Hands On: Abbey Bike Works Crombie Cassette Tool
The story of the Abbey Bike Works Crombie tool is that of the genesis of any great tool – it was born out of the desire to do it better, and faster. Jeff Crombie (who the tool is named for) as a pro mechanic for team SpiderTech, wanted to be able to check cassette lock rings and even change cassettes without having to remove the skewer. More than just convenience, on the pro race circuit you can imagine there may be a need to change a cassette as quickly as possible, and not having to remove the skewer means there is no longer a chance of losing the skewer springs or nut – all good things.
So Jeff approached Jason Quade of Abbey Bike Works out of Bend, Oregon to see if it could be done. Being that Jason is a bit of a modern day bicycle Renaissance man with a mobile repair shop, small frame building business, and a custom wheel building program, it should come as no surprise that Abbey Bike Works is getting into the tool business. After modifying some off the shelf lock ring tools, Jason found the answer. An answer that was verified after sending a few rough, handmade tools to a few race mechanics he knew who came back with nothing but positive feedback.
With requests for more tools, Jason worked with a local machine shop to produce the splined section of the tool from 17-4 stainless steel , with Jason doing the welding and sourcing the handle from machine shop remnants and the Crombie tool was born. While this is the first tool out of Abbey Bike Works, Jason is already planning for more and if the Crombie is any indication of quality, there will be quite the demand.
Full details on the Crombie tool after the break!
It’s fair to say that like most mechanics, I have a thing for tools. Specifically, durable precision tools made by craftsmen themselves that will last forever. At the risk of sounding like an old man, so many tools these days are getting cheaper, and more plasticky – not something you’re likely to find still in your tool box 10 years from now. Abbey, along with a few other small tool builders seem to be bucking that trend by offering beautiful tools that will stand the test of time. I was pleasantly surprised when my Crombie tool showed up with my name laser engraved on the handle – no more hunting for your tools in the shop, if someone lifts it from your bench, you’ll know. Laser engraving of your name, shop name, team name, etc. is an additional $10. Furthermore, since every tool is hand built by Jason, if you want more customization all you have to do is ask.
Personalization aside, functionally the Crombie is an excellent tool. The standard Crombie tool features a dual sided head that works as both a Shimano HG lock ring tool on one side, and a Campagnolo cassette and old school BB wrench on the other. Where the Crombie tool really shines is the ability to tighten or completely remove cassettes without having to remove the skewer. Honestly this is probably more important for a race mechanic than your average shop mechanic, but it will save some time double checking lock ring torque before the bike heads out the door. Additionally, with no moving parts there is no need for pinch bolts to hold anything in place – everything will be where you expect it ever time you go to use the tool. The standard Crombie Tool features an 8.5” long, ½” diameter solid handle which retails for $40. For those who will never have a use for a Campy tool, Jason offers a Shimano only version of the Crombie with a slightly smaller handle for $35. Finally, Jason will also be offering an SL version of the Crombie Tool which is dual-sided like the standard version, but features a hollow ½ inch handle. Why an SL version for a tool? When race mechanics fly with their tools, every gram counts especially with baggage fees today. The SL version ends up 100 grams lighter without sacrificing any durability, and only five dollars more at $45.
After testing with all of the wheels and skewer combinations at my disposal, I found only one skewer that the Crombie tool couldn’t fit over which was an old fashioned steel skewer like those often used for rear wheel trainers. Machining of the lock ring splines is extremely precise resulting in a near perfect fit in Shimano and Sram lock rings. Compared to the Park FRW-1, the Crombie tool is quite a bit more compact which is important when tool kit space is at a premium. Despite its smaller stature, you are able to generate plenty of torque to properly secure any lock ring, and then some.
The end result is an heirloom tool that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, meaning any pro mechanic would be happy with a Crombie tool at their disposal. Jason has had some requests to do a limited run of Crombie tools in Titanium as well which he expects to do in a limited run that will include personalization.