Now that mountain bike tire inserts are as popular as they have ever been, having a good set of tire levers is crucial when setting up your new tubeless tires or just basic tire installation. There isn't anything much worse than breaking a tire lever and either damaging your rim tape or just smashing your hand in to the wheel. We've asked one of our supported riders Max Morgan which tire levers he is using right now and he came back with three of his favorites from Park Tool: the Park Tool TL-4.2, the Park Tool TL-6.2, and the Park Tool TL-5. Especially when swapping out downhill casing tires, it's even more important to have a good set of tire levers to keep the knuckle scrapes and frustration to a minimum. Each of these different tire levers have their strengths and weaknesses. Follow along and see which need to find their way in to your tool box.
Park Tool's tire levers also make for a great ice cream scoop!
The TL-4.2 is Park Tool's latest every-day-use plastic tire lever. This is the tire lever you are going to be wanting to grab the most and can be used for either a tire replacement or tire removal.
I've found the TL-4.2 performing at its best when installing a tire and the bead of the tire is tight up against the rim. The square profile on the leading edge of the lever helps prevent you from digging in to your rim tape, and the overall shape of the body of the lever gives it great rigidity.
The last thing you want to do is to put a whole in your rim tape without even knowing until you fill the tire with air. The short and flat tip of the Park Tool TL-4.2 keeps it away from the rim tape when installing a tire. The TL-4.2 is Park Tool's most versatile tire lever!
The Park Tool TL-6.2 tire lever goes a bit more undercover. The TL-6.2 uses a steel lever core with a composite cover to give you the best of both worlds: strength and versatility. Typically metal tire levers are strong but have the potential to either damage the tire, the rim tape, or scratch the rim if you aren't careful.
The TL-6.2 is strong enough to help get off even tighter tire beads, while the composite cover allows the tire lever to slide against the rim without damaging the finish. The TL-6.2 shines when you need to remove a tight tire from the rim. Some tire and rim combinations are a tighter fit than others, and this tire lever gets underneath those tight fitting tires with ease, making removing your tire a piece of cake. Make sure to be careful using the TL-6.2 when installing a tire. The exposed metal tip could possibly damage your rim tape.
The TL-5 tire lever from Park Tool is a full moto style steel lever. These tire levers are the strongest levers you could possibly need for any mountain bike application. They would probably work just fine if you were changing a moto tire as well. Having the strongest tire lever in your hand with the most leverage, you certainly have to be careful. You could do some serious damage with the TL-5 levers if you use them incorrectly.
For me, the TL-5 steel levers from Park Tool are in their element when you are removing a downhill tire with a foam insert inside. Sometimes it can be tricky to get the bead of the tire underneath the foam insert, making the tire extremely tight on the rim. You can use the end of the TL-5 to push the bead of the tire underneath that Flat Tire Defender or Cush Core insert, giving you more slack around the rim. The slightly pointed tip on the end of the TL-5 lever makes getting the lever underneath the tire bead a breeze but also has the potential to damage the rim tape or even the rim bed if you aren't careful.
I have seen someone put one of these steel tire levers straight through an aluminum rim bed. Also be careful not to scratch your rim when removing a tire with the TL-5 lever. A safe rule of thumb is to only use the TL-5 steel tire lever if the TL-4.2 and TL-6.2 levers don't do the trick. I keep all three of Park Tool's most popular tire levers in my tool box to handle any tire and rim combination out there.
Max Morgan is 26 years old, and lives in Brevard, North Carolina. Max grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and started racing downhill at the age of 15. He has now been racing professionally for the last 9 years, competing in the UCI World Cup series and U.S. Pro GRT series. To learn more about Max, check out Max's rider spotlight here!