There are certain jobs that, while they don’t necessarily require them, get a whole lot easier with dedicated tools. Given the decent number of hydraulic disc brakes that come through the Bikerumor workshop, I was excited when Jagwire sent out their consumer-oriented Space Age 2.0 hydraulic hose cutter and their Needle Driver™, um, needle driver. After several months using the pair, I’ve had the chance to shorten the lines on brakes from a number of manufacturers- and it’s become a much cleaner job. Click through for the details…
Sure, anyone with a block of wood and a box cutter can trim a hydraulic line. They might even do it cleanly and without spraying carcinogenic DOT fluid all over (remember your safety glasses, kids). But after countless sessions with a bike in the stand and a 2×4 balanced on my knee and a sharp knife in my hand, I have to say that the $24 Space Age 2.0 is a big improvement. The little cutter is shaped so as to be easily held in one hand while the hose is held in the other. The replaceable blade is plenty sharp, pulling its victim against the cutter’s body as it cuts.
Made of relatively inexpensive plastic, the Space Age 2.0 isn’t intended for professional shop use (the Space Age Pro is) and after about a half-dozen uses I’ve managed to tweak the blade enough that it needs a little push from the hose to find its slot in the far side of the body. It’s not an essential tool- but as it makes an occasional job easier and safer, it’s been a welcome addition to my workshop.
I’ve long known that my technique of clamping hydraulic lines in little plastic blocks with ChannelLock while hitting hydraulic needles with a hammer was less than optimal. Though largely effective, enough fluid is usually lost that a brake bleed is needed. I hate doing unnecessary brake bleeds. The $40 Needle Driver™, on the other hand, is really easy to use and tends to leave fluid where it belongs. Made of sturdier plastic than the Space Age 2.0, the Needle Driver™ has a nice adjustable hose holder and a chain tool-like driver. Slide any cosmetic boot, nut, and olive over the brake line, start the needle by hand, and clamp the hose in place. A few turns of the T-handle will drive the needle in easily, displacing fluid as it goes.
Though nearly twice the price of the Space Age 2.0, I find the Needle Driver™ to be a much more valuable tool. For me, avoiding even a couple of unnecessary bleeds is well worth the price of admission. My only concern came when driving one of Jagwire’s own HyFlow needles into their hose. As can be seen (just barely) to the right, the hard turning actually produced some fine brass shavings in use. I was able to flush them out of the hose by pushing on the caliper pistons (attached to the far end of the hose), but nobody wants shavings in their brake system. To be fair to Jagwire, I haven’t had the same problem with OEM Magura or Formula needles- and I’ve been looking out for it. For this reason, a free-spinning driver makes up my wish list for a Needle Driver™ 2.0.
While it’s not essential, the Space Age 2.0 hydraulic line cutter sure is nice to have. Notwithstanding shaving issues with some hardware, the Needle Driver™ is a much nicer tool to have. Not only does it seem to be shop quality, but it solves a much bigger problem. If you do much brake swapping, or if floppy hydraulic lines drive you nuts, the Needle Driver™ is a worthwhile investment.