Topeak Torque Wrenches: Quick Review

Topeak Torque Wrenches: Quick Review – by Grannygear

Topeak Nano Torqbar X tool
The Topeak Nano Torqbar X is just one of several torque wrench solutions for the home mechanic that Topeak offers. Image courtesy of Topeak.

Got Torque?  Topeak can help with that. I never even thought about using a torque wrench for working on bikes until carbon happened. Then we had to worry about over-doing things and crushing expensive components.  Now to be fair, using a torque wrench is good even when you are not working with carbon bits, but I don’t need a torque wrench to attach a rear derailleur to a frame and get it right.  But I have been working with bikes and cars and mechanical things for years so I have a pretty good feel for that sort of thing.  

Some people…do not.  But even I cannot tell how much torque I am using to install something like a crank arm.

Topeak makes all kinds of stuff for cycling.  Tools, pumps, bags, etc. Lots of things. And they make three kinds of torque wrenches, from mild to deluxe.

Nano Torqbar X  $54.95, the D-Torq Wrench $239.95, and the D-Torq Wrench DX $269.95.

Now that is a big price range we have here. The Nano is all ‘analog’, so to speak.  It is very much like a typical beam type torque wrench where, as you tighten down a bolt, marks on the tool move across each other and align, indicating increasing amounts of torque.  You have to watch not to over tighten as there is no ‘click’ or anything to tell you that you are at the number you seek.

The D-Torq Wrenches (D as in Digital, I assume) step this up a bit with a digital read out, programmable torque alerts…it beeps when you hit your pre-selected number…and higher torque limits in multiple units of measurement.

So I have been using two of these Topeak wrenches enough to talk about them, I think.  Let’s start with the simpler one of the two.

Nano Torqbar X in use
Used as a “screwdriver of sorts”, the Nano Torqbar X is versatile.

The Nano Torqbar X is a simple and easy to use tool and has been something I have grown to really like. Here is what the Topeak website has to say:

Compact, easy to use and read torque wrench provides correct tightening of bolts on frame and component bolts to recommended torque values for safety and performance. Two of your favorite bits can be carried in the handle of the Nano TorqBar X for immediate use and even greater portability during rides. Torque range: 2 – 6 Nm.

2-6 Nm is useful for stem bolts and most other light bits like seat clamps, etc.  The click type torque keys I have are preset to 5 Nm so the Nano Torqbar X covers that and more.  It is really a darn useful tool.  First of all, most torque keys do not have enough leverage to break loose a bolt unless you are one tough hombre.  So the Nano lets you use any of the tool bits three ways.  

The first way is with no torque feature, but with the bit fitted into the slim bottom of the handle of the tool at a 90 degree angle.  That angle gives you the length of the handle for leverage and is enough to loosen pretty much anything this wrench is also qualified to tighten.

The Nano Torqbox X in use
The torque indication lines might get hidden as you turn the tool, so always make sure to “clock” the tool correctly to enable viewing the gradations.

The second way is as a screwdriver of sorts where the tool bit fits into the torque head and the torque head sits into the top of the handle at zero degrees.  That is handy for spinning out or spinning down bolts till you need to tighten them.  The torque head is giving you a readout in this mode but it’s pretty hard to get to 5Nm this way just because hand strength is limited.  But it would be fine for lesser torque settings with a smaller bit in there, helping to prevent any damage.

The final way is with the torque head installed at 90 degrees to the bottom of the tool handle and this is where you would use it to really get a bolt to 5-6 Nm for final installation.

These three configurations are just darn useful, allowing one tool in hand to work with a handlebar or stem swap start to finish.  I like it very much as I have been swapping saddles and bars and stems a lot lately.  The bits are pretty complete for small work with 3-4-5 allens and a T20 and T25 Torx.

The only downside I have found is, when getting things torqued down, you need to ‘clock’ the tool head to a starting position that allows the lines on the tool indicating torque to end up where they are visible once you reach your number.  Otherwise they might end up at the bottom of the tool where you cannot see them.

For 55 bucks this is a simple and elegant tool and actually useful.  I did compare it to a ‘click’ type torque key and it generally agreed with it as far as where a torqued to 5 Nm bolt ended up.  I also compared it the digital Topeak wrench and it seemed to be right there as well.  We are not assembling spaceships here, so pretty close is good enough for me.

The D-Torq Wrench is the digital version I have.  Here is what the website says about it:

Topeak D-Torq Wrench in its pouch with bits
The D-Torq Wrench comes as you see it here.

Protect your investment with the feature packed torque wrench. D-Torq features a standard hex drive reversible ratcheting head, tools bits and can measure torque in 4 units including N•m, in•lb, ft•lb, or kg•cm. The digital readout provides a visible display while there are also separate programmable audible warnings for your target torque value and another for over torque. Never strip threads again. Torque range : 1 – 20 N•m.

So first off, the D-Torq allows for higher torque settings.  The Nano Torqbar X would not be of use for chain ring bolts for instance which might need 17 Nm.  The 20 Nm the D-Torq offers should handle that. 

The D-Torq is nice for other reasons though besides higher torque abilities. It’s a ratchet, so that is handy. The audible beep feature that tells you that you have hit the torque setting you dialed in….very nice.  No need to look at the readout.  

D-Torq wrench in use
The digital readout can be hard to read in some lighting, so the audible “beep” when reaching your desired torque maximum setting is nice.

But I have to think that the D-Torq falls a bit in the middle space between the Nano Torqbar and the D-Torq DX.  The DX is 20 dollars more but gets you an 80 Nm upper limit which would install bottom brackets, crank arms, etc.  It is 3/8” drive too, so it should handle that.

I was expecting to use it for a chain ring swap until I found that I was missing a T30 Torx bit, which is what my Shimano Ultegra crank set uses for the chainring bolts.  I had a T30 Torx socket but that is 1/4” drive. The D-Torq takes only bits, not sockets. Would I like to trade the Phillips bit in the kit for a T30 Torx?  Also not having a T20 Torx seems a miss.  If I am using a 2mm Allen then a torque wrench seems very over done.  I was able to use the D-Torq for the crank fixing bolts so that was nice.

At The Finish: So for me, I love the Nano Torqbar X and will use that a lot.  If I was OCD about torque settings or just wanted a bit broader useful range, then the D-Torq is very nice.  But once I have spent 250 bucks and accepted that cost, I would just spend 20 bucks more and go for the D-Torq DX as it would be the best one for full on bike builds.  That also has a wider range of bits/sockets in the kit, including a T30. That’s my take anyway.

NOTE: Topeak sent the two torque wrenches reviewed here to Riding Gravel for no charge. We were not bribed nor paid for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.

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by Riding Gravel 2014