Reviewed: The best 3-way wrenches
By Logan VonBokel | Published on VeloNews Dec. 9, 2014
It lives in your pocket, in a shop apron, or lies in wait on the top of the workbench, never squirreled away in a drawer. Save for the floor pump, the 3-way (4, 5, and 6mm) Allen wrench is the most used tool in a mechanic’s arsenal. Brands don’t even bother marketing their respective 3-way wrenches. They’re too simple. Yet every pro mechanic has his favorite. Like pro riders, many pro wrenches aren’t given a choice, due to sponsor obligations. Other mechanics are outspoken about which is best.
Here, I break down five 3-way wrenches I’ve been using over recent months and years. Price, weight, feel, and function are the variables. Of course, like anything, people will be drawn to one more than others. All five here have proven to have tough bits, so no tool here is a bad choice.
Pedro’s Y-Wrench $12 — Editor’s Pick
Pedro’s Y-Wrench is a no-fuss tool that holds up for years. For my personal work, a Y-Wrench lives on my workbench and another in my tool roll. Its weight, at just 70 grams, is the lowest in this roundup. Counting grams for a tool might sound silly to some, but for those who travel with tools, it’s a metric that is suffered, whether it is paid attention to or not.
While not as common in bike shops as the Park Tool AWS-1, Pedro’s commitment to sponsoring races has made it a mainstay in the toolboxes of countless domestic race mechanics, including Daimeon Shanks, the owner of the Boulder Service Course and a former Garmin mechanic.
Pro mechanics will replace tools often, especially in the case of a tool used this much. Still, Pedro’s, like most tool brands, offers a lifetime warranty.
Park Tool AWS-1 $12
The Park Tool AWS-1 is a very close competitor to the Pedro’s Y-Wrench and for most, the decision might come down to which tool your local bike shop has in stock when you find yourself needing a new 3-way. Compared the Y-Wrench, the AWS-1 is the same price, a couple grams heavier, and is still backed by a lifetime warranty.
With 51 years of experience under its belt, blue and black park tools are the most popular choice for bike shops, and they make everything from prep grease to UCI WorldTour-level truing stands. Park’s limited edition AWS-50, which celebrates Park’s 50th anniversary with an aluminum body, is a favorite of Jeremy Powers’ ace mechanic, Tom Hopper.
Like the Pedro’s, the AWS-1 uses heat-treated steel bits and a plastic body, so why do I prefer the Y-Wrench to the AWS-1? Well, I prefer the sharper angles of the Y-Wrench’s body rather than the rounded shape of the AWS-1. Considering how much time one of these 3-way tools spends in your hand, make sure you choose the best one for you.
Lezyne 3-Way $20
If I were to outfit an entire shop that lived at the front of the bike shop, rather than tucked into the back corner, and this shop doubled as a café and bar — I’ve put some thought into this — Lezyne tools would make up the majority of each mechanic’s work station. They are, without question, the most attractive tools on the market, though they carry a price tag that matches the weighty steel body of most of their tools.
As the heaviest tool in this roundup, the Lezyne 3-Way is too much for a tool roll, so it cannot pull double duty like the Park and Pedro’s. It does, however, come with a complete set of spare hex bits that can be easily swapped out when the bits start to round. Pedro’s or Park tools can be cut down to keep the edges of the bits sharp over the years.
As SCVelo pointed out on Twitter, the flat aluminum body of the Lezyne 3-way makes it easily clamped into vices for hub and pedal repairs, making its burliness more of a benefit.
Birzman Y-Grip $15.60
The Birzman Y-Grip is a newcomer in the shop tool world, and it doesn’t disappoint. The Birzman sports an aluminum body, like the Lezyne, but at a fraction of the weight. In the hand, the Birzman feels balanced and spins well.
The Birzman is competitively priced at $15.60 but unlike the Pedro’s and Park, the bits cannot be cut down when the ends start to round. Of course, the Birzman has a lifetime warranty.
Mike Woodard, the service manager at Peloton Cycles in Fort Collins, Colorado, said, “the Birzman is my favorite because of its longevity, but the Park is the perennial shop tool, and I don’t use my personal stuff at the shop.”
So for the mechanic who wants a tool a bit easier on the eyes than the Park or Pedro’s, but doesn’t want the heft of the Lezyne, the Birzman hits that sweet spot.
Fix It Sticks T-Way $30
The Fix it Stick T-Way certainly looks different than the other tools here, but its features are quite different as well. Each bit on the T-Way is replaceable and magnetic, and in addition to the usual 4, 5, and 6mm bits, the T-Way comes with 2, 2.5, 3, and a T25.
At $30 the T-Way is still more expensive than two Pedro’s Y-Wrenches, which would still cover that 2-6mm spread. The T-Wrench sports a burly T-shape akin to the high-priced Italian USAG T-handle tools with the addition of a free-spinning sleeve for speedy installs and removals common with disc rotors.
The spare bits come in a plastic tube, which makes it easier to keep track of them, but we would not recommend swapping out bits while on the road. We keep our T-Way equipped with a T-25, 4, and 5mm bits for day-to-day use, seldom swapping out for any of the other bits.