Some pieces of gear are glamorous, others are definitely less so. The best tire levers are rarely going to be the conversation starter at a party, but with the best road bike tires and the best gravel tires now being harder to mount and dismount because they’re tubeless-ready, it’s now more important to have a reliable set than ever.
It used to be that you could effectively condense that list into a very short sentence to the tune of “literally every one of them will be fine.” I have some vintage rims that don’t even need levers to pop the tire on and off, but lately I’ve broken countless simple levers trying to mount or remove stubborn tubeless tires on tubeless rims.
A strong tire lever is one thing, but if strength were everything we’d all just use giant flathead screwdrivers. The best tire levers are ergonomically designed so that they don’t hurt your hands and also protect your rims and tires from damage.
If you need to know how to change a bike tire, we’ve got you covered, plus a ton of options to get you rolling again with the best CO2 inflators and the best bike pumps. Also, we’ve put together a handy guide below to answer some of your questions.
All of the levers on this list have been tested by installing and removing the Challenge Strada, which is a benchmark tire in my opinion. The tire itself is quite difficult to slip on and off the rim, but being cotton-wrapped makes it a bit more fragile, which is a good test of the lever’s protective qualities.
The best tire levers available today
Pedro’s tire levers are arguably the closest to the gold standard in tire levers. They’re not the strongest on this list, nor are they the smallest or lightest, but they’re cheap, durable, and strong.
The rounded lever tips, unlike the Unior levers, may have trouble getting the bead off some stubborn tires, but they are slightly stronger and have less flex. When removed, the plastic, which here presents the smoothest surface of all the levers, slides easily along rims and tire beads.
I take these with me on my rides, except on certain occasions, and as a bonus I’ve also found them to be a great emergency chew toy for puppies, although that wasn’t within the remit of the group test.
Changing tires, especially when it’s cold, can sometimes be deadly. These Unior tire levers feature a nice knurled indentation for your thumb that really adds to the grip and comfort.
They’re lighter than the Pedros, the other sturdy plastic offering on this list, but the narrower head allows for a bit more flexibility. On the other hand, the narrower head also makes it easier to drive under the tire bead. So if your wheel and tire combo isn’t too tricky, these might be a better option for you.
At £19 these are really expensive tire levers, around four times the price of the Pedros. Are they four times better? In some situations yes.
The Silca Premio levers are constructed with an alloy core wrapped in nylon, meaning they are significantly stronger than the all-plastic options. They’re also small and light, and while they’re not stackable, they come with a faux leather sleeve to keep them together.
If you have a really tricky tire/wheel combo (the Continental GP5000 springs spring to mind) then these are a better choice for your saddlebag than anything else. They won’t break, and they’ll last long enough to outlast four sets of cheaper levers.
When you’re on the go, you want a tire lever that’s lightweight, compact, and strong enough to get the job done, even if it’s a bit of a chore, maybe with some added features.
In the workshop, however, you don’t have to worry about the weight or the storage space on the bike. This is where the Park Tool TL6.2 tire levers shine; The steel core makes them extremely strong and the extra length means that even the hardest tires can easily come off the rim.
There are no embellishments, no hooks or valve cores, and they weigh about twice the next heaviest here, but for home use they make life that much easier.
Alone, these SKS tire levers would not necessarily have prevailed. They’re too flexible for modern tubeless wheels and tires, but they offer something no other lever on this list offers: a valve core removal tool. If you don’t already have any of these in your saddlebag in any form, then they’re a great add-on option to have along with one of the other sets here.
I usually throw a single one next to my Pedros. It’s rare that I need three tire levers, but the valve core tool has saved me twice in the last two months.
If you don’t run tubeless rims and tires, these are probably your best option too, as they pack most of the features into a lightweight package.
While not technically a tire lever, the Lifeline tire setting tool is a handy workshop companion, especially for stubborn tubeless setups. One arm hooks onto the edge of the rim, while the hook on the other arm can either help lift a tire bead up and onto a rim, or pull the tire back to pop a stubborn bead.
It’s too big and unwieldy to consider for riding, but when combined with the Park TL6.2 levers, it represents a system that can handle just about anything.
It’s visually exactly the same as the Cycle Pal Tire Seating Tool we reviewed, so head over there for a bit more info.
How to choose the best tire levers for you
Need tire levers?
Yes. They are one of the cheapest tools you can buy as a home mechanic and without them you could be stranded on the side of the road unable to fix a flat tire.
They should be with you on every ride, along with a pump or CO2 inflator and a way to fix a flat tire (either a tubeless repair kit, spare tube or patch).
What can I use instead of tire levers?
In a pinch, a large flathead screwdriver will do the job, but you risk damaging your rims, tires, and tubes if you use one. Tire levers have rounded edges and are either all plastic or metal encased in plastic to prevent damage during use.
Can tire levers be used on carbon wheels?
Unless the tire lever specifically prohibits it, you can use them on carbon wheels. None of the levers on this list are prohibited for use with carbon, but extra care must be taken with the metal core models to avoid scratching your rims.
Should You Use Metal Tire Levers?
Provided they’re covered in a protective coating like the Silca and Park options, there’s nothing to suggest you shouldn’t use metal tire levers. Park Tool even makes a tough all-metal set (the TL-5) for extremely stubborn tires. So if it’s a tool designed to do a job, there’s no need to worry.
What are the hooks on tire levers for?
Most tires require two levers to tighten and remove, and sometimes it takes two hands for a single lever. The hooks on tire levers allow the lever to hook behind and onto the spokes of the wheel, holding them in place and freeing one hand.
How do we test tire levers?
Here, at cycling news, We’ve been through countless sets of tire levers. We’ve bent and snapped ’em, cursed the bad ones in the cold, and felt the satisfying glow of getting a tire on and off a rim without putting them on.
Specifically for this test, we used the same tire and rim combination in the same weather conditions, so expansion and contraction of the bead and rim did not affect our testing. In short, it meant an afternoon of picking up and taking off the same tire and picking it up and taking it off to see how each lever worked in terms of its ability to remove and replace a tire, but also how well it did protects components and how well it protects hands too.