The Sardine is a portable tool developed over three and a half years by Alternative Bicycles, a bicycle company in Japan that handles Apidura, Wolf Tooth, and other products.
From its shape, one can imagine that it will be a completely new usability that is different from conventional portable tools. We actually used it and verified its capability.
**The Sardine in this post was provided by Alternative Bicycles and the review is original to Love Cyclist.
1. My thoughts on portable tools
Mr. Kitazawa, the developer of Sardine, says, “I aim to be the Chris King of the portable tool world.”
The Sardine has a minimalist configuration (hex 6,5,4,3 + T25) with only the most frequently used bits.
Personally, I am attracted to products that have been stripped down to the bare essentials and specialized for a particular use, and when I learned of the release of the Sardine, I thought, “I want to use this…! I was attracted to this concept because it was so appealing.
The streamlined shape with a slight bulge in the middle is cute and comfortable to hold.
The high-grade machined aluminum body and glossy blue color. The actual product looks even more luxurious than the impression seen on SNS.
The regularly lined machining lines of aluminum cutting and the engraved brand logo are pleasing to the eye and make you want to touch it all the time.
I had been using a PB SWISS TOOLS bike tool. Although it was multifunctional, there were bits that I never actually used, and I felt that I wanted to minimize the configuration.
Saddle clamps, stems, bottle cages, derailleur hangers, through-axles, etc. to handle most of your on-the-go troubles
Over the course of my biking career, I have encountered numerous problems while riding, and my experience has clarified what I need in a portable tool. That is almost matched with the bit configuration of the Sardine.
With bit adapter attached
However, in the past I have also carried a Phillips screwdriver for mount adjustment, so when necessary, I use a PB Swiss bit adapter attached to the sardine. This operation reduces the number of items I carry to a minimum, and together with the ease of use described below, I feel it is the best way to do this.
2. Sardine’s quintessential “Quick Turn”
Straight and fast turn → L-shape and torque → 180 degree turn and more torque
The ability to perform this series of movements seamlessly is the essence of the Sardine.
Conventional multi-tools have similar shapes, and it has been a struggle to even insert the tool into a bolt, especially if it is located in a position that is not easily visible.
In contrast, the Sardine’s ease of use is revolutionary, as once inserted, it does not need to be removed until the bolt is tightened. Mr. Kitazawa calls it “the easiest to use tool in the world,” and it is easy to see why.
And this sense of speed is very helpful when we are on the road.
Especially in winter when our hands get cold, in midsummer when we want to get to a cool café as soon as possible, or when we can’t bear to keep our friends waiting on a group ride, we basically want to complete machine troubles quickly. The quick turnaround reduces the psychological burden of the work.
3. Pros / Cons
In addition to the “quick turn,” the following three points enhance Sardine’s usability.
(1) There is no part that cannot be used
Rarely are there bolts or screws that are inaccessible because of interference with a typical multi-tool, but not with the Sardine (at least not on my bike).
(2) No need to replace bits
Access to any bit
The PB SWISS TOOLS bike tool set I had in the past was easy to use, but the process of changing bits was plain stressful. The Sardine is great because you can change bits by simply turning the bit with one hand.
It spins around. The resistance of rotation is just right, and it doesn’t move weirdly when working.
Only T-shape 6mm can be used for through-axle
This is surprisingly useful when doing maintenance at home. When you do maintenance while washing your bike outdoors, it saves you the trouble of going back and forth to the toolbox to find more of this or less of that.
This is a multi-tool that is easy to use and can replace stationary tools at home.
However, as we can see from the size of this tool, there is a possibility of damage if we apply too much torque, so we use a torque wrench to finish the parts that need to be tightened with high torque.
(3) Space saving
With the recent boom in gravel bikes and the rise of wider tires, spare tubes have been getting larger and larger, and as a result, the tool case is getting squeezed.
I have plans to switch to an all-road bike in the near future (currently waiting for delivery) and needed to free up space in my tool case. The smaller and slimmer body of the unit gives me more room in my tool case.
Sardin is highly complete, and I have no particular complaints about its usability as a tool, but if I were forced to mention it, I would say the following two points.
(1) Bit tip is exposed.
Sardin also sells a separate holder that can be mounted under the bottle cage, but I personally don’t want to place it where it will be exposed and would like to have some sort of sleeve or case to protect the tip.
I can’t put it in my back pocket if it is naked, and my Morimono saddlebags and pouches are made of Dyneema, which might break through with an exposed bit tip. I am considering DIYing a case with leather craft….
(2) Color Variations
Expect to see a wide variety of color variations in the future like the original Chris King. Personally, I am eagerly awaiting matte bourbon…!
4. Tools to focus more on the ride.
While it is important for a portable tool to be multifunctional, weight, size, and ease of use are a trade-off for the full range of functions. While the Sardine is by no means multifunctional, its design philosophy is to increase work efficiency while addressing most of the problems encountered on a normal ride.
However, I feel that cyclists who do not have a clear idea of their desired requirements for a portable tool will not be able to get the most out of the Sardine’s potential.
── Is 6,5,4,3 + T25 enough? If you feel it is not enough, you should carry an adapter and bits separately. If you have a problem that you can’t handle, you will either go home in a circle or bring it to a nearby store.
In this way, I believe that by drawing a firm line on the scope of what you can handle yourself based on sardines, you will become more sensitive to maintenance and be able to concentrate on your ride with peace of mind.