There are so many titles or angles for this post. How many gear lists, tool reviews, or trail side repair articles can your search engine come up with in 2.3 seconds or less? I am ready to give you one more because I have watched the evolution of this company over the last 20+ years. I was able to do this because I developed a close relationship with its founder/designer Tomo Ichikawa. Do you know Tomo?
If you answered yes, I am not surprised. If you told me he had you picked up in a stretch Hummer limo to go out to dinner with the energetic shakers and movers in the bike industry after a long day at a trade show that too would not surprise me. We have stories to share. If you answered no, then I hope you have the opportunity. Tomo will show genuine interest in any ideas you have to make biking better.
I met Tomo as an international college student attending the University of Nevada, Reno and he quickly worked his way into every fold of the Reno biking community. After so many years of local riding and racing, travel to NORBA nationals, and meals shared, I followed his career in Japan and Taiwan. Fast forward a dozen years or so, Tomo’s current platform for innovation is Clever Standard. Let’s check it out!
The Clever Lever Original As categories of tools chains and tires fall into special categories, tire repair is the most common and chain tools are the most specific. So Tomo put two tools in a light weight, compact package. The tire levers are super durable and will make tire removal/installation a breeze in even the messiest situations. The quick link pliers are essential for emergency chain shortening or facilitating getting a jammed chain out of a stubborn drive train. So how about a few more features? The interlocking groove doubles as a 15 mm holder for the Clever Chain Barrel HEX. Can you use the prongs of the chain pliers to eat ramen? Of course! The space on the prongs double as a valve core wrench. Some unintended uses will be covered here.
The Clever Chain Barrel Hex and AL Chain tools are the most essential and specialized tool for bike riders. You can’t repair a chain without one. Whenever I am recommending a multi tool to a rider I start with those with a chain tool as a minimal standard. But have to tried using one? So cramped, poorly machined, inadequate leverage, poor durability, heavy, and expensive are overlooked and tolerated to fulfill the requirement of having a chain tool. Until now. The Chain Barrel Hex and AL offer stand alone tools that are packable, easy to use, high quality, light weight, and reasonably priced. And good looking! Combine the 15 mm channels in the Clever Lever with the 15 mm ends of Chain Barrel Hex as a system. The Chain Barrel AL has an integrated handle that doubles as a valve core tool. Integration and multi-function are common themes throughout Clever Standard.
FAV Equipment Plugger FAV comes from, favorite, only the essentials. See if you agree! I have never used a plugger or bacon strip of any kind. But I have heard plenty of stories where holes in tires sealed just fine after the insertion of this magical device. And the repairs lasted to get riders home and beyond through the life of the tire. As riding tubeless becomes common place the techniques and tools for safe and effective repair need to follow. The Plugger is one such tool. Superb craftsmanship, light weight, self-contained, easy to use, and colorful all add to the value of this tool. Expect more from Clever Standard in the area of tubeless maintenance.
FAV Equipment Adaptool This is the tool I use the most (and sell the most at my shop). At first glance this is your everyday presta-to-schrader adapter. But it is light weight aluminum not brass. It comes in great anodized colors. It doubles in function as a presta valve core tool. Fantastic! As we ramp up our dependence on tubeless technology we need simple solutions to everyday problems. Valves get clogged by sealant. Valves loosen or get damaged through repeated inflation. Seating the tire bead is easier without the valve core. It is easier to add sealant to tires with removable valve cores. For these needs I use my Adaptool. I pick the colors to compliment my bikes because Clever Standard makes it possible. On my maiden voyage on the Falconer B+ I lost my chainring bolts on my Shimano SLX cranks. The threading is the same on the schrader valve as a chainring bolt. The Adaptool got me back to the car.
Clever Flatout This tool is the most recent release. It is a great compliment to the Chain Barrel and Clever Lever. High quality, multi-function, innovative, light weight (but heavy hitter), and affordable. Check out the video to explain the chain hooks, chain hammer, quick link storage, valve core wrench, bladed spoke holder, tire levers, and bottle opener. I saw the original tool fresh from the 3-D printer. I really pushed for the integrated “peanut butter spreader” but my ideas don’t always make it off the drawing board.
So what is in my tool kit? My kit lives in a recycled inner tube bag by Clare at Urchin Bags. I transfer that kit from bike to bike and ride to ride. It has traveled thousands of miles and rarely opened. With few exceptions it does not vary. My goal is to maximize multi-function and minimize redundancy.
- Brake and shift cables
- Tire boot
- 15 ml chain lube
- Chain Barrel AL
- Leatherman Squirt
- small Gerber folding knife
- TipTop patch kit
- Lezyne multi tool
- Flat Out
- Clever Lever – phone stand (not featured on website but we have to bring it back)
- Spare tube, assorted small bolts, and zip ties.
I also carry a Lyzyne mini pump.
It pays to be critical. What have I really used over the years? Patch kit (my fat bikes have never been tubeless), the allen wrenches in the multi-tool, quick-links to repair another rider’s chain, and pump. But, am I prepared? I should add spare spokes and nipples, 2 oz of tire sealant, spare tubeless valve, presta valve core, and Gorilla tape. Just writing this post has made me re-think things. Tomo and I have discussed with the rise in tubeless use the bike industry needs to prepare riders with the knowledge and tool for proper maintenance. I need to ditch multi-tool for assorted loose allens and torx.
A Few Questions to Tomo Ichikawa How did you end up in Reno? My school in Japan had a relationship with UNR and also I found out that Reno is located in the middle of nature. I was a avid mountain biker, so it was perfect location for me anyway. I had no idea about any towns in USA at that time. But you know, because of this, I’ve met you and kept friendship with you since 2000. Yes, we first met at a local twilight race and I lent you my helmet so you could participate. A friendship born in safety. How did you get into bike riding? Since I was maybe around 4 or 5. My grand father gave me a bike. And when I was 13 years old, I got my first new “mountain bike,” which was made by Panasonic. It had rigid fork. It was aluminum and quite nice bike at that time. I always liked riding bicycles on dirt. Yes, I remember your Scott mountain bike when you came to Reno, and since then we have both had too many bikes to list here. What were some of your earlier projects? My first original product was Chocolate Grips. It looks like chocolate and smells like a chocolate, too. Still selling it in Japan. Maybe I will introduce it to USA. I have fond memories of those grips. I wore out the three pairs you gave me, white, brown, and pink. The waffle pattern was unique, the rubber was very comfortable, and they had the faint scent of candy. Maybe add a lock-on version for the US mountain bike market. Who has influenced you the most along the way? Many of my friends in the States, especially mountain bike riders in Sierra’s, Reno, Tahoe, NorCal. You have made a great set of friends over the years. What areas of the bike industry are you most interested in? Mountain bikes and mountain bikers. These people put new ideas into tools, gear, equipment, and how they play around on bikes. In going from ideas to products, how does Clever Standard make it’s investments? Usually I do it by myself, especially for developing the concept. AND many designers and factories, patent office also support me. I work like a creative director/product manager. For example:
1) I come up with concept/solution for problem
2) a designer collaborates to make it 3D
3) print 3D
4) mass production
During those processes, I constantly communicate and research with real riders, shop managers, mechanics, someone like you! And the factory trusts me and goes forward with the mass production. If someone wants to join or needs a solution or has a problem, they are all welcome! Let’s solve problems together and make the world a fun place through the bicycle. “Believe in Bikes!” I have seen your process and have always been impressed. There is a lot of work bringing something like Flat-Out to market. Lastly, do you have any recommendations of places to tour/bikepack in Japan? And Taiwan? I would say Nagano, the mountainous area of Japan. It located at high elevation with less humidity and more fresh air. But in winter there is a lot of snow. In July 2019, I toured around Taiwan in 9 days. It was around 560 miles. I had fun visiting many places in Taiwan. They have many kinds of food in different destinations. Thanks Tomo!
If you are interested in these tools please contact Clever Standard Inc. Tomo has offered the coupon code NVBKP, 5% off your order and a free Adaptool. It is great to support the small innovators. If you want to get in touch with Tomo he is on Facebook or you can email him at Believe in Bikes, firstname.lastname@example.org. I have a few samples so if there is something you want the tools are easy to mail in a padded envelope. Drop me a line at email@example.com. I look forward to the next releases from Clever Standard!