If you’re a smart cyclist, you never leave home without what you need to fix a flat tire. Nothing says “I was unprepared!” more than a guy walking his bike along the trail with a flat. That means you carry a patch kit, a pump, a spare tube and tire levers. Unless you’re Superman or Wonder Woman, you are never going to get a bike tire off its rim without these simple little tools. Whatever you do, don’t try a screwdriver – that’s just a recipe for another flat.
I have a lot of them spread among the five bikes around the house, including four or five Park Tool TL-1 Tire Levers. Since they come in sets of three, that means I’ve either lost some or broken some – in fact, one of each. Your flat-repair kit should include two or three, since it usually takes two to get the tire off.
A tire lever is just a short length of metal or hard plastic – the TL-1 is Park Tools Blue® nylon. One end is wedge-shaped to slip between the tire and the rim, while the other end is designed to hook over a spoke. Pry a section of the tire over the rim with one lever, hook its end on a spoke to keep it in place, and use the second lever to slip the rim free all around the rest of the rim. Bingo: you’re ready to extract the old tube!
Park’s levers snap together to make a little stack that fits into a pocket on your jersey or into a seat pack. Tuck them away and hope you don’t need to use them! When you do, though, they’re tough and durable. I do find them better-suited to use on fat tires like those on mountain bikes or hybrids. For the skinny tires on my road bikes, I carry more expensive and thinner levers, which seem to fit into the gap a little better. And one reason why I only have four of these instead of six is that nylon levers can break – and do.
My bottom line is that Park Tool TL-1 Tire Levers are an inexpensive solution, but you can do better. They’re far better than a screwdriver, but they’re a little oversized for the skinny tires road cyclists use. .