Cool Tool for Tire Removal
In my Tech Talk column, on my website and at cycling camps, I teach flat-tire repair and always include tips for removing the tire without tools — no tire levers.
This is the way pro mechanics do it because it’s simpler and faster. Plus, it will impress your riding buddies (especially when you’re helping with their flats).
Still, I know some roadies who are terrified of flats because it’s such a struggle for them to remove tires. Sometimes the problem is inexperience. Sometimes it’s weak hands. A contributing factor is that some modern wheelsets seem designed to make tire removal difficult.
Various factors can make the job tougher. For example, thick thorn-resistant tubes, using tubes wider than the tire size, ultra-narrow tires, even thick rim strips. Frozen hands can be a problem, too, which is why I usually carry levers in winter.
Recently, Jim Walls, who has a background in the car tire industry, called to tell me about his new Cobra Tire Tool. It’s shaped like a cobra about to strike, as you’ll see if you click the link.
Jim claims the Cobra is the easiest and fastest tire remover available. He says that when he demonstrates it at cycling events his supply quickly sells out. Naturally, I asked for a sample.
Unlike traditional levers that come in sets of 2 or 3, you get one Cobra tool for your $5.99. It’s made of a tough glass-filled nylon so it won’t break or mar the rims or your frame (keep reading). It has the same hooked tip found on tire levers and slides easily on the rim.
But that’s where the similarities end. The Cobra’s handle is U-shaped. And that, plus the way you use it, is what sets this tool apart.
After a puncture, you leave the wheel on your bike. Let out any remaining air and grab your Cobra. It’s bulkier than regular levers but still fits easily in an average seat bag. It weighs only 14 grams.
To unseat the tire from the rim, you start by placing the tip of the Cobra beneath the tire bead and prying down, just as you would with a lever.
Then comes the fun part. Holding the Cobra in position, you rotate the wheel until the U on the tool hooks onto the chainstay (rear wheel) or fork blade (front wheel). Then you simply continue turning the wheel. The Cobra slidesaround the rim and pops that side of the tire off so fast you won’t believe it.
Jim recommends patching the tube while the wheel is still on the bike. This will work if you can find the hole and want to take the time to patch it.
I prefer to remove the wheel after using the Cobra, replace the punctured tube with a spare and patch the puncture later. Whichever way you choose, the Cobra gets the tire off the rim easily for anyone with any wheelset. That’s impressive.
Note that the Cobra is not used for reinstalling the tire, which also gives some roadies fits. Jim says he’s working on a tool to help with that. Maybe I’ll be able to tell you about it someday. In the meantime, check the tire installation tips and tricks I’ve included in 2 previous Tech Talks, “You Don’t Need No Stinking Tire Levers!” and “Taming Tight Tires.”
My only nit-pick with the Cobra Tire Tool is that the instructions need a little improving, which Jim says he’s tending to. Otherwise, I think his invention is ingenious, super-affordable and, best of all, a big help to any roadie with flat fear.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.