Bike companies aren’t settling for the status quo anymore- they’re getting more and more creative when it comes to integrating useful items into the existing parts of a mountain bike. Industry Nine is one of those companies; well known for their high-end hubs and full-built wheels, they decided to take that knowledge and apply it to the thru-axle and introduce something that’s brand new.
Enter the I-9 Matchstix. What is it? The Matchstix is a well-thought out multi-tool integrated INSIDE of the standard thru-axle. Brilliant, right? You can’t ride your bike without the thru-axle, and now you’ll never ride your bike without your multi-tool.
There’s been a surge lately for products that allow you to ride backpack free, and we’re fully on board with that idea. If you haven’t ditched your Camelbak lately, give it a try and let us know how it feels- personally, we’ll do just about anything we can to make sure we don’t have to lug that thing on our backs in the middle of the summer when it’s pushing 90 degrees. If you decide to ride backpack free, however, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got basic items with you in case of a mechanical issue or an emergency, and the Matchstix is one of those items. We won’t ride without a multi-tool. Simply add a water bottle, strap a tube and a CO2 cartridge to your frame, and you’re backpack free!
Full disclosure: Industry Nine did send this Matchstix (notice it matches my blingy I-9 wheels, which were NOT free!) to me free of charge, with the expectation that I liked it and would review the product for them. Guess what? I like it, and I think you will too.
- Lightweight: you don’t notice it at all
- Lots of tools packed into a tight little package
- No more backpack!
- Made in the USA (Asheville, NC to be exact)
- It’s expensive ($145)
- You can’t swap them between forks
- It can be a process to remove and use
Thru Bolts Available: 15×100, 15×110 (Boost), RS 15x150mm
Bits: Seven stainless steel bits included 6mm, 5mm, 4mm, 3mm, 2.5mm, 2mm and T25. You can carry 4 in the bit tube and the 5mm is integrated into the handle.
Chain Break: Integrated into the handle
Spoke Tool: Standard 2.32mm
Chain Link: Will carry all 9-10-11 speed (but not Eagle 12-spd)
Valve Core Remover included
Using the I-9 Matchstix
OK, there’s a LOT of little pieces and tools built into this guy. Look at the list above- just about everything you need is packaged into a standard thru-axle; brilliant engineering by the guys at Industry Nine. In the three months I’ve had the Matchstix, I’ve been lucky and haven’t had to use it in a trail-side emergency, but I have made a point to test it out in the garage, because I want to be up to speed if I need it.
When I first saw the Matchstix, my first thought is that it’s going to be a PITA (pain in the ass for you internet newbs) to access and use. Well, I was wrong- you can actually pop off the handle without removing the wheel, which is a BIG plus. You can also pull out the sleeve of bits- and the extra chain link- without take the front wheel off, which is another plus. Luckily I-9 is run by a bunch of brilliant, thoughtful engineers and they’re used to creating instruction manuals, so there’s a nice one included with your Matchstix. Be sure to at least take a look, because it might save you a 4-mile walk back to the car.
Sarah from I-9 can give you the run down way better than I can, so here’s a short 3-minute video with the highlights and important things to know:
Sure, it can get complicated. But you know what? It’s all worth it- because going back to what I mentioned above, I’ll do just about anything to make sure I don’t have to wear that dreaded backpack. Also remember, it’s not something you’re going to use regularly; it’s an emergency tool that you’ll rarely use. And it works great in that capacity.
The Matchstix multi-tool isn’t perfect, however. First off, it’s expensive: $145 will buy you a lot of multi-tools, and if you decide to go that route it’s totally understandable. That said, carrying a multi-tool in your back pocket or strapped to your frame isn’t an ideal situation and it’s one we like to avoid. For the price, you’re not only getting the multi-tool performance, but you’re also getting an extra thru-axle, which can cost upwards of $50-60 by themselves.
Second, they’re not transferrable between bikes. For instance, if you regularly ride two bikes and one has a Fox fork and the other has a Rockshox fork, you’ll have to buy two Matchstix if you want to use them on both bikes. Same goes for the thru-axle “standard” sizes… thanks for nothing, Boost!
And finally, the tool can be a bit intimidating to use: there are a bunch of small pieces and it can be tough to use if you’re trying to keep your bike gloves on while doing so. That said, if you focus on the one tool you need and forget about all the other capabilities, it’s really not that bad. The bits are easy to access and it allows you to bring along an extra chain link at the very least.
I dig it, and not just because they sent me one for free. This is one product I would have gladly paid full price for, and it’s one you may see on our Chasing Epic fleet in 2018. The biggest positive for me is that I’ll ALWAYS have a solid, dependable multi-tool with me when I ride my bike, regardless of whether or not I’m bringing a backpack. For those of you into bike-packing, it’s an absolute space saver- you guys know the value of integrating tools and supplies into the existing space.
Besides matching my awesome bright blue wheels, the I-9 guys have come up with a pretty impressive feat of bike-related engineering. Sure, it’s not for everyone because of the price, but if you’re willing to trade cash for convenience and accessibility, then I say take a look. In case I missed anything, you can check out what Industry Nine has to say themselves too.