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The Park Tool TL-5 Heavy-Duty Steel Tyre Levers are the mack daddy of wheel removal tools, providing huge amounts of leverage to shift even the tightest tyres.
These are the levers to reach for when you encounter a tyre that just doesn't want to come off a rim. The tightest combination in my stable is a pair of SRAM S60 aero wheels and Giant P-SL2 tyres – both are over a decade old, and therefore from the era when tyre/rim compatibility was the Wild West. The rims don't have a very deep well, and the tyres are more than a little undersized.
Just getting them on the rim in the first place requires levers and very careful deployment of brute force. In fact, it's a set-up I've never actually ridden, because I wasn't at all confident of being able to refit the tyre out on the road if I got a puncture.
So I dug the tyres out of the box where they're been lurking for a decade or so and, with a bit of sweating, considerable swearing and very cautious use of my favourite plastic Lezyne Power Lever XLs, I got a tyre on the rim.
The TL-5 levers certainly provided the necessary oomph to make the job of getting it back off relatively easy, though getting the spacing between them exactly right takes a bit of trial and error. Too close together and they don't lift the tyre far enough off the rim that you can start to slide one along to fully remove it; too far apart and they don't move the section of bead between them enough.
Compared to the Lezyne Power Lever XLs, the TL-5s require a bit of care to grab just the one bead and not both. It's 15mm from the tip of the TL-5 to the curve where the rim sits. With an old-school narrow rim, that makes it easy to grab both beads and make life very hard for yourself.
That's also why I didn't use the TL-5s to fit the tyres. The Lezyne levers have a shorter tip, with a tighter curve that better lends itself to hooking tyres on to a rim.
In fact, that's my single major criticism of the TL-5s. A tighter, shorter hook at the tip would make them more versatile, and by moving the fulcrum when you lift a bead would increase the leverage you can exert.
Nevertheless, even with tyres that aren't unreasonably tight, the TL-5s have become my go-to workshop tyre levers over the past few months because they're so easy to use. As well as their length, their big advantage is their rigidity. I'm not especially strong, but I can flex a Power Lever XL by a couple of millimetres with my bare hands; I can't achieve any visible flex in the TL-5s at all.
It shouldn't need saying, but these aren't really tyre levers for your seat pack. If the tyre and rim combination on your daily ride needs these, then you should consider changing tyres. Of course that may not be an option if you're running a notoriously tight combination like Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres on a Brompton, in which case fill your boots; when you need them, their heft isn't going to matter to you at all.
Mooch around retail sites a bit and you do find criticisms of the TL-5s, but most of them seem to come from people missing the point. No, most people don't need this beefy a tyre lever, but if you do they're absolutely vital. Yes, they can damage rims, tyres and tubes – what do you expect, they're 8in-long steel levers. With great leverage comes great responsibility, and a bit of finesse is required to use them.
Much as I like using the TL-5 levers, I probably don't need them. Tyre and rim standards have become more consistent in the last few years. None of the tyres I've bought recently need this much leverage to get off a rim, and the deeper well of a tubeless-ready wheel provides more slack to make tyre removal easier.
Even excellent plastic levers like the Lezyne Power Lever XLs are hugely cheaper at £4.99.
But if for whatever reason you have to handle very tight tyre/rim combinations, get a set of Park Tool TL-5 levers into your armoury.
Excellent, super-beefy levers to shift the most stubborn tyres
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Parktool TL-5 - Heavy-Duty Steel Tyre Lever - Set Of Two
Size tested: 8 inch long
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Park Tool says: "The TL-5 Heavy Duty Tire Lever Set is designed for use on the toughest tire and rim combinations. Made of forged steel, these beefy levers are a full 8" (20.3 cm) long for superior leverage. Specially designed tip engages tire bead so it can be removed with just two levers. Ideal for difficult to remove downhill and freestyle tires. Set of two."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
This is a pair of 5mm-thick forged steel slabs in the shape of tyre levers. They're 203mm long and 28mm wide at their fattest point.
The wide blade means they sit in the hand really nicely.
Quite probably the most expensive tyre levers you can buy, but the function justifies the price.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Extremely well; the combination of length and rigidity gets the job done.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The sheer beefiness.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes. I mean, insofar as anyone enjoys using a tyre lever
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Great tyre levers, but they lose half a point for a slightly unsophisticated tip shape compared to Lezyne's.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.