I misplaced my tire lever and it's very hard to change the tube of my mountain bike without a tire lever. I'm looking for alternatives if a tire lever is not available.

What I've found so far are:

  • Carve your own tire lever out of wood. (Did not try this, have no wood available)
  • Use the handle of a spoon. (Didn't work, spoon bent and scratched rim tape)
  • Carve your own out of the plastic handle of a knife. (Worked, but kinda ruined handle of knife and could be dangerous)

Are there any other alternatives in case this would occur again or if I encounter a similar situation on the road?

  • 2
    How is it possible to have only one tire lever??? Of course, if desperate you can use a screwdriver, but it's better to use something with rounded edges. Plastic is better than metal, but the old-fashioned metal tire levers work. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 18:58
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    This question is crying out for a [bodge] tag. (not an insult)
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:10
  • 2
    There are two questions mixed together here 1) What can I use for a tire lever If I'm at home 2) What can I use for a tire lever when out on a ride. 'A spoon handle' is a reasonable answer to (1) but not (2) (unless you happen to get a puncture in a cafe). Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:42
  • 1
    I've always just used two flat-head screw drivers. Yes, you must be careful with those to avoid damaging rim, tube, or tire, but I've never had any serious damage. The rims do tend to get a small scratch or two though, so don't use this method on an expensive rim that you want to keep shiny to show off... Screwdrivers that have all their edges a tiny bit rounded work best. (I don't even own tire levers, and I don't feel any urge to buy them.) Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 20:23
  • 3
    A set of 3 costs $4.00 on Amazon. amazon.com/Diamondback-Bicycle-Tire-Lever-Black/dp/B00MJYQL6C/…
    – Gary E
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 21:48

9 Answers 9


Prevention is the best cure. I know it takes 2 tyre levers to deal with a flat on my road bike, so I carry a pair of decent ones (with some silver paint on them so they show up better by torchlight). In addition I carry a third, old and worn but known good, because I've been known to snap plastic tyre levers (luckily at home). They can also ping off into the middle distance so a spare is no bad thing. I might swap this third one for a metal lever if I can find the ones I've got tucked away somewhere. Even if you could find (hard enough) wood, carving one requires a reasonable knife, which isn't part of a standard bike tool kit, though it is part of mine.

The fallback is other riders. I'm sometimes out solo at all hours hence why I go so well equipped (though rarely to the extent of carrying cutlery) but on many of the rides I do there are other riders on the same route. Some of them are likely to be with or behind me even if most are far in front. Even riding solo there are likely to be other cyclists around during the day.

Any rider can be struggling with a mechanical, and that's why you should slow down and check that a rider standing by the roadside is OK: one day it might be you, and looking after each other is the right thing to do anyway.

  • 10
    +1 for the last paragraph. It's a person rule of mine to stop to help any other cyclist with a mechanical problem. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:45
  • I now have 2 bright yellow levers and did swap the third (last resort) for a metal lever
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 13:03
  • And now I have a pair of chunky black ones that also open the quick link on a chain, plus a plastic one, plus a metal one. I'm tempted to try whittling one out of hardwood just to see if it can be done well enough
    – Chris H
    Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 14:36

Um... buy a new tyre lever? They're so cheap they're practically free.

OK, that doesn't help you this time but buying three or four tyre levers means there shouldn't be a "next time" for quite a while.

  • 2
    Your right..But the next shop is 20km away. I have no car only a bicycle. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:15
  • 1
    As a last resort, if no alternatives succeed and you cannot get anyone to bring a spare lever, you could potentially also order one online? Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:24
  • 1
    Yes, but this would leave me dependent on foot and public transport for the transitional period..I already fixed the problem by carving a tire lever out of the handle of a knife. But for next time - and probably on the road situations - I'm looking for alternatives. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:26
  • Generally speaking tyre levers are lost at the side of the road, and quite likely in the dark (so even the nearest shop may be shut).
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:36
  • 9
    The solution for next time is to make sure there isn't a next time. Buy three or four tyre levers, so you have one or two spares. They're small so they should be in your on-the-road repair kit anyway. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:37

On a mountain bike tires are usually soft and large enough to be able to use the "squeeze and bend" technique.

Like here

Edit I see that it's not limited to mountain bikes:

  • 1
    Good observation. It may be worth adding that you are trying to squeeze the tire beads into the well in the center of the rim. That may not work on non-tubeless rims, but most rims are tubeless compatible these days. Road tubeless rims are much higher pressure, so as the standard evolves I'd expect the tire-rim fit to get much tighter. I'm not sure how well this will work on road tubeless in the future.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 16:10
  1. Try to pull it by hand

In case your outer tube is not that firm, you're often able to remove it by hand. First, put the opposite side of the valve on the ground, massage the tube down so you get slightly more flexibility there. Next, put the valve on the ground, squeeze the tire firmly, pull it back a bit and try pushing very hard to get it over the rim. Video description by Bike Rader

  1. Use the quick release

Depending on the exact shape, you could try to use the lever of your quick release. This highly depend on the lever but is definitely worth the try in your scenario.

  1. Bend some plastic

If you're home and have access to other tools, you might be able to bend some plastic (eg. old toothbrush). More details ons Instructables, but this is of course not possible while on the road.

  • 1
    +1 for "use the QR" - if I had normal QRs instead of security skewers I'd actually swap them out for ones that would do as tyre levers.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 13:52
  • 1
    What helps a lot when pulling it by hand: First move the whole tire bead from the hooked edges to the middle of the rim. Usually the rim bed has a slightly smaller diameter which frees up enough “slack” to pull the tire off.
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 7:24

At home I'd use a screwdriver. If you are out in the field and don't have a screwdriver, 9mm quick release levers work quite well and you bike already has two of them: enter image description here

EDIT: As pointed out in the comments and some of the other answers, screwdrivers are not a good idea. You risk scratching the rim or puncturing the tube. Only do that if really need to, and be very careful.

  • 1
    I won't agree with a screwdriver part because it might cause more damage than bring good. But I totally agree with the QR lever part of the answer. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 20:43
  • I used a screwdriver once, An absolutely terrible idea. Didn't get the tire off but it did scratch my rim.
    – Qwertie
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 23:47
  • If you try the QR levers, be sure to pay attention to what you're disassembling, so you don't accidentally drop your bearings on the ground (for certain styles of bearings sheldonbrown.com/cone-adjustment.html) Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 5:14
  • 1
    To be nitpicky, the OP specified a mountain bike. These days, many performance MTBs (and road and gravel bikes) come with thru axles. TAs with levers don't seem (in my limited experience) to have the right shape to pull this off. Nevertheless, I agree that many QR levers might work.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 16:09
  • @Weiwen Ng Many thru axles don’t even have handles nowadays, so that won’t work at all.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 20:57

For replacing the tire you need a pump, so I assume you have one. So you can use this part of it as a lever:

enter image description here

Used it several times without any problems.

  • That's a nice idea, but it makes me wonder why this lever on a pump is so often designed to be almost but not quite shaped like a tyre lever
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 12:54
  • @ChrisH but it's already convenient! Yesterday I saw lots of snow in the morning so had to change tires - made it really quick using only the pump (I'd spend more time looking for the lever)
    – k102
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 12:57
  • The lever on that pump is shaped better than the one on my portable pump, and much better than theone on my track pump. Even though the pictured one is about the closest I've seen to to a tyre lever shape, it would be much easier to use if a little longer. Most pump levers seem to lack the curve that makes a tyre lever much easier to use.
    – Chris H
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 13:03

As kids we used the flat end of a screwdriver to get it started then stuck in a spoon. Moved the screwdriver along a bit and levered a bit more off etc. Just try not to stab the tube, lol.

  • This is what I always used. The screwdriver could start it enough until I could stick in the end of a box end wrench (or a butter knife!). I think the main issue the OP has is that on a nicer bike, I wouldn't want to scratch the rims and anything metal can do that quickly.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 16:53
  • I can't tell you how many tubes I've punctured with a screwdriver. Worth trying if you're desperate, but try your other options first. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:00
  • 1
    A thick-handled teaspoon works better in a pinch because its got more curved sides. A screwdriver's got sharper corners.
    – Criggie
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:09
  • 1
    There was a case when I managed to damage inner tubes with regular plastic tire levers twice. For tight and skinny tires and somewhat bigger tubes inside (e.g. a 622-28 tube in a 622-25 tire) screwdrivers would be a suicide. Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 20:46

On a recent bikepacking trip I had a flat and discovered I forgot to include my tire levers in my repair kit. I had a tube and hand pump. I used two pliable plastic cards I could sacrifice as a substitute.

I folded each in half length wise and used them like levers. I bent the first one between spokes to allow space for the second one to do its job. In hindsight I could have tried the titanium sporks we had.

I don't know if this would work on all bike tires but it did work on a gravel bike with a 640 x 42 tire.

  • I've never bought a tyre lever - spoon (handles) work fine, even on narrow rims. Perhaps spoons aren't of the same quality as they used to be? Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 15:02
  • We used to use the tea spoons of my parents set of cutlery, but only those and non of the other spoons in the house would do the job. (And they all survived.) So it might pay of to try a few different spoons.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 18:27

My solution is to carry at least three tyre levers on every bike. They're light so its not onerous.

Each bike has its own toolkit with pump, spare tubes, multitool, zip ties, master links and tyre levers. That way I don't have to remember to pick up something else, and I always have the right tubes and the pump with a suitable nozzle (fool me once...)

I had one lever break once during use, so just pulled another from the bag and continued.

I can even give one away if needed, because I have a bag of spares at home. Sites like Aliexpress will sell you lots for cheap.

Answer Change your preparation method so you don't forget mandatory items.

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