The Topeak Combotorq wrench and bit set is aimed at the budget-conscious rider looking to ensure bolts and fasteners are tightened to the manufacturer's specified tolerances without breaking the bank. This makes it a solid choice among the best torque wrenches currently available. However, it's a little plasticky and requires a steady hand for accurate readings.
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Topeak Combotorq wrench and bit set - Technical details
The humble torque wrench is a worthwhile addition to any cyclist's toolbox, more so now than ever due to the growing popularity of lightweight carbon-fibre components. While the strength-to-weight ratio of modern carbon-fibre products is pretty mind-blowing, they are still vulnerable to excessive clamping forces. Over-torquing at clamping points is the most common cause of failure - and as anyone who has had a carbon handlebar snap on them will attest, it can be catastrophic and is almost certainly going to result in a one-way trip to Paintown!
Consequently, it's important to adhere to the manufacturer's recommended torque specifications when fitting these components. A good torque wrench is invaluable as it takes the guesswork out of installation, ensuring that correct and equal clamping force is applied across all areas.
While it's entirely possible to spend triple figures on a high-end torque wrench set, there are far more wallet-friendly offerings available that promise to provide accurately torqued-up bolts for minimal outlay.
The Topeak Combotorq is one such example, at just £18, they don’t come much cheaper. Considering the price, Topeak has done a pretty decent job with the Combotorq. It’s a simple beam-type wrench, there's no clever clutch mechanism to prevent over-tightening, just a pre-calibrated needle that moves with the T-shaped handle as tightening force is applied until it aligns with the required torque value on the plastic dial, it's all very intuitive if a wee bit ‘agricultural’.
There's a good-sized plastic handle and a nice long-reach stainless steel magnetised socket holder to ensure tool bits stay securely connected. Speaking of bits, Topeak includes a good range of hardened steel bits with the Combotorq - 3, 4, 5, 6mm Allen, and a Torx T25 are stored in the handle beneath a clear plastic flip-up lid and should cater to most riders' needs. However, the standard quarter-inch drive means you can easily substitute with different bits should the need arise. The triangular yellow gauge is made from slightly flimsy-looking plastic and covers a torque range of 0 to 12Nm in 1Nm increments and is easy to read thanks to the black text offering a nice contrast to the yellow.
The Combotorq wrench is pretty compact measuring 167mm x 122mm x 42mm and is fairly lightweight at 133g on my scales. However, this is fairly irrelevant - unless you want to take this along when you're bikepacking and might need to disassemble your bike for a train, for example. A torque wrench isn't really a dedicated trail tool and is far more likely to spend its life in a toolbox or workshop drawer where weight or size isn't really a concern.
Topeak Combotorq wrench and bit set - Performance
As alluded to previously, the Topeak Combotorq is a simple, easy-to-use entry-level tool that's firmly aimed at the budget end of the spectrum and it performs admirably considering its price. A fundamental design limitation of beam-type wrenches is that they lack the outright easy accuracy and consistency of the reliable clutch-equipped designs that make over-tightening a bolt an impossibility.
The beam-type torque measuring system is entirely reliant on the user having a steady hand and a clear line of sight to perform a reliable read. There’s certainly a margin for error if the gauge is obscured or the grip on the tool isn't steady enough. However, in general, I found the readings of the Topeak wrench were very good, perhaps reading a touch under compared to my professionally calibrated Park Tools PTD-5 but, on the money, more or less.
Additionally, the good-sized handle and right-angled layout provide ample leverage for applying the pressure at higher torque specs and the long thin bit holder (70mm from gauge to bit) offers excellent reach. It's got to be said the handle itself isn't the most ergonomic for my broad hands and the hexagonal profile of that bit holder can dig in between the fingers a little - if Topeak could smooth those edges off into a rounded section between the handle and gauge, it would be far comfier to hold.
The range of tool bits provided covers most of the bases, and they appear to be of decent enough quality with no rounding or slippage in use. While it would’ve been nice to see a 2.5mm for lock-on grip duties, for the bargain price, it's a minor niggle.
My initial concerns about the durability of the slightly plasticky build proved to be unfounded, the plastic used is far tougher than it looks, with enough flex to the gauge that it has survived a good few months of being chucked in and out of the toolbox without sustaining any damage. I still can't see it lasting the test of time like the much spendier shop-level Park Tools unit though, and if the gauge did break off, the tool would become unusable.
Additionally, thanks to its plastic protrusions, the Topeak wrench is a little ungainly and there can be some clearance issues when adjusting less accessible bolts.
Topeak Combotorq wrench and bit set - Verdict
While there may well be superior torque wrenches out there, for the price, the Topeak Combotorq Wrench Set is difficult to beat. It’s super easy to use and at well under twenty quid, it's stonking value for money. It also covers a useful torque range of 0 -12Nm and includes most of the bits to fit the most common bolts on a bike. Accuracy is pretty decent, so long as there's a steady hand involved, and build quality is spot on for the bargain price. Long-term durability is a bit of a concern owing to the plasticky build, but to be honest, it's proven plenty tough enough so far and is cheap enough that if it did eventually come a cropper it wouldn't be the end of the world to replace it.
There are plenty of torque wrenches available from rival brands, however, very few can offer the value for money of the Topeak gauge. At £40 the Essential Torque Wrench Set from Lifeline is a worthy alternative if you are willing to splurge a few more beer tokens. It’s a brilliant little kit and offers additional 8mm, 10mm and T30 torx bits as well as offering torque reading capabilities of up to 24Nm.
At a wallet-busting £85, a more high-end alternative is the Park Tools ATD-1.2 Torque Driver. It's the connoisseur's choice, a beautifully built and easy-to-use clutch-equipped wrench featuring an ergonomic T-handle that houses 3mm, 4mm, 5mm hex, and a T25 bit. It is adjustable by hand to either 4, 4.5, 5, 5.5, or 6Nm which is enough for most cyclists' needs. However, the Topeak gauge offers twice the range for a whole lot less money, although it may be marginally less accurate and lacks the Park Tool prestige.
Overall, I don't think you can go far wrong with the Topeak Combotorq wrench set, it represents superb value and is an essential addition to the budget-conscious rider's home workshop. For someone looking to dip a toe into the torque wrench market, the Topeak Combotorq gets a solid thumbs up from me.