Justin Dodd and Mike Manzione founded Mineral Design with three products: The "Mini Bar" multi-tool and the "Barstow System," which is a pair of handlebar end-caps—one that houses a chain breaker, and another tipped with a Quik-Stik tire lever. Each is sold separately, but I thought I'd lump the trio together, because they are well made and so cleverly designed that, after you bought one, you'd probably be inspired to collect the set—if not for their intended purpose, then for trail-side show and tell. Mineral's tools can be purchased directly from their web store
, with prices ranging from $34.99 USD for the Minibar to $54.99 for the Barstow chain breaker and tire lever combination.
Mineral TIG-welds the Mini Bar's L-handle from lightweight steel tubing, which is then nickel plated. All three ends of the L-handle accept standard 1/4-inch tool bits, retained by powerful neodymium magnets. The Mini Bar comes with ten popular bits, so you can customize its six-tool plastic carrier to suit your bike's hardware. Like the L-handle, the carrier has magnets to retain each of the six bits, and magnets on each end of the tool carriage secure it to the L-handle when stowed. The advantage of the Mini bar is that it offers much more leverage than a folding tool for jobs like removing a pedal or a crank arm, and far more dexterity for accessing hard-to-reach hardware or for tedious jobs, like changing brake rotors. Weight is 112 grams for the kit, including six tool bits.
Mini Bar Details:
• L-handle: TIG-welded steel tubing, 3.8" x 1.3" (97 x 33.5mm), 1.4" driver - 3 places
• Durable electroless nickel finish
• 10 standard 1/4" bits: (carrier holds 6) 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm, Torx T25, Phillips, flat screwdriver
• Bits and L-handle secured by powerful neodymium magnets
• Safe, rounded shape when stowed
• Weight: 112 grams (4 ounces)—tool carrier and 6 bits
• MSRP: $34.99 USD
Magnets on either end of the tool carriage lock the L-wrench snugly into position when stowed.
Stored bits reside inside the L-handle's holes.
Powerful magnets also keep the bits in their proper receptacles.
Mineral's Mini Bar tool feels good in the hand and is a joy to work with. The kit is heavier than I would like it to be, but the trade-off is its usefulness in the most common situations that give cause to reach for a multi-tool when I am away from my workshop. I can use foot pressure on the sturdy L-handle to remove a stubborn pedal, and I can spin the long end of the L-handle like a slim screwdriver to adjust rear derailleur stop-screws, tighten a pedal cleat, access fussy seat rail clamps, or to speed up the task of switching brake levers (I ride moto style). What the Mini bar lacks are the seldom-used essentials that come on better folding multi-tools, like spoke keys, valve core removers, and a chain breaker. You'll have to carry those extras or wager that you won't need them. That said, the Mini Bar is like using a pro-quality tool while making trail-side repairs, which is a treat.
The Barstow system begins with a pair of machined aluminum bar ends that grip the inside of the handlebar with expandable wedges. The wedges fit most handlebar inner diameters and are secured with a five-millimeter Allen key, which means that you'll need to have at least one tool on the outside of the handlebar to access your secret stash on the inside. The tire lever is the famous Quik-Stik, which is the weapon of choice for tire-changing competitions because only a single tool is required to lift the tire bead free from the rim and then off in one powerful sweeping motion. Should you break your modified Quik-Stik, Mineral Designs sells replacements for $11.99. Weight is pegged at 30 grams (1.1 ounces) and bar ends are available in red, black or silver.
Barstow Tire Lever Details:
• Anodized aluminum cap with internal expander wedges
• Replaceable, modified Quik Stik tire lever
• 15.9mm OD fits inside most aluminum and carbon handlebars
• Requires 5mm Allen key to install/remove from handlebar
• Colors: red, black and silver
• Weight: 30 grams (1.1 ounces)
• Replacement lever: $11.99 USD
• MSRP: $39.99 USD (includes two end caps, one with tire lever)
The Barstow tire lever remained rattle free.
A 5mm Allen hex expands the wedges inside the handlebar.
Mineral Design's bar-end tire lever is not ground-breaking, as there are a number of similar products available. What makes theirs stand out is partnering with the Quik-Stik lever, which is the only solo tire lever I have used that can do the job well. I can work most tires off with my bare hands, but having an emergency lever in the handlebar is insurance that I won't get caught in the middle of nowhere with a stubborn tire and no easy solution to remove it. If you ride heavy DH tires on your trail bike, the Barstow could be a day saver. The downside is that a conventional tire lever is easy to carry and extremely lightweight—about a third that of the Mineral bar-end. So, forty bucks to have a tire lever stashed in your handlebar is more stylistic than practical.
As chain tools go, the Barstow option is one of the better solutions for riders who want to at least appear that they travel light. It's a class act, from the O-ring insert that keeps the swivel handle in position while you are using it (and rattle free when you're not), to its sturdy cast steel body. The swivel handle has a magnetized quick-link storage feature that retains the link, unlocked. Operating the chain tool requires a five millimeter Allen key, and the pin plunger doubles as the bar-end's expander bolt. Weight is 47 grams (add another 15 grams for the second end-cap that comes with the kit), and the MSRP is $44.99.
Barstow ChainTool Details:
• O-ring prevents swivel handle from bouncing inside handlebar
• Long-wearing cast steel body
• Replaceable pin plunger doubles as the expander bolt
• Magnetic quick-link storage feature
• Requires 5mm Allen key to operate
• Weight:47 grams (1. 4 ounces)—one side
• Colors: Red, black, silver
• MSRP: $44.99 USD (tool including second end-cap.)
Quick link storage feature. – Mineral Design image
The chain breaker operates with a 5mm Allen Key
A tiny magnet between the holes retains both sides of a quick link.
Anyone who has wrestled with a bad chain tool will appreciate a good one. The Barstow chain tool operates smoothly, so its user can successfully press a pin through a side plate for an exact distance, and it doesn't require excessive torque to manipulate. Much of that is due to Mineral's choice to use a steel body, which creates a smoother sliding surface for the threaded plunger than a lighter-weight aluminum body would. The diameter of the chain breaker body interfered with one house-brand carbon handlebar in my collection, which reminded me to mention that the Barstow's expanding plug design may not interface with some handlebars, and grip designs with closed ends. I had no issues with the swivel handle clanking around inside the bar, but I question how long that O-ring is going to last in the Southern California heat. For the minimalist rider, the Barstow chain breaker allows you to stash a pro-quality tool discreetly inside your handlebar, so all you need in your pocket is a small, basic folding kit.