I have what may be an unnatural attraction to shiny objects, especially tools. Sure, a 15mm combination wrench with a black industrial finish is just as functional as a chromed and highly polished one, but given a choice, I'll take chrome. I have an assortment of wrenches in the toolbox and I'll always go for the Snap-On or Craftsman Professionals first. If wrenches could be described as 'sexy,' these ones have it. They just feel right in the hand.
But today I'm writing about the other end of the spectrum, one of the most ubiquitous, humblest tools in the box – the simple tire iron. They're the Rodney Dangerfield of tools, getting little respect unless they're missing. Try to change a tire using a screwdriver and you'll understand the need for tire irons.
But not all tire irons are created equal. Back in the 1970s, there were some cheap, shoddy ones made from stampings. They were a small improvement over a screwdriver but the stamped edges were quite sharp and capable of slicing a tube. I rounded the edges with a stone and reserved their use to dire emergencies. Thankfully, they went missing somewhere in the mists of time or possibly in the garage. Good riddance.
(All photos from CycleDog)
I acquired these steel levers at about the same time. There's no manufacturer's markings so I have no idea of their origin. The working end is thin and strong in order to deal with narrow road tires. The hook on the other end goes over the spokes. My only criticism is that they're prone to corrosion despite what appears to be chrome or nickel plating. Sure, they're 30 years old so they should show some wear. Sometimes I knock the rust off with a wire wheel and spray them with clear acrylic. They're my favorites. No, you can't borrow them.
These Park tire irons are plastic. They work well but they're bulky. The working end is wider and thicker than the steel levers, making them a little more awkward to use on a narrow, high-pressure tire. I haven't managed to break them yet so they must be fairly strong. One plus – since they snap together into a unit, they don't rattle in the seat bag. No rust, either.
You may wonder why I have all of these. The explanation is simple. Each bike has a seat bag with one or two spare tubes, a patch kit, and a pair of tire irons. Each has a frame pump too, so I don't have to move anything from bike to bike. I used to do just that until the day I forgot to shift the bag and pump. That's one way of guaranteeing a flat tire and a long walk home.
I was in Tom's Bicycles last week. He showed me these very nice titanium tire levers from King Cage. I just had to have them! Think of it – strong, light, and no rust! They're shiny too. I couldn't resist showing them to some of my co-workers. I was the cool guy if only for a few minutes. But they sparked an argument over whether the levers were solid rod stock or hollow tubing. It doesn't take much to get us started, obviously. So I wrote to King Cage and asked. Ron Andrews wrote back and said, “Ed, tubing, thanx, Ron.” I admire brevity. And my thanks to you too, Ron.