How To Change A Flat Without Tire Levers

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Valve stem cap, washer nut, and skewer spring

There comes a time in every cyclist’s life when he or she feels drawn to free up a little extra pocket or saddlebag space. That determined, focused refusal to carry unnecessary accessories like tire levers. After all, who needs tire levers to change a flat?! Ridiculous. You don’t need no stinkin’ tire levers.

Until said cyclist meets with an equally stubborn wheel. And it’s not so easy to walk in those cleats when you’re 30 miles from home, alone, with fading sunshine.

I know what you’re saying, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. And I’m here to lay down some wisdom born from desperation. With necessity being the mother of making up stuff, I found a great solution for changing a flat when part of your kit is missing.

You may not realize it, but if you have quick release skewers, you actually carry two tire levers with you whenever you ride. So, while I’m not recommending that you use your skewers as tire levers if you have the real thing handy, these will totally save you a long walk home in cleats when you’re stranded.

hed quick releases skewerHow does this work? Assuming you’ve already removed the wheel from your bike, unscrew and pull out the skewer completely. Then, simply take the inner curve of the quick release lever and insert it under the bead of the tire–exactly the way you would use a tire lever. Run it all the way around the wheel until you have one wall of the tire completely off the rim. Continue with your flat fixing.

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If you find that you also need a little leverage for popping that tire back on, your quick release lever will also do that job. And remember, you have two of them.

One thing to consider as you’re doing this–metal on metal won’t be pretty. Be extra careful not to bend your skewers or mess up your rims. This isn’t exactly something you should do on a regular basis, but in an emergency, it will get you back on the road.

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.


  1. Nice tip when stuck in the middle of nowhere without the proper gear! I used to use one of my mom’s butter knifes when I was a kid riding BMX bikes. Don’t tell.

    I typically only carry one lever with my road bike. The other two go with my commuter which has wire beaded tires with take considerably more effort to remove. I have yet to meet the tire that requires all three levers 🙂

    • Thanks, Lance! Yes, I’ve only ever used all three levers once. That was to pry a tubeless tire onto a regular rim with a tube. It wasn’t pretty, but it eventually worked. Not saying I recommend it, haha.

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