Wolf Tooth EnCase Handlebar Tool Kit
The new Wolf Tooth EnCase System features a handlebar toolkit complete with two storage sleeves, a chain-breaker/tire plugger, and a full hex bit multi-tool. We had a chance to use one over the last month for this review…
Announced today, the Wolf Tooth EnCase System expands on the company’s growing catalog of tools and on-the-bike accessories. EnCase is a three-part, in-grip handlebar system made of Storage Sleeves (sold as a pair), a Hex Bit Wrench Multi-tool, and a Chain Tool + Tire Plug. Each of the three components can be purchased separately or as a complete kit. We’ve been riding and playing with the system for nearly a month. Read on for the full review with specs, details, and lots of photos.
Wolf Tooth EnCase Storage Sleeves
The EnCase System is based around a pair of Storage Sleeves. Each sleeve is comprised of a machined aluminum end cap that’s permanently affixed to the rubber sleeve, or cylinder. The cylinder is made from a rubber/plastic composite material that’s flexible and feels quite durable, almost like rigid, thick inner tube. Each sleeve has two closed ends with a flap opening on its side for inserting an EnCase tool or other items. There’s also a little hollow niche near the bar end that fits a pair of Quicklinks, a Presta-Schrader adapter, or other small bits and bobs.
The Storage Sleeve presses into the grip area of the handlebar and secures tightly via two small cylindrical fins that are molded into the sleeve. Wolf Tooth claims the rubber sleeve material provides a certain level of vibration dampening and has a snug fit to keep the system from rattling. After bouncing around with them on many big trail rides in the Pisgah area, I can confirm that there’s no sound or vibration to speak of. And while they’re fairly easy to insert, they’re quite snug and difficult to remove, which also means that they securely stay in place. I can’t even remove them with two hands; I found the best method was to pry them out with a key, but it still takes a little bit of work to loosen them. Wolf Tooth suggests trimming the fins a little with a razor blade if the fit is too tight, but I decided to keep them as they are to avoid making them not tight enough. Note that this is with carbon bars. I tried them on some aluminum bars and it was much easier; no key needed. I’ve now installed and removed them from the carbon MTB bars around a dozen or so times and there’s no sign of wear or degradation, but they’re getting ever so slightly easier to remove. I’ll be sure to update this if any issues arise. So far, so good.
It’s also worth noting that the EnCase Storage Sleeves (and tools) work with many drop-handlebars. As you’ll read and see below, both of the tools have a hinged segment, so they have a little bend and can work with most drop-bars. For the record, I successfully inserted them into the Crust/Nitto Shaka bars, Salsa Woodchippers, and Salsa Cowchippers.
Wolf Tooth EnCase Hex Bit Wrench Multi-tool
The EnCase Hex Bit Wrench Multi-tool is built around a 13mm diameter (0.5″) by 80mm long (3.125″), machined aluminum body with eight recessed compartments, each stores a steel hex bit that’s is held in place by an embedded magnet. There are also two rubber O-rings that slide onto each group of four for added security. The business end of the multi-tool features a steel driver that swivels and catches at three different positions via a ball detent system, allowing you to use the driver as an L-hex or straight like a screwdriver.
The driver itself serves as an 8mm hex wrench and has a built-in socket to hold the bits. All in all, the Hex Bit Wrench Multi-tool has 14 functions. To accomplish all of this with a rather small tool, Wolf Tooth made a set of proprietary bits with a smaller 4mm hex driver, which is ~2mm smaller than standard bit drivers. Apparently, there are other 4mm bits and drivers on the market, but these specific bits are double-sided and designed to fit into the pockets on the handle of the Hex Bit Wrench. Wolf Tooth sells replacement bits ($19.95 for a complete set). Here are all the functions that are built into eight bits and the driver:
- 7 Hex bits: 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm
- 3 Torx bits: T10, T25, and T30
- Spoke Wrench
- Valve Core Removal Tool
- Flat Head #3.5
- Phillips #2
The multi-tool itself is quite an impressive little gadget. As with other Wolf Tooth products, the machining is extremely detailed. It has a very solid, quality feel despite its rather diminutive size. It’s not ultra lightweight, which is a good thing. It still feels like a useable tool, instead of a flimsy, emergency-only gizmo. It’s also quite comfortable to use and has a good in-hand feel. My one hangup was accessing the bits. Unless you have long fingernails, there are a couple of them that are hard to remove. I eventually learned that if you remove the flathead bit, you can use that to pick out the tougher to remove bits. The Multi-Tool also has a magnet on the butt-end, which I great for temporarily holding a bit while you are working.
When I asked my contact at Wolf Tooth whether it was strong enough to loosen pedals, they ensured me that it is, as long as they weren’t corroded or overtightened without grease or Loctite. So I tried it. No problem. That said, Wolf Tooth states that like any packable multi-tool, the EnCase System multi-tool was designed to fix anything minor while riding—just enough to get you to the next town or trailhead for any major repair.
Wolf Tooth EnCase Chain Tool + Tire Plug
The other tool in the EnCase system features a similar handle shape but combines a chain breaker, a tubeless plugger, and a small storage cylinder that perfectly fits several “bacon strip” tubeless tire plugs. Basically, between this and the multi-tool, all that’s needed for a somewhat complete kit is a tire lever and quick link pliers, which just so happens to be rolled into Wolf Tooth’s Master Link Combo Pliers. NOTE: be sure to check out our Bikepacking Tool Kit Guide for a full rundown of necessities.
The tubeless plugger portion of the tool is pretty straightforward. The tool has a cap on one end that’s threaded on both sides, so when you unscrew it, it reveals the plugger tool that slides out of a hollow cylinder. You can then flip the plugger/cap around and screw it to the handle to provide leverage when fixing a flat. The hollow chamber is stuffed with a pack of five tire plugs. You could probably fit three or four more in there if you wanted to. I honestly haven’t used the plugger yet as the “opportunity” hasn’t come up since I’ve had the EnCase system. However, it appears to be very similar to Lezyne’s plugger fork, which I have used and it works pretty well.
I actually used the built-in chain breaker… on a scrap piece of 10-speed chain I had in my toolbox. Basically, it works like any other chain breaker, with the exception that the bolt to engage the pin is turned with the 4mm bit in the EnCase Hex Bit Wrench. As expected, it worked fine. A chain breaker is one of those things you might never use, but it’s worth having in your arsenal out on a big trip.
- Weight (per storage sleeve) 18 grams (0.6 oz)
- Weight (Hex Multi-tool) 50 grams (1.8 oz)
- Weight (Chain Tool/Tire Plug) 44 grams (1.6 oz)
- Weight (Total kit) 130 grams (4.6 oz)
- Hex Bit Wrench $49.95
- Chain Tool + Tire Plug $49.95
- Storage Sleeves (sold as a pair) $34.95
- Complete Kit $119.95
- Place of Manufacture Minnesota, USA
- Manufacturer’s Details WolfToothComponents.com
- Almost all the tools you’ll need pretty much at your fingertips
- Very well made and machined tools
- Strong, user-friendly multi-tool design
- Storage Sleeves can also be used for misc. storage
- Components are sold separately
- The Sleeves and tools work with most drop-bars
- Fairly difficult to remove from the handlebars (with carbon handlebars)
- Bits have proprietary 4mm hex chuck (however, Wolf Tooth sells replacements)
- Fairly expensive for a toolkit
While intricately designed stowaway tools such as the Wolf Tooth EnCase handlebar tool kit or OneUp’s EDC are rather expensive, it’s nice knowing you have what you need at hand, all in a small package that stays on your bike. This is especially true when you switch between bikes often, or, like me (on multiple occasions), have had a tire puncture on the trail and realized your tire plugger is in another bag. I’ve found that having all my trailside repair necessities in one place helps… and having them live on the bike is even better.
Wolf Tooth did a great job at providing a lot of functionality in two very well designed and small packages that never leave your bike. The precision machining is impressive and both tools seem to be perfectly executed for usability and durability. The Hex Multi-tool has a great in-hand feel and seems quite strong for its size. The plugger and chain breaker also are proportionally perfect and very well made. My one complaint with the System would be in how tough it is to remove the Sleeves from some carbon handlebars. It works fine on aluminum bars, but the fins are quite tight in carbon bars. I should probably follow Wolf Tooth’s instructions and shave a little off them, but I’m reluctant to do so as I’d rather have them overly tight than too loose.
My other grouse is the price tag for the complete system—it’s a lot to swallow for a tool kit. However, if convenience, space, and preparedness are high up on your list of priorities, or you’re prone to forgetting or misplacing necessary items, I think this is a pretty good investment… especially considering that they are machined and assembled in the USA. To put it in perspective, a pair of tires—or a good pair of shorts for that matter—will set you back about the same amount, and I’m betting that these tools will last a lifetime, unlike tires and clothing.
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