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Metal Tire Levers

Old 03-08-22, 11:08 PM
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MAK
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Metal Tire Levers

I posted this in the Folding Bikes thread a while ago but got only one response.

Happy owner of a Brompton and I just purchased the Brompton Tool Kit. I'm wondering about the tire levers. I knew they were metal, but I'm now questioning whether metal levers can or will damage the rims. I haven't had a flat and I'm currently carrying Pedro levers just in case. Overkill? Does anyone have experience with the metal levers that they can share?
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Old 03-08-22, 11:17 PM
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I've been using metal levers on my aluminum rims pretty much all the time for years and haven't seen any damage from them. I use them in my saddle bags because they're smaller/thinner than the plastic ones and therefore more compact and easier to slip into the tightly packed pack. The "blade" is nice and thin and I think easier to get between the tire bead and the rim. I also have plastic ones which I keep in the "shop" (garage) because I have them and they work too.
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Old 03-09-22, 07:18 AM
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Plastic levers usually work better and faster for most tires, with decent technique. The Park I-beam multitool I carry has a plastic-coated steel tool which doubles as the chain breaker handle. There are a few combinations out there that may need a metal tool.

I don't think it's a matter of damaging the rim, it's just easier and faster. You can slide the tire off better with plastic. You get a better grip too.

Last edited by andrewclaus; 03-09-22 at 07:26 AM.
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Old 03-09-22, 07:52 AM
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I have a set of metal (steel) tire levers but have always been leary of using them for fear of rim damage so I use plastic levers exclusively when removing a tire or it's too tight to install by hand. I have Park's TL1.2 levers and they work well. The easiest to use plastic levers I ever had were Specialized's "Pry-Babies" which were very thin and slipped between the tire and rim easily but were fragile and didn't survive very tight tires. They are no longer available and their fragility is probably why.

For the initial installation of very tight tires I use a Kool Stop Tire Jack which will install almost anything with no fear of either rim or tire damage. I have also found that once a tight tire has been installed, removal and reinstallation isn't as traumatic.
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Old 03-09-22, 08:00 AM
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I have both aluminium and steel vintage levers in the garage (plastic on the bikes). I use the AL on aluminum rims without issue. I rarely use the steel ones but probably would only use them on steel rims.
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Old 03-09-22, 08:28 AM
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My favorite levers are aluminum and I've used them with no issues related to rim damage. I like them because they have thin, wide blades that slide in easily. I also have a few stamped steel ones that I use when others are not close at hand, but have not noticed that they cause any rim damage. When you think about how you use them; sliding between the tire and inside of rim and then levering against the inside surface of the top of the rim, I'm not sure that careful use is likely to be an issue. I reckon the bigger concern is that a stiffer steel one will more effectively transfer force to the rim potentially bending it.

Plastic levers are thicker and sometimes difficult to slip under the tire bead.
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Old 03-09-22, 09:09 AM
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The common/classic steel tire lever (Brooks made an iconic version) can mar an Al rim. I would not call the minor signs of use "scratches" as there's no real depth to the marks.

Al tire levers leave less mars but their ends can be thin enough to suffer from bending on really tight tire/rim combos.

Plastic levers are nicer to the rim's cosmetics and slipperier against the rim and tire. But their ends need to be thicker and that can be a fit challenge sometimes. The Quick Stick is, IMO, the worst in this aspect. Some plastics can snap and others will flex too much on really tight tire/rims.

Having said all that my go to is the Kool Stop Sports. Nice seat pack size, Lightweight and no mars. Stiff enough to work (although carry 3 as they do break) and a good shape to both the bead end and the spoke end.

Tire levers are one of those products that companies think they need to somehow create a unique product and in doing so often end up with less effectiveness at a higher cost. Andy
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Old 03-09-22, 09:13 AM
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I share the OP's concern. I used steel or aluminum levers when I used to work in bike shops back in the mid-1970's through the early 1980's; however, once plastic levers hit the scene I started to use plastic levers more and more often. I quit using steel around 1982 (the last bike shop I worked in). From then on until now I use plastic levers.

I found that steel on chrome steel rims were "ok" but repeated use could cause scratches on cheap chrome rims. I never used steel levers on aluminum rims. I used aluminum on aluminum. When plastic hit the scene they slid easier around the rim to unmount the tire and didn't scratch the rim. The only drawback was the plastic levers back then, as I recall, weren't as durable as the levers today. The VAR levers were a cool design for tight tires but I snapped a couple of them in shop use and kinda abandoned them for that reason. The new VAR-type levers today are made with a much tougher plastic and are good for tight tires.

Having said all that, I bought some Silca levers about a year ago. They are steel with plastic covers. They work really well but I always seem to default to my Pedro levers because I can get a better purchase on them.
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Old 03-09-22, 01:24 PM
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Around the house I use (motorcycle) metal tire irons I've had for nearly 50 years
Just engage the brain first.
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Old 03-09-22, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
The common/classic steel tire lever (Brooks made an iconic version) can mar an Al rim. I would not call the minor signs of use "scratches" as there's no real depth to the marks.

Al tire levers leave less mars but their ends can be thin enough to suffer from bending on really tight tire/rim combos.

Plastic levers are nicer to the rim's cosmetics and slipperier against the rim and tire. But their ends need to be thicker and that can be a fit challenge sometimes. The Quick Stick is, IMO, the worst in this aspect. Some plastics can snap and others will flex too much on really tight tire/rims.

Having said all that my go to is the Kool Stop Sports. Nice seat pack size, Lightweight and no mars. Stiff enough to work (although carry 3 as they do break) and a good shape to both the bead end and the spoke end.

Tire levers are one of those products that companies think they need to somehow create a unique product and in doing so often end up with less effectiveness at a higher cost. Andy
I agree that the Quik Stik (I think that's the spelling) is pretty thick, and it can be tough to get it under the tire bead...But once it's in there, it is very easy to remove a tire bead. Unfortunately, I think it is no longer available.
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Old 03-09-22, 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by MAK View Post
I just purchased the Brompton Tool Kit. I'm wondering about the tire levers. I knew they were metal, but I'm now questioning whether metal levers can or will damage the rims.
What do the folks on one or more of the many Brompton-specific forums say?
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Old 03-09-22, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
What do the folks on one or more of the many Brompton-specific forums say?
I'll likely carry a pair of Pedro or Lezyne levers along with the Brompton Tool just to ease my mind. I do know that the original Brompton Tool Kit had plastic levers that drew complaints. I don't know if the original levers were just flimsy or poorly made or if the Schwalbe tire was too difficult to get on and off the rim but I'll find out when I get my first flat.

I haven't checked Brompton specific forums (but I will). I just considered this a steel on steel or aluminum rims issue and not just a Brompton issue.

Thank you to all who have responded. Take care and be well.
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Old 03-09-22, 11:27 PM
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My primary tools in taking off and putting on Brompton tires are bare hands. Plastic levers help and make the work faster at critical points. Besides being a peril to rims and tubes, the use of metal levers equals for me to a declaration of incompetence at the operational level. So if metal levers came with a kit, I would just never use them.
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Old 03-10-22, 06:34 AM
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With arthritis in my hands levers are important. Aluminum on aluminum has a very high coefficient of friction so they are out, Al on steel about half so I have some for tough tires/rims and Al on various plastics can be even lower friction coefficient so I search out plastics that look robust and well shaped.
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Old 03-10-22, 07:31 AM
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Originally Posted by 2_i View Post
the use of metal levers equals for me to a declaration of incompetence at the operational level. So if metal levers came with a kit, I would just never use them.
You must not have arthritis in your hands.

Back when I worked in a bike shop, I prided myself on being able to wrestle any tire off or onto a rim with my bare hands. Now, several decades later, I have arthritis in both hands (maybe a result of too much showing off my tire-wrestling skills in my youth?), and I can no longer just use my bare hands.

N.B. metal levers are only a problem with carbon fiber rims. If you're damaging aluminum or steel rims when you use metal levers, you're doing something wrong.
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Old 03-10-22, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
You must not have arthritis in your hands.

Back when I worked in a bike shop, I prided myself on being able to wrestle any tire off or onto a rim with my bare hands. Now, several decades later, I have arthritis in both hands (maybe a result of too much showing off my tire-wrestling skills in my youth?), and I can no longer just use my bare hands.

N.B. metal levers are only a problem with carbon fiber rims. If you're damaging aluminum or steel rims when you use metal levers, you're doing something wrong.
Metal levers can leave indentations on alu rims, with sharp edges that can later bite a tube. They can cut a tube when trapping it against a rim. They can have sharp edges of their own. If rim brakes are used, they thin a rim and metal levers can precipitate the rim's demise.

The flex of plastic levers serves for me as an indicator. If a lever flexes too much, it indicates an excessive force in use and the fact that I am on a wrong track, must retreat and redo. As to the use vs non-use, the levers allow you to be more sloppy and nominally speed up. However, if you need to walk to pick up the levers and by that time the tire is off, there is no real point. As to the arthritis, I am sorry. However, still the role of the fingers, or their upper portion, is to position the tire. The pushing action then is taken over by the lower portion of the palms, though the fingers help in gripping. Still, the levers are obviously there to help. Myself, I find that I am more likely to cling to them when I am tired as I do not need to concentrate much when I use them.
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Old 03-10-22, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by MAK View Post
I haven't checked Brompton specific forums (but I will). I just considered this a steel on steel or aluminum rims issue and not just a Brompton issue.
I wasn't trying to be a wisenheimer, but you won't be using the steel levers some poster used in the 1960s or made by a long defunct bike tool company but the Brompton official steel levers with their unique profiles. This won't be on a budget aluminum 27" rim from the bike boom days or a high zoot European 700C rim but a Brompton 16" factory rim, The rim/tire fit matrix is pretty simple: you'll only be trying to remove/replace one of the small number of available 349 tires.

The presenter on the Brilliant Bikes Youtube videos removes and replaces Brompton tyres without using levers - takes her a good long while, though, working the bead.


Here's a cat using the levers:


Last edited by tcs; 03-10-22 at 10:52 AM.
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Old 03-12-22, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs View Post
I wasn't trying to be a wisenheimer, but you won't be using the steel levers some poster used in the 1960s or made by a long defunct bike tool company but the Brompton official steel levers with their unique profiles. This won't be on a budget aluminum 27" rim from the bike boom days or a high zoot European 700C rim but a Brompton 16" factory rim, The rim/tire fit matrix is pretty simple: you'll only be trying to remove/replace one of the small number of available 349 tires.

The presenter on the Brilliant Bikes Youtube videos removes and replaces Brompton tyres without using levers - takes her a good long while, though, working the bead.

https://youtu.be/MB-hGDNDY6Y

Here's a cat using the levers:

https://youtu.be/3sxevhLFDvE
I really wasn't thinking that you were doing anything but making a useful comment. As I said, I didn't consider my question to be solely a Brompton specific issue but a general metal to metal issue.
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Old 03-12-22, 10:02 PM
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Metal levers were de rigueur BITD. But now that there are adequate plastic levers, why chance marring an aluminum rim when it can be avoided? I use either Pedro’s, Park Tool or the REI house brand Novara most of the time. I have a Crank Brothers speedy tool, I like as well. These plastic sets, along with a Cool Stop bead lifting tool give me everything I need to remove or replace clinchers.

https://www.amazon.com/Pedros-Bicycle-Tire-Lever-Pair/dp/B000IZGFCE/ref=asc_df_B000IZGFCE/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=309849426425&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17945293921425666268&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqm t=&hvdev=t&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9002020&hvtargid=pla-300732412263&psc=1

https://www.rei.com/product/843163/crankbrothers-speedier-tire-lever?sku=8431630001&store=80&cm_mmc=PLA_Google%7C21700000001700551_8431630001%7C92700057782267046%7 CNB%7C71700000074090541&gclid=CjwKCAiAprGRBhBgEiwANJEY7KwoLgBGTyZ-zpkASVt-_KwxWzARG-oQR0OMFf61yqvMyUF6INifLhoCzBwQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds


https://www.amazon.com/Koo-Stop-Bicy...7144110&sr=8-3

Last edited by elcraft; 03-12-22 at 11:09 PM.
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