Portland Design Works is slowly trickling out new products, and the company founded by two former Planet Bike employees felt a simple US$20 tyre lever/axle-nut tool called 3wrencho was just the ticket to keep up with the rising urban fixie market.
“The inspiration for 3wrencho came during a really hot summer day ride,” Portland Design Works co-founder Dan Powell told BikeRadar. “Yeah, there are a bunch of multi tools on the market today. However, often what I’ve found is that the more things you put on a tool, the less it actually works. We wanted to make a tool that was designed to do two things very well. And it does.
“You can also use it to do a bunch of other stuff, but it is really designed to just get your wheel off and pull the tyre off the rim,” he explained.
Powell spends a lot of time riding new test products, but he also spends a ton of time reading forums, talking with riders about what they carry with them.
“One day I was on the Las Vegas fixed gear forum, and there was a thread entitled ‘What’s in your bag?'” he said. “Just about every post that had a picture showed an open ended 15mm wrench and a tyre lever…that validated the project for me. And for the record, the 3wrencho can easily open a beer bottle…”
Tyre lever, axle nut adjuster and peanut butter spreader!:Portland Design Works
One of the reasons Portland Design Works opened for business was the urban fixie market, something Powell and co-founder Erik Olson discovered at Planet Bike in bike-crazy Madison, Wisconsin.
“I see the industry rising to embrace the demand,” he added. “The beauty of this movement is that it is accessible to people everywhere. Yes, mountain biking and road biking are always going to have their strengths and their followers. To a point racing is going to drive the advance of technology.
“But the urban market is going to grow because it’s something that the vast majority of folks can do in normal clothes, right out their front doors. Seeing products like Shimano Alfine and SRAM Torpedo hubs only makes me more confident. This is the market that inspires us. If mountain bikers like our grips, or road cyclists/tri-folks like our pumps, that’s awesome. But the market we really want to support is the urban rider.”
Powell added that he loves seeing the progression of what he calls the fixed gear/track bike/freestyle movement. Two tools that inspired the 95g, 114mm long PDW 3wrencho were the Surly Jethro Tule and the Campy ‘peanut butter’ wrench.
“Both are iconic, and I’ve carried them both with me on rides,” he said. “But neither of us has ever been a fan of the status quo, so we looked at both and said how can we make these better?
“So we made the 3wrencho longer that the Surly, and gave it a good handle that you could get a decent grip on, or stomp on if you needed to. When I got the initial sample of the 3wrencho, I got some peanut butter out and spread it on some bread. It worked great. The tyre lever shape is based on a decade of changing flats in a shop. It won’t snap off in your hand.”
But where did the name come from?
“When I first arrived in Madison in 2002, I visited the Yellow Jersey bike shop on State Street,” Powell said. “Owner Andy Muzi had 3rensho frames hanging every where. I had no idea that 3rensho was really pronounced ‘san rensho…’, so when it came time to pick a name, I kind of wanted to poke fun at my own naivety. The name seems to resonate.”