Wednesday, December 7, 2016

REVIEW: Silca T-Ratchet & Ti-Torque Kit

It seems like all I'm having a chance to review lately is Silca's line of products. And I'm happy with that, because they appeal to both the practical side of me, and the gear snob. As it should be.

Anyways, let's dig right in.

The T-Ratchet and Ti-Torque were a Kickstarter project (eventually reaching over 1200%) I became aware of shortly after it was announced. I'm not much of a Kickstarter kind of guy honestly, but I felt like this was a tool that should exist, and Silca has a big enough name behind it that I felt pretty safe in backing it.

I received mine in the first shipment and have had a chance to put it to the test, and I have to say overall I'm very happy with the money I spent on it. It's not a perfect tool kit, but aiming for the moon and landing in the stars is still something to boast about.

First, let's look at what comes in the package. We'll be talking about the (currently on Silca's website) $98.00 kit. The ratchet can be bought separately, but I think you are missing out if you don't get the torque wrench as well.

Everything neatly (and compactly) held in the carry case.

Included is the fancy canvas/nylon carrying case (something that's always appreciated to help keep up with things on the go) The T-Ratchet itself (which is actually 3 separate pieces that come together like Voltron to form what you need at the moment) the Ti-Torque extension, and 10 hardened steel bits (2,2.5,3,4,5,6 MM hex heads, a #2 Phillips, and T10, T20 and T25 Torx heads)

So, let's talk about the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good
There is a lot of good in this package.  As with all of Silca's recent offerings, there is a blend of utilitarian, well made parts mixed with a healthy dose of opulence. The ratchet itself is one of the nicest ratchets, mini or otherwise that I have ever used. With a 72t mech, it feels exactly like what it is, a well made high end ratchet. It functions equally well as a T-handle or as an extended wrench, the magnets hold each piece together firmly, and you are left confident that it's not just going to fall apart as soon as you take your hand off of it.

Nurse Ratchet

Transformer! (wait I already called it Voltron, dangit how many 80's cartoons will one post take)

The hardened steel bits are obviously high quality. There are few things worse to a mechanic than feeling the head of a cheap bit rounding off. If these bits are anything close to how the HX-one was built, then I feel confident that they will last a very long time. I normally use WIHA bits for my torque wrenches, and while if you put a gun to my head I'd probably give a slight nod to the German's (made in Germany so you know it's good) I think these bits are very close. Being close to what I think is the best (and full disclosure, a 5-7 piece WIHA bit set costs about 1/3 of what this whole package does) is very, very good. The red band that runs across all the bits is something that wasn't necessary, but is quite striking. It's also something you will be thankful for the first time you drop a bit onto your similarly colored garage floor.

Bits!

The carry case is nice and durable. It looks classic, in the red and black style the Silca has been sporting recently. In my mind there are only a couple of things I ask of my carry case. I want it to be compact, which this case does well. I want it to securely hold what I'm storing in it, which the Silca case takes to almost an extreme (you won't accidentally pull an extra piece out when you reach for something.) and finally I want it to be durable. Choosing black to make up the primary color is a smart move, since greasy hands are often going to be fumbling around opening it. The canvas/nylon combo feels sturdy and the stitching is heavy. Even the small magnets are powerful enough to convince me it's not going to start flopping around if I hit a bump or toss it to a friend.

Finally there is the Ti-Torque. Let me preface it by saying it's not what I WISH it was. That doesn't mean what it is is not excellent, it just means that in Magical Christmasland I would have wanted it slightly different. Getting a torque range from 2-8nm into the small Ti-Torque had to be a challenge, especially if you wanted it to be accurate, and so it a very traditional style of torque wrench in that as you apply pressure to it, it turns around the collar (where there is a small line to measure against the shaft and it's lines of applied torque) until you hit the desired amount. No clicks, no settings, just a reading. Which absolutely gets the job done, but does it with none of the "in your face flash" that stands out on the rest of the kit.

Ti-Torque ready to go!


There is something more important than that "flash" though, especially when talking about a torque wrench. One question that is much more important than any other. Is it accurate?
Yes it is.

I was skeptical. Torque wrenches are notorious for being "too good to be true." Trusting one is a matter of care, calibration and vigilance. Having a torque wrench that isn't accurate is far more dangerous than just going by feel to tighten a bolt. So the real test came to pit the Silca against my current "small" torque wrench, the CDI Torqcontrol and also against my larger (recently calibrated) Snap-on  1/4 wrench.

Who can you trust?

There is a slight bit of art to it. The first couple of times using the Silca I'd guess most people will under tighten. After I warmed up to it and got a little more familiar to where the gauge landed translating to the torque on the bolt (odd numbers mainly) I got much closer. Checking it against the other two torque wrenches I'm confident that either it's quite accurate, or all of my wrenches are mis calibrated together!

Torque wrench in action

The Bad
There isn't a lot of bad to talk about, and pretty much all of it hinges on user error.
That said, the way the Ti-Torque works, there is a healthy amount of room. Hitting the right torque reading falls into 3 distinct categories.
- even numbers
- odd numbers
- fractions
The third one I included, but it's not a fair inclusion really, since I can't think of many bike parts that you'll be needing fractions to get the right rating. (Maybe a seatpost clamp? I think my Speed Concept maxes out at 7.2nm, but I might be wrong. Anyways, not much) That said, trying to hit the right fraction is probably as close as you can get to impossible.

Odd numbers are a little tricky, and get a little trickier depending on just how good your eyesight and lighting is. Measuring between two quite small white lines doesn't leave a lot of room for error, and while I'd argue that most parts can handle a little more than they are rated, it's not something I am thrilled to think about.

Even numbers are easy peasy. Line up the two lines and you are good to go. The only thing that might stand in your way is how close the lines run together, it's definitely good practise to measure twice, turn once!

trying to demonstrate the room for operator error

There is also the small problem (inconvenience really) that turning the torque wrench does obviously move the little indicators. I found myself having to adjust it back to where I could read it more than a couple of times while working on stem bolts. It seems like I was always turning it just out of easy sight right as I was hitting the right numbers. Of course with a ratcheting handle the solution is a twist away, but it is slightly annoying.  On the whole, I just wish it could have been an adjustable click type torque wrench. It would have taken all my complaints away and changed this from an outstanding tool to a life changing tool. I understand why it isn't, but I can still wish it was. As it stands, I'll still probably reach for my other torque wrenches when I'm at the house. (Which isn't a fair comparison to a very portable torque wrench, but one I'll make nonetheless)

The Ugly
Nope. Nothing ugly to see here.

Overall thoughts and impressions
I can't stress enough how excellent this kit is. Is it perfect, no... but it's ambitious and it delivers leaps and bounds over what the competition can muster. The closest competitor is the Topeak Nano Torqbar DX. My own personal feelings about Topeak aside, you are looking at ~$70 for their offering, which although does have preset readings, is limited to 4, 5 and 6nm settings. In my mind there is really no comparison there, as you are paying $30 more dollars to have a full range of torque up to 8nm, the bits (the topeak comes with 5 bits of it's own) and the excellent T-Ratchet. (Not to mention the carry case)

T Handle setup 
"normal" setup



Another view, with the extender

Extra length! 


I'm not a pro mechanic (by any stretch) but I work on a good number of bikes (my own and my friends) and I generally carry a fairly extensive amount of tools to local races. That said, I never have a torque wrench with me, as it's tough to carry something like the CDI (that's fairly portable) and just throw it in a tool box.  The Silca has changed that, now I'll always have a pocket sized torque wrench with me, one I can be confident in the readings.  That's a luxury that brings with it some piece of mind for me personally, as now that I've got into track riding changing parts at the venue is much more frequent. The T-Ratchet/Ti-Torque is meant to be a small, easy to take with you kit. That said, I wouldn't (and won't) feel bad using it in the garage frequently. Changing from a regular handle to a T handle on the fly is a nice convenience I'm happy to take advantage of, so I sure wouldn't be shy recommending this to somebody who is looking to pick up a nice "do it all" tool.

At $98 it's certainly not "cheap" but for what you are getting out of the kit it's hard not to call it a deal.  A very nice ratchet, an accurate torque wrench extension, high quality bits and a carry case... try pricing that out and then say it's not a deal, especially if you are looking at high quality tools like the Silca is.  I love tools, and I really like Silca's recent offerings, so perhaps I'm biased. Or perhaps they are just making excellent products. So yeah, thumbs up!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock

2 comments:

  1. Is going up to 8nm enough for most parts? eg. pedals, brake pads? At what point are you looking for something more?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Tom,

    Indeed this wrench covers most parts, certainly the majority of bolts you'd be adjusting away from home. It's not comprehensive, most crank bolts, some brake bolts, possibly some others (the torque spec on my Sigma X and on my LOOK Ergostem are both very high for example) would be out of it's range... but honestly some of those torque specs are out of the range of my Snap-On torque wrench as well, and it's definitely not easily portable. For many of the bolts in that upper range, you would really have to be putting down a feat of strength to "overtorque" and damage it. I've never seen anyone use a torque wrench for pedals or cranks, very rarely on brake mounting bolts. YMMV of course.
    Here's a link to park tools torque specs (fairly comprehensive) to give you an idea of what the silca will and won't cover. (8nm is roughly 71 in-lbs)

    http://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/torque-specifications-and-concepts#article-section-4

    best,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete