Saturday, September 20, 2014

First Look: The Inner-Urban Multi-Tool by TPC Components

One of the most practical tools that any cyclist can own is the foldable multi-tool. It’s akin to the Swiss Army Knife, but better suited to tightening bicycle bolts than unclogging the wooden mouthpiece of your alpenhorn on the slopes of Grindelwald.

Interestingly, much like bicycles, alpenhorns (or alphorns) have also made the leap in to composite materials with these high-tech carbon fibre models being suitable (due to their excellent strength-to-weight ratio, lateral stiffness and vertical compliance) for hiking to the summit of Mount Everest.

The carbon fibre AlpFlyingHorn at the top of Mount Everest.

While the bicycle multi-tool will help get you going after a mechanical incident and the Swiss Army Knife might save the day if your fondue warmer needs urgent repairs, a new product from innovative Melbourne-based component manufacturer TPC Components provides a convenient, multi-application tool designed specifically for the rigours of everyday life.

Introducing the Inner-Urban Multi-Tool.

Not to be confused with the Kelvin Tools Urban Multi Tool (which is available in Ninja Black or Power Pink), the Inner Urban Multi-Tool is presented in a sleek recycled hardwood casing to suit the needs of the contemporary inner-urbanite.

According to TPC Components founder Rudi van Oosterhaus, the idea with this product was not to re-invent the bicycle multi-tool.

‘There are already many fantastic bicycle tools, but TPC Components has always set out with a blank canvas, creating radically new and innovative products such as the ChopperBar and our clever intravenous sports nutrition delivery system.’

‘We like to think of it as analogous to the modern smartphone,’ says marketing manager Florian Winkler.

Technology companies realised at some point that consumers wanted to simplify their lives so they designed one product to take the place of many.

‘Where once you had to carry around a telephone, camera, organiser, newspaper, portable television, street directory and board game, now all of these things are conveniently bundled in to the one device. In the past if you wanted to socialise, go on dates, build a fully-functioning rural community or show someone your genitals, it was necessary to endure the ordeal of actually meeting people, but thanks to clever technological innovation, all these things can now be achieved on your phone.’

TPC Components unique vision was to provide a single product that offered many of the important utensils, tools and accessories most commonly used in contemporary, inner-urban life with simplicity and convenience being the chief goals.

This is the first time that the component manufacturer has ventured in to the lifestyle market segment and the move has been criticised by some in the bicycle industry.

‘To us it always felt like a very natural progression,’ said van Oosterhaus. ‘In the development of both cycling solutions and lifestyle solutions, many of the same design principles apply.’

‘And it’s not like we’ve completely ignored the bicycle segment.’ The tool includes a 15mm spanner, permitting wheel-removal for inner-urban track bike riders – a necessary step for loading the bike in to the back of their partner’s hatchback when being rescued after a flat tyre.

‘We’ve always understood that cycling, as an important part of inner-urbanite life, would feature in this new tool.’

Indeed, this is not the first time that bicycle component manufacturers have developed non-cycling applications for their technology.

Chris King already offer a range that includes salt & pepper shakers, a pint glass and stainless steel coffee tampers in 9 different colours.

Park Tools has a variety of utensils including a spork, barbeque tongs, pizza cutter and a clever 10mm wrench that doubles as a bottle opener.

Bicycle accessory maker Lezyne offers two types of pedal spanner cum bottle opener while Paul Components offers an attractive anodised version.

If you’re after something in titanium there’s the Budnitz Bicycles Titanium Beer Wrench (pedal spanner/bottle opener) and Paragon Machine Works offer an incredible range of five titanium Bottle Openers:

 Paragon's model numbering indicates that they have left room for four more bottle openers in their already impressive range.

Surly offers the Singleator Scrap Tool (18mm spanner/bottle opener) as well as the Jethro Tule (15mm box wrench/bottle opener), Pedros Tools offer a beverage wrench (otherwise known as a bottle opener) and Ahren’s Bicycles came up with a novel headset spacer/bottle opener ‘because beer can't open itself.

Ibis also offers two bottle openers, the Das Liberator and the Hand Job, which has now become somewhat of a collectors item.

Even the Nite Ize HandleBand (mobile phone holder) available from the All4Cycling bicycle vending machine incorporates a bottle opener.
With such an abundance of incredibly novel innovations like these, it’s anyone’s guess what these ground-breaking bicycle manufacturers will think of next…but a bottle opener would have to be a fairly safe bet.
In developing the Inner-Urban Multi-Tool, Florian Winkler explained how ‘the first thing we did was to set about identifying trends, looking at what utensils and accessories people used in everyday inner-urban life. We then whittled this list down to the absolute essentials – those items that the most people would get the most use from – and then sent this list off to our industrial design team.’

From things as simple as a pair of compact scissors (great for beard trimming, but obviously not for cutting kale leaves – those should always be torn) to a handy laser-pen tattoo remover, this tool will have a myriad of inner-urban applications.

Many of the features have an eco-friendly or sustainability focus, something that many inner-urban consumers are seeking these days. The artisan gelato taster puts an end to the countless wasted plastic spoons typically found at any gourmet Italian Gelateria and the expandable Keep Cup disguise sleeve means that you’ll at least appear to be doing the right thing by the environment without actually having to lug that annoying cup around with you.

Homemade coffee connoisseurs aren’t ignored either, thanks to the Eazytamp – ‘An intelligent spring-loaded coffee tamper that will compress 15kgs of pressure on time, every time. Taking the guess work out of coffee making.’

Collaborative partners Aeropress also provide a convenient filter holder for their portable espresso maker too, meaning that you’ll never have to miss out on that small batch artisan-roasted espresso hit, whether at home or on the road.

There are a host of handy fold-out features including a set of 3D glasses, re-usable calico shopping bag, Himalayan rock salt grater and a very cleverly concealed craft beer tasting flute.

One of the most unique features of the Inner-Urban Multi-Tool, though, is undoubtedly the laser-pen tattoo removal device.

Tattoos have become an important way for the inner-urban masses to express their individuality these days, but unfortunately the rapid growth in tattoo parlours has not been matched by a convenient method for undoing many of these no-longer-relevant, (semi)-permanent body-art pieces.

But now, thanks to TPC Components, you no longer need to fret over that perfectly symbolic and timeless tattoo design because the laser-pen tattoo removal tool allows you to make modifications to whatever tribal arm sleeve, tramp stamp, Kanji character, knuckle word, or cursive motivational quote you might have thought was a good idea to adorn your skin with at the time.

 Users are advised to keep in mind that this accessory does require 4xLR44 button cell (watch-style) batteries (sold separately).

At this stage, Winkler and van Oosterhaus are yet to finalise the expected retail pricing, but all indications point to this well-crafted item coming in around the $8000-$9000 mark. While this is certain to alienate a fair chunk of the consumer market, for those who do appreciate the value of boutique manufacturing, excellent finishing quality and the practicality of a multi-function, portable everyday product, the Inner-Urban Multi-Tool should certainly hit the mark. The only gripe our testers had with this otherwise fantastic tool was the frustrating omission of a bottle opener.

1 comment: