The Quest for the Perfect Tool Box
Years ago, when I was working as a mechanic for professional cycling teams, I was spending hundreds of days on the road each year and I lived and worked in hotel parking lots. One of the unique challenges of that job was constantly balancing the requirement that you have everything you need when you need it but nothing you don’t. It’s one thing when you’re with the team truck and size and weight aren’t really an issue, but it’s another thing when you’re flying to some remote town in Argentina for the start of a week-long stage race and you have to carry everything you’re going to need for yourself, 8 professional athletes, and anything else that might go wrong with the bikes, the team car, or god knows what else. And how do you keep it small enough and light enough that you can move it around without throwing your back out? Well, the answer is that you’re probably going to have to build your own. And that’s exactly what I did. I used off the shelf tool boxes and tools for five years and while everything performed just fine and I was never unhappy with them, I was always a little bummed out about how much everything weighed and how it seemed like there was a lot of wasted space in the box and unused slots in my pallets.
My philosophy was simple: I wanted to build a tool box that could handle any bike repair that I’d be likely to encounter on a road bike that didn’t require the use of a vice and had enough tools in it so that I could build a brand new bike with an uncut steerer tube and still be completely self-sufficient. Also, throughout the course of my time working on the road, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter the odd car repair (which was generally the result of someone running into something) every once and awhile too.
Now, this ain’t no how-to post. You’re all a lot smarter than I am so I won’t assume any of you need to be educated on the best practice of putting stuff in a box, and there are far too many individual tools to list out here, but my hope is that some of these photos will be a conversation stimulator and maybe inspire some others out there to waste their time in a similar fashion. For this box I found a suitably sized Pelican case and a large blank sheet of carbon fiber, which I cut to the correct size and then mocked up what the pallets would look like, as seen in the photo below.
Once I had all three pallets that I planned on making mocked up, I built the pallets based on my template and everything was good to go. Here’s the result of said mocking uping:
And the resulting decrease in size. The tried and true C.H. Ellis box in all of its portly glory sitting next to the svelte and highly visible new box. I’m not a doctor, but that looks at least 33.3% smaller. Also, don't cut large amounts of carbon fiber in flip-flops. Trust me, it's a bad idea.
Now I ask you, dear readers, what’s your idea of the perfect tool-box?