Industry Nine Matchstix Multi-tool Review: Enginerdery…
For gadget fiends, the Industry Nine Matchstix Multi-tool and thru-axle is a must have piece of engineering. For bikepackers, it might just be the perfect way to neatly stow emergency tools. Here’s our review after six months of use…
Based in Asheville, NC, Industry Nine is best known for their USA-made quick-engagement Torch Hubs and colorful wheelsets. Over a year ago they teased efforts to expand their lineup with several new products, built with the same brilliant engineering and machining that has made their wheelsets and hubs so popular. Finally released this past fall, Matchstix — also made in the Asheville facility — is a multi-tool/thru-axle designed to safeguard riders with essential tools neatly tucked away in the front hub.
There’s a lot to consider when configuring a bikepacking tool kit. There are some tools that get used on a predictable basis.However, there are a few essential inclusions that rarely — if ever — get used (knock on wood). I don’t remember the last time I had to resort to a chain break tool or an extra missing-link, yet I consider each to be indispensable items in a proper tools and spares ensemble for bike travel in the backcountry. It’s this level of last resort preparedness that I9 had in mind when creating the Matchstix thru-axle tool. Matchstix is made for emergency use, not regular maintenance, and that’s the beauty of it. As long as you haven’t dropped your front wheel off a cliff, necessary tools are always there in the rare event that you need them.
The Matchstix thru-axle tool comes in two sizes — 15x100mm and Boost 15x110mm — for both Rock Shox and Fox forks, and 15x150mm for the Rock Shox Bluto. Each comes with six optional stainless steel bits: 6mm, 4mm, 3mm, 2.5mm, 2mm, and T25. The slide out bit sleeve can accommodate four bits. The 3mm operates the chain-break, so that one’s a required carry. The other three bits are rider’s choice. A 5mm bit is permanently integrated into the handle. The non handle side of the tool slides in and out the thru-axle with an o-ring to keep it in place. It features a missing-link keeper, a valve core remover at its end, and a bit driver, which is designed to be used with the 3mm bit to turn the chain break tool. Said chain break tool is cleverly built into the handle.
The sculpturesque anodized handle is where most of the magic happens. The short side features an integrated 2.32mm spoke wrench, while the protruding end has the 3mm threaded pin driver for the chain break, which resides on the interior of the handle. The thru-axle side of the handle has a built-in 5mm bit which turns the skewer (as well as any other 5mm bolts you might need to adjust), and the outer side has a female bit driver for use with one of the four included bits.
Both the drive side bit sleeve and brake-side handle detach from the assembly while the thru-axle remains in place, so the wheel doesn’t need to be removed in order to use the tools. The handle is slightly more complex to remove, and how it does so is an engineering marvel in itself. The machined female fitting on the inside of the handle snaps onto the press-fit male end of the thru-axle. It’s designed to disengage only when pulled directly out in a linear motion. It takes quite a tug, but the design is flawless and the handle comes off with a solid snap. When I first heard about the fitting, I had visions of the handle flying off the the first time a rock bounced up and hit it. But after trail riding and bikepacking with it for six months, I haven’t had any issues with it. The tight tolerance of the press-fit feels secure and exact.
The Matchstix has a few eccentricities worth pointing out. If you remove your front wheel daily — van-dwellers or people who need to partially disassemble their bike for storage — the process required to unscrew the axle is slightly different from that of a typical thru-axle, which has a handle that folds to get around the fork leg. The Matchstix requires that you pop the handle off and then use the built-in 5mm bit to loosen the skewer a few half turns before it can be fully rotated around the fork. This is slightly more time consuming than pulling out a regular thru-axle. It’s not a deal breaker, but if I were traveling in the van where our bikes mount to a thru-axle rack and daily disassembly is required, I’d ditch the Matchstix and save it for multi-day backcountry trips.
The allen driver works as expected. Each bit easily pops out of the slotted sleeve and is no more time consuming to use than a regular multi-tool. In some respects it’s easier, as you don’t have to dig through bags or your backpack to get it out. There are, however, a few instances when handle and bit length might not be able to do the job. I found this situation on the front seat post bolt (shown below-left); the handle body was a little too bulky to fit into that particular recess. Of course the same can be said for small and clunky folding multi-tools. Otherwise, the bit driver worked well for most normal adjustments.
For longer trips I decided to take a different strategy with the Matchstix. I carried lesser used bits in the bit sleeve (T20, 2mm, flat-head screwdriver, etc.) and a separate bit driver tool in my top-tube bag along with a couple more frequently used bits. The L-shaped bit driver can access any bolt on the bike and is compatible with the Matchstix bits. This made the Matchstix the ultimate backup tool with emergency bits, a spare quick-link, chain breaker, spoke wrench, and valve core remover. The additional hex-driver took up little space and was useful for regular adjustments.
The chain quick-link keeper fits various links, including KMC 9, 10 and 11spd, and SRAM 9 and 10spd. SRAM Eagle 12-speed Powerlock links do not fit, because of their bulbous curved shape. That said, the quick-link keeper will accommodate KMC’s 12spd Missing Link, although I’ve yet to see them on the market. As mentioned, I never had to use the chain-break tool in a true emergency situation. But, for the sake of testing, I broke a small piece of 10spd chain I had laying around and it works as expected.
There are a couple of other details to note about the Matchstix Multi-tool. There is a small cylindrical debris cover that slides over the chain-break bolt as well as a rubber debris cover that ‘keeps the trail out’ of the bit receptacle. The Industry Nine Multi-tool/Thru-axle (handle) is available in ten mesmerizing anodized colors as well as polished aluminum.
- Industry Nine Matchstix is a USA made microcosmic feat of engineering and ingenuity.
- Perfect way to stow several tools that are needed once in a blue moon, the chainbreaker, valve core remover, and a spare quick link.
- When paired with a simple L-hex bit wrench, Matchstix is a great way to carry extra bits that are rarely needed, such as a flathead bit, smaller torx, etc.
- Nice color selection can add some pop to any wheelset, Industry Nine or otherwise.
- Doesn’t fit SRAM Eagle Powerlock links; but evidently the new 12spd KMC link will fit.
- The handle bit-driver might not work on bolts in tight situations.
- $145 is a lot to pay for a multi-tool; but space is precious for bikepackers.
- Weight 101g (3.6oz)
- Bits included 6mm, 5mm (built in), 4mm, 3mm, 2.5mm, 2mm, T25
- Other functions Chain-breaker, spoke wrench, link storage
- Place of Manufacture North Carolina, USA
- Price $145.00
- Contact IndustryNine.com
Storing a kit full of tools and spares is a necessity for multi-day backcountry riding, but given how little these items see the light of day, it can be a frustrating use of space. There are some bits and gizmos that never get used, and to keep them organized requires yet another bag or roll that takes up even more valuable packing room. To minimize this and make more space for truly valuable items — such as snacks! — bikepackers have been using the hollow nooks and crannies of tubes to stuff their cables and spare spokes into for decades. So, when the Matchstix Multi-tool came out it just made sense. It allows riders to have the necessary tools on hand without having to think about packing and repacking them, losing them, or where they are going to fit.
In practice, the Matchstix has a few little idiosyncrasies, such as its inability to fit an Eagle Powerlock Link and the fact that it’s not perfect for hard-to-reach bolts. It’s also not cheap. You could essentially buy several good multi-tools for the $145 price of the Matchstix. But then again, space is a precious commodity for bikepackers. And, considering it’s made in the USA, you can feel pretty good about investing in a small engineering masterpiece that clearly required a lot of thought and work to produce.
Watch Sarah’s video showing how the Matchstix Multi-tool works: