The Tire Lever Report: My Thoughts on 10 Popular Tire Levers
What is both the cheapest and most useful tool that every cyclist should have? The tire lever.
There is no other bike-specific tool that will get as much use from the everyday cyclist. So you have to get a good one, because when you have to fix a flat tire miles from home, you don't want some wimpy piece of plastic!
To help you out, here are my thoughts on ten of the most popular levers:
1. Park Tire Levers (Narrow and Wide widths)
The vast majority of my bicycle tools are made by Park, because their quality and customer service is hard to beat. But one thing I don't use are Park tire levers. I have used them successfully, but they never gave me that "wow this is an amazing tire lever" feeling.
If you go for these levers, you have two options - narrow or wide. I'd choose the narrow ones if you're a road cyclist, and the wide ones if you're a mountain biker.
Buy it? Maybe... but keep reading for better choices.
More info: www.parktool.com
2. Zefal Tire Levers
This set of blue, white, and red levers (French colors) looks ordinary, but they are made of a "super tough technopolymer" that turned out to be very tough indeed. I bought a set of these probably ten years ago, and to my surprise, I have not broken one!
If you're a patriotic American, you might not like the idea of buying French tire levers, but you can't argue with how tough these things are.
Buy it? Yes.
More info: www.zefal.com
3. Pedro's Tire Levers
These traditionally yellow levers (available in more colors these days) are extremely confidence inspiring when working with tight tire/rim combinations. They come with a lifetime guarantee, and I believe it. They just feel solid the whole time you are bending them.
While you only get two levers in a set, I've never needed to use them both together. In a skilled hand, just one of these levers is enough for most tire/rim combos.
Buy it? Heck yes, this is the best lever to get!!
More info: www.pedros.com
4. Wrench Force Tire Levers
I bought these tire levers for one reason - they are curved instead of straight. I don't know if that makes them tougher or more ergonomic, but at least they're different. They're tough enough I haven't broken them yet.
Due to the shape, you might get a tiny bit more leverage with these, so it's not a bad choice.
Buy it? Maybe... they're not bad.
More info: www.trekbikes.com
5. Easy Hand Bike Tool
This one looks funny, huh? It might be weird, but it is supposed to be the best tool for installing 700x19-23C tires. Unfortunately it won't work for removing tires, and it won't work on 700x25C tires. And it certainly won't work on mountain bike tires.
It does work on a typical 700x23C tire, but it takes some practice, and I don't think it's any better than a regular tire lever. Regular tire levers are also better because they install and remove tires.
Buy it? Heck no!
More info: www.thebiketool.com
6. Crank Bros Speed Lever
The Speed Lever is an interesting tool which makes it easier for you to remove and install tires while using a single lever. After you slip the hook under the bead, the lever telescopes down and attached to the wheel's axle. Then you can slide the lever in a circle to pop the tire off.
It works well on most mountain bike tires, but a skilled mechanic can do the job faster with one regular tire lever. Also, the plastic handle seems kind of flimsy, so I would not want to test this on tight tire/rim combos.
Buy it? Only if you have problems with regular tire levers.
More info: www.crankbrothers.com
7. The Quik Stik
The Quik Stik set the standard for tire levers so big and strong you only need one. This is a very thick tire lever that's tough, which comes as no surprise. While you will probably put a lot of cuts into one of these from leveraging it against the rim, you probably won't snap one.
I've found two downsides in the Quik Stik, though. First, it's so thick that it doesn't always fit between the tire and rim when you want to remove a tire! The newest style has a tapered tip, although it's still thick. (It's not too bad for MTB tires, but not good for road tires.) Second, it's kind of soft, so it doesn't slide along the rim easily. It kind of sinks in.
Buy it? Yes, if you're breaking all your other tire levers.
More info: www.californiabikegear.com
8. Spin Doctor Steel Core Tire Levers
Always wanting the strength of steel tire levers but not the price tag, I figured these $5 levers were worth a shot. They are thick plastic levers with a steel skeleton running through them. And yeah, they're tough. But they are also extremely thick, like the Quik Stik.
Overall, these just aren't practical. The strength doesn't matter when the tip is too thick to fit under the tire bead. Since they're big and heavy, carrying them in your seatbag is not fun.
Buy it? Heck no!
More info: www.performancebike.com
9. Park Heavy Duty Steel Tire Levers
Here are some steel tire levers that a home mechanic can afford. $15 for a pair is three times more than regular tire levers, but they might be worth the price for the strength gains.
Made of forged steel and 8" long, these have the strength needed to work with downhill mountain bikes and freestyle BMX bikes, which typically use tough, wire-bead tires.
Buy it? If you ride DH or BMX.
More info: www.parktool.com
10. Kool Stop Tire Jack
Much like the Easy Hand tool mentioned earlier, this one from Kool Stop uses the same idea of pulling a tire onto the rim. The good news is that it is much bigger, making it work for more tire sizes, including mountain bike tires Unfortunately, it doesn't remove tires.
I still don't see the point, but some people swear by it, so take a look if you're desperate.
Buy it? If you want something that looks cool.
More info: www.koolstop.com
Bonus! 11. Lifu Steel Tire Levers
Want some real steel tire levers without paying a hefty price tag? Then check BikeToolsEtc.com for these Lifu levers - a set of 3 costs just $2.50.
These might be crappy (I haven't used them,) but maybe they are as strong as other steel levers.
Buy it? It's worth a shot.
More info: www.biketoolsetc.com
Now go buy your Pedro's Tire Levers and you can change tires happily ever after.
Then take a look at the articles listed below for more bike repair tips: