Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Torque Touch: the Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza Torque Wrench


Chances are your very first bike tool was a 4, 5 and 6mm Park Y-Allen wrench. It was mine, purchased the same day as my Silca floor pump, both of which I still have. I spent slightly less than $40, which seemed an extravagance given that neither item could be ridden. As a relatively new cyclist I had a lot to learn about what constituted necessary.

The bikes most of us ride have changed a lot in the last 10 years, let alone the last 20 years. Some of these changes—better-made clothing, improved hood and saddle shapes and more sophisticated shifting systems—have made incremental changes to our riding experience, but other changes—namely carbon fiber—has changed the cost of bikes and the care required to maintain them immeasurably.

As evidence, I offer exhibit A: the Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza bicycle torque wrench. It wasn’t that long ago that a $185 tool was strictly the domain of bike shops. My truing stand didn’t break three figures. But with the number of riders riding carbon fiber frames, seatposts and (most especially) handlebars, far too many user-errors have been called defective products.

I recently did a little checking and realized that every product I’ve come in contact with in the last year came with torque ratings. For this, I’m glad. However, I also found myself profoundly frustrated; most of the torque wrenches out there don’t offer particularly detailed readings in the range bicycle parts require. Tighten a bolt to 6.2Nm? On some wrenches it can be difficult to tell the difference between 6 and 8Nm. While the Effetto Mariposa Giustaforza may not offer decimal-point gradation, the scale is far easier to read than most of its competitors’ wrenches. Dial in the desired torque and tighten until the head of the wrench twists sideway with a loud click, indication the desire torque has been reached.

With its 17-bit tool selection, the only bolt on a bike I haven’t been able to tighten with this thing is the 10mm bolt on the Campy Ultra-Torque crankset. I’ve found myself under-adjusting the torque at times just to make sure I bring up the torque gradually.

The shame of this product is that its price tag is so much higher than the average cost of normal home bike tools that many riders may balk at investing this much in a torque wrench. The reality is that every rider who has a carbon fiber frame, fork, seatpost, stem or handlebar (which is virtually every rider who owns a bike equipped with Dura-Ace, Record, Ultegra or Chorus) needs to purchase one of these, even if they aren’t prone to doing much maintenance on their own. Save a floor pump, I can’t think of another tool more necessary for today’s bikes than this thing.

Our bikes are becoming more complicated, fragile and high performance. It’s an inevitable nexus in our quest for speed. The good news is that we still have the ability to ride bikes just as good as the pros are on; that simply isn’t the case in most other sports. In the case of cycling and some of the UCI Continental teams in Europe, many of us are on bikes better than they are racing.

While it’s PRO to have a trick bike, what’s even more PRO is having a tool that will allow you to do no wrong. That it’s small enough to travel in checked luggage is just icing on the cake. Given what many of us have spent on our bikes, the cost of this tool is a small investment in peace of mind.

9 comments:

rosey said...

i find it much more satisfying knowing that my own hand has developed a sense for proper torque as a result of years of wrenching. then again, i don't own carbon frames, bars, or stems so i guess i don't have to torque to the decimal nM either.

Gary said...

I never needed a torque wrench for aluminum parts. I did find that with carbon parts, it's much more difficult to feel correct torque. I started working in bike shops in 1975 FWTW.

I have seen multiple reviews of this torque wrench but the price tag seems silly. YMMV.

My solution for small torque is the Ritchey Torque Key. Only works on 4mm bolts to 5nm but that's just about every small small bolt you care about. $less than $30.

redcliffs said...

I'm all for the right tool for the right job, but what does this wrench have or do that the Park TW-5 (http://www.parktool.com/products/detail.asp?cat=13&item=TW-5) doesn't? Admittedly, at $90-100, the Park isn't cheap and it's certainly not as slick looking, but in practice?

Tacissimo said...

Well, it's an interesting review of a really good product. Unfortunately, only "every rider who has a carbon fiber frame, fork, seatpost, stem or handlebar (which is virtually every rider who owns a bike equipped with Dura-Ace, Record, Ultegra or Chorus) needs to purchase one of these," but not some who rides on the "other" bicycle parts company product. Thanks for the excellent callout, and staying on top of bicycle parts scene here on the planet called Earth. Maybe on the planet you come from there is no way to purchase the parts from the "other" bicycle parts company.

zack said...

Nearly every torque wrench available is calibrated to within 4% of range, so the mariposa does the job just as well as a similar unit from Craftsman, Park, Snap-On, Sturtevant-Richmont, etc.

Also, you don't need to mail your torque wrench back for calibrations, there are lots of companies stateside that do it for half the price.

Padraig said...

Rosey and Gary--like you I never needed a torque wrench with aluminum parts. Or, at least I didn't think I did. Some years ago I was shipped a bike to review with an aluminum stem; the threads stripped when I hit a driveway ramp, days after I had adjusted the clamp. While I later learned the stem was defective, it opened my eyes. The chase for lighter components has resulted in parts that require more care on our part, I think.

Redcliffs--while I don't have much experience with the TW-5, I found the Giustaforza easier to read, which to me makes all the difference in the world.

Zack--I've yet to encounter a torque wrench from Craftsman, Snap-On, etc. that was well suited to the relatively low torques bike parts require. I'm certainly not saying they don't exist, but the Giustaforza is the first one to truly impress me as being particularly well-suited to bike use.

Bicycle Repairman/Shaggy said...

I've got one of the OLD Snap-On "bathtub" inch pound 3/8 drive torque wrenches, that with a little conversion math, works quite well for all of my carbon/light AL needs. It also has the added value of being older than some of the mechanics I work with...

dl109er said...

Very informative post. I've been considering getting a torque wrench for a while now and appreciate this review. This particular wrench is a bit rich for my blood though.

Then again, I don't have a carbon bike either....

Toast Ghost said...

i leave it to the hand, and no carbon except the blades on my chorus levers. although the alloy wedge of my superlight crmo stem does give me the willies...