Robert Seals, a multi-faceted artist, activist, frame builder, race promoter and team owner, was one of the most brilliant figures in the early years of mountain biking, while being an outrageous character known for many bizarre exploits (see Dirt Rag Magazine #178). He is responsible for innovations in folding and solar sound stages, designing the Retrotec frame and developing the KleenKanteen. However, arguably, his most important contribution was the Cool Tool, one of the first, if not the first, bicycle multi-tools, which he invented and patented.
The Cool Tool claimed twenty seven separate tools all attached to an adjustable wrench which was the backbone for them. The wrench’s “jaws” were tapered in order to be used as a pedal wrench and a cone wrench. Other tools included, but were not limited to, 4, 5, and 6 mm Allen wrenches, 14/15 gauge spoke wrenches, a 10 mm box wrench, Phillips screwdriver, chain tool, tire tool, pedal wrench, emergency crank bolt, 14/15 mm sockets, bottom bracket adapter, and cotterless crank wrench. Whew!
- Length = 5” (130mm)
- Width = 1-3/4” (42mm)
- Thickness = 7/8” (22mm)
- Weight, stainless = 7.5 oz (214g)
- Weight, titanium = 5.9 oz (168g)
The Cool Tool was constructed of hard chrome-plated steel in Taiwan, while a titanium version was produced in the US. His company produced other very innovative, but lesser known, multi-tools, one which served as a seat post quick release and a tubular unit that could be inserted into the hollow end of a seat post.
The Cool Tool and its siblings were very popular in the early 1990’s, but had lost some luster when the company was sold to Gerber circa 1996. Gerber’s versions didn’t have the same reputation for durability as the original models and the tool had inherent limitations such as difficulty keeping the tools together, something that could be resolved by inserting the tool into a short, cut section of a bicycle tube, was heavy (1/2 pound), had a proclivity to rust and didn’t have a flat head screwdriver.
Accordingly, the tool faded into oblivion, and is unlikely to be revived. As an aside, my parents gave me a Cool Tool as a Christmas present in 1991 and it still functions perfectly more than a quarter century later. I have many wonderful memories of them. Fortunately, some are concrete.