatchStix thru-axle and, just like you'd hope, it threaded right into place without issue. The anodized handle's interference fit onto the axle is quite tight to keep it from rattling off - I don't see how it could given that I struggled to pull it off at first - and you can clock it so it's in-line with the bottom of the fork or vertical before snapping it back into place. The O-ring might wear out over time, making for a looser tolerance, but it has been fine for the handful of months that I've had it. One odd thing to note is that the other end of the axle, the insert that is home to the bits, protrudes out from the side of the fork by about three-quarters of an inch. This makes it easy to grab ahold of, but not that pretty looking.
Okay, so you need to fix something? First, you pull the tool handle off the axle (the axle itself actually stays in the fork) and then, if you need to use a bit other than the 5mm that's on the handle, you slide the tool snake out of the opposite end by tugging on the tool-core plug. Getting the bits out of the rubber tube is easy; simply pull and bend the rubber tube up and over the bit until it's sticking out of the slit that Industry Nine cut into it, then install whatever it is that you need onto the handle.
It takes less than a minute to get everything out and ready which, if you're concerned about such things, is probably about the same amount of time required to remove your pack and fish out your multi-tool. The axle itself stays in your fork, while the handle pops off and the tool snake is pulled out of the opposite side.
Using the chain tool is a bit finicky because you need to drive the tool with a 3mm bit by sticking said bit into the end of the tool-core plug and use that for leverage, but it gets the job done and that's all most of us are concerned about when we need a chain tool.
It all goes back together in the opposite way, all while the axle itself is still in your fork. If for some reason you lose the handle, you can use any 5mm hex key to install or remove the axle. And if you want to be a gram geek on race day and go tool-free, you can leave the handle and tool snake out of the axle completely. But that'd be silly, so don't do that. The handle, while just a bit shorter than what's used on the stock Maxle Ultimate, provides more than enough leverage as well. Issues
The MatchStix's tools are all functional and get the job done, which is all you really need most of the time, but I'm personally not a fan of having to pull off the tool/axle handle and slide out the axle's innards (you can leave the axle itself in your fork) everytime I need to make some sort of adjustment. Also, I'm clumsy as hell and dropped the bits onto the forest floor on multiple occasions while trying to get the right one out.
The chain tool is completely functional, but it's also kinda awkward to get everything together and lined up. And unlike a traditional chain tool that has teeth of sorts that hold the chain in place by going into the female sections, the MatchStix's design sees the chain sit in a recess in the handle that doesn't quite do that same job as well - you need to pay attention to make sure everything is lined up correctly and hold it there with your thumb while you start to push the pin out. Pinkbike’s Take:
|Industry Nine's MatchStix thru-axle-cum-multi-tool is really freaking cool, and it's a clever, well-made piece of bling. That said, it doesn't do anything better than a relatively inexpensive multi-tool you'd carry in your pocket, and it's actually more of a hassle to use in most circumstances. I get it - the tools will always be there when you need them because your axle is always there - but this one's a hard sell for me when I've had zero issues slipping a little multi-tool in my pocket or bag for the last twenty-something years. - Mike Levy|
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