Tire levers are such a basic item that they’re rarely given much thought…until, like us, you’ve used a lot of them and start to appreciate the nuances in design and function that make some way, way better than others.
For seasoned riders, they might be an afterthought, just get whatever’s on sale and throw in in your saddlebag or pack. For newbies, they may seem like an “extra” that only serious riders need… until you find yourself on the side of the road or trail trying desperately to pry a flat tire off of a rim with your bare hands.
Tire levers allow you to quickly—and cleanly—remove your tire from your rim with significantly less effort. They save your fingers, your tire rim, and possibly, the rest of your ride. And after testing a lot of them, here are our picks for the very best tire levers for every type of cyclist…
Considerations for which tire levers made our Buyer’s Guide below included ease of use, feel, durability, and price. Ultimately, we’re not kidding anyone that tire levers can vary too widely between brands. But there are a few that have stood the test of time, and handled prying off even the most reluctant of tires. Here are our favorites:
BEST OVERALL TIRE LEVERS: Bontrager Tire Levers
Bontrager’s tire levers don’t look like anything fancy, but Bikerumor editors tend to gravitate to them for nearly every ride. They’re designed with angled side tips that can finesse their way under the tightest of tires, with rounded edges that are unlikely to damage anything…even rim tape.
They’re also designed to fit comfortably in your hand and are slightly longer than most tire levers in order to provide more leverage. They’re also a bit thicker than others, so they’re great for big hands. We also love that they snap together so that one never goes missing in the depths of your saddlebag.
They only come in one color at the moment—red—so if you prefer a simple black set or want a wilder colorway, you’ll want to look elsewhere. But if you’re all business and just want a simple set of tire levers that will do the job, Bontrager has your back.
- Color: Red
- Dimensions: 34 grams
- Price: $5
BEST AT HOME TIRE LEVERS: Clever Standard Clever Lever
Want a tire lever that does more than just pry off tight tires? Enter the Clever Standard Clever Lever, a weirdly fancy set of tire levers that seems gimmicky on the surface but is actually super useful.
One Bikerumor editor keeps them perched on his workstand for breaking open quick links as well as removing tight tires. The two tire levers interlock together to form a set of quick link pliers to make removing or reassembling a master chain link easy. It can also tighten or remove valve cores. And the levers themselves are designed to be non-slip so if your hands are slick with sweat, you’ll still be able to use them easily.
These levers might be a bit overbuilt, especially if you have a chain breaker on your multitool. But if you love a cool gadget, they’re great.
- Color: Black
- Dimensions: 130mm length, 60 grams
- Price: $14
BEST NON-TUBELESS TIRE LEVERS: Crank Brothers Speedier Tire Lever
For when we don’t want to bash our hands trying to unseat the most stubbornly tight tires, Crank Brothers’ Speedier Tire Lever is our go-to. And yes, the “Lever” rather than “LeverS” is purposeful: You only get one.
Rather than your usual set of two, this lever comes solo, but boasts a protected handhold that protects your fingers should it slip out just as you’re giving it your all. If you know what we’re talking about, then you’ll appreciate just how ingenious this is for preventing you from punching your spokes at full speed. Think, plastic knuckles…not bloody knuckles..
The reverse side has a hook that slides over the rim to help you reseat tight tires, too. With modern tubeless tires being much easier to mount and dismount, we’d say this is best for those still running tube-type road tires, or newbies just learning to change their own tires and tubes. Like all Crank Brothers products, the Speedier Lever comes with a lifetime guarantee.
- Color: Black
- Dimensions: 144mm length, 26 grams
- Price: $6
MOST ERGONOMIC TIRE LEVERS: Unior Tire Levers
Specifically designed to be comfortable in your hand, the Unior tire levers are great for tricky, tight tires. Some levers can be hard to hang onto, but the ergonomically-friendly silhouette makes these levers easy to grasp when you need to push hard to move a tough tire.
Bonus points for having a nearly foolproof spoke catcher -this design works much better than a looped hook- keeping one lever firmly in place while you slide the other around. Plus, they click together, making them easy to find in your pack.
BEST BUDGET TIRE LEVERS: Pedro’s Tire Levers
Pedro’s Tire Levers are the most commonly used tire levers amongst Bikerumor staff since they’re the most ubiquitous ones on the market. That’s because, like Unior, Pedro’s is a brand that’s entirely devoted to crafting great bike tools. Their tire levers, which come in vibrant shades of neon pink, green, yellow, and orange, clip together and will never get lost in your saddlebag, and will never let you down.
The plastic is burly, and while they’re not the fanciest in terms of grip or style, they simply do the job.
TOUGHEST TIRE LEVERS: Snēk Cycling Lifeboat Levers
For those tires that just won’t come off, there’s the Snēk Cycling Lifeboat Levers, which sandwich a full-length metal insert inside the plastic outer shell. Even though most of the plastic levers here are unlikely to bend, these take it a step further.
They incorporate valve core removers into the design, rotated 90º from each other on either end. And they swap the typical spoke hook on the opposite end for a bottle opener. Nice.
The Lifeboat levers come in black, olive green, or light blue. The extra construction and materials makes them our most expensive recommendation, but sometimes it’s worth a few extra bucks to get the job done. Plus, you’re supporting a small business that makes them in the USA and guarantees them for life.
- Color: black, light blue, olive green
- Dimensions: 120mm length, 48 grams
- Price: $20
Frequently Asked Questions About Tire Levers
Do I need tire levers?
Technically, no, but probably yes…at least at some point. Tire levers will make a flat change a lot smoother, since they help you quickly remove your tire from the rim. And they avoid getting your hands greasy or dirt-covered in the process.
They also can save your rim. If you don’t have tire levers, you may need to resort to using something that could damage your rim in your attempt to detach your tire. So, if you value your rim and your fingers, carry a set in your saddlebag at all times. (Looking for a good multitool to go with your tire levers? We have a list of our favorite bike multitools right here.)
How do you use tire levers?
Tire levers help you to pry your tire off by sliding under the bead of the tire, then gently bringing that bead over and off of the rim of the wheel. Once you have one lever under the tire bead, you simply press it back to create space, then use the hook at the end of the lever to fasten it to a spoke.
Then, use your second lever to slide into the space created by the first lever, and work the second lever around the rim, fully detaching the tire so that you can pull out the tube and replace it. You can also reverse the process to get the tire back onto the rim of the wheel, and to carefully make sure that no bits of the tube are caught under the bead of the tire, since that can lead to a pinch flat.
Can you use a multitool as a tire lever?
While you can technically most sharp, hard objects as tire levers, we highly recommend not using anything other than an actual tire lever or your bare hands. That’s because using metal (like a small Allen key or screwdriver from your multitool) could scrape or damage your tire’s rim, and potentially further puncture or stress the tube or tire. It could also puncture or scratch the rim tape, which will ruin a tubeless setup. That said, if it’s between walking your bike 10 miles home or using a multitool to pry off a tire, we’re not judging you.
Can you use your hands instead of tire levers?
Sometimes, yes, but it takes a lot of hand strength and a bit of know-how. Most tires are tight enough to the rim that they won’t come right off (and if they do, that might be part of the reason for your flat). But you can use your hands to work your way around the tire, pulling the rubber as taut as possible by getting the beads into the center channel to allow a bit of give in a single spot, allowing you to peel the tire off the rim.
Do you really need to carry two tire levers?
Two will get the job done faster, but you can usually manage with just one, if you’re really tight on space or trying to save a few extra grams of weight.
Why does tire lever quality matter?
Some of the cheaper tire levers have the tendency to bend and snap (and not in a fun Legally Blonde kind of way) at the worst possible moment. And metal ones can damage or bend your rims, so we don’t recommend those. A good set of tire levers—like the ones we’ve recommended above—will usually last you a lifetime.