photos: Ben Kuhns
Given the cycling industry’s track record, it’s easy to denounce star-shaped fasteners as a ploy to fuel capitalism. It’s easy to get a little agitated. Believe me, if you’ve found yourself stifled by the lack of a T25 during a hasty pre-ride adjustment or trailside repair, you’re not alone. So the question begs to be asked, “Is this a profit-driven inconvenience?”
What? There’s a new fastener that forces the purchase of up-to date tools? Son-of-a-Corny Capitalist! Well, before we reach for Silca pumps, trail-tools, and polo mallets to storm the castle, let’s take a closer look, as the history of fasteners actually reveals benefits of this design over the tried-and-true hex. Referred to as Torx (a trademarked design), or “star” (generic term), this fastener drive-type is slowly taking over both mountain and road due to improved resistance of cam-out. In other terms, a stripped bolt head.
If you’ve ever taken a close look at that ham-fisted 4mm hex on the multi-tool in your buddies pack, you know that any resistance to wallowing or rounding is a welcome advancement. The official name for this screw-head shape is hexalobular internal or, for those in the know, 6lobe, which going forward, is the raddest and only way to speak of a star. T30 6lobe — stat!
When compared to the century-old hex drive, the young and fresh 6lobe directs forces for better purchase between the tool and the fastener. Of all places, Wikipedia states it best:
The angle between the plane of contact between tool and fastener and the circumferentially directed force is much closer to 90 degrees in a Torx type of head (lower) than in a conventional hex head (upper).
There’s more to warm you up to the 6lobe, but first, we must give the hex some much due respect. If you have a penchant for our industrial past, the history behind it is fascinating. And, Wikipedia’s extensive article reveals the hex’s vital contribution to the technological revolution at the turn of the century. Without it, machinery wouldn’t have advanced as quickly, with working conditions remaining even more dangerous than they already were.
And while it predates Tullio’s flappy lever, it wasn’t until the late seventies that the hex started its reign as the prominent fastener for bicycles. And, like the original quick-release, it’s slowly being replaced by better designs. Specifically, the 6lobe is safer and less troublesome for assemblers, technicians, and end-users due to less stripped bolts. And given how much the fasteners are used on bicycles, this is obviously a good thing.
The 6lobe also slows down thieves that are hiding in the shadows of greasy, middle-of-no-where drive-ins, as well as the ones who’re lurking city streets snagging saddles, stems, bars, wheels, and brakes. On the other hand, the 6lobe has thrown a wrench into the multi-tool game. These tools have one job — contain all of the bits needed to address any issue away from the shop or home. However, packaging that into a fairly lightweight and pocket-able unit is getting harder with the new-world hexalobular order.
Early versions of cycling-specific tools consisted of two-dimensional, forged cone wrenches with “high-tech” models including sockets and spanner wrenches in their shape. But current ones can include everything from bottle-openers to chain tools, while taking up far less room then a wallet. Below are some of our favorite multi-tools that mix quality, value, and versatility — including more 6lobes then the ubiquitous T25.
Another drive-type common in the outdoor industry is the Pozidriv, which is used extensively on skis, but there are over twenty options for engineers and designers to choose from. Have you come across any drive types on your bicycle beside the ol’ hex or 6Lobe? Let us know in the Comments.