Invented and made in Yorkshire, the TyreKey promises to 'make changing an inner tube simple'. Having fought my fair share of tyres and rims over four years of road.cc reviews and many miles, I feel qualified to comment on the tyre-mounting difficulty faced by cyclists – particularly when using tubeless tyres with much closer tolerances and less yielding tyre beads. Unfortunately, I found the restricted range of tyres possible to fit and some inherent design failings limited the TyreKey's overall utility.
- Pros: Removes the risk of pinching inner tube
- Cons: Limited to 28mm or smaller tyres, tyre removal is harder than normal levers, particularly if tight
The TyreKey is a different take on the traditional tyre lever, where you – erm – lever the tyre onto the rim by inserting the lever tip up under the bead and then force the bead to roll down the 'short' side of the lever and into the rim bed. This approach risks catching the inner tube betwixt lever tip and rim, possibly causing a puncture – most frustrating when it's a new tube and it's your last or only one, miles from home. If you're running tubeless tyres this risk isn't there, but is replaced by the risk of puncturing or unseating your rim tape, possibly causing a leak that may not seal or, if you're really unlucky, a rip that renders the whole rim tape knackered.
The TyreKey cleverly avoids this by using a hook that goes around the whole tyre, and pulls the bead over the rim using a handle – a longer mechanical lever than an actual tyre lever, and therefore much easier. That's the theory anyway. Other levers from the likes of VAR have been designed to do this, with limited success.
In practice, the TyreKey really isn't usable on a tyre larger than 28mm – which these days is your starter-for-10 width in the comfort/grip stakes (personally if a bike can't take at least 35mm tyres it's dead to me, but then I'm 100 per cent on the wider-is-better bus). TyreKey advised it has managed to get a very supple 35mm tyre to fit, but a super-stiff sidewall tyre like a Schwalbe Marathon might not even be possible in 25mm.
Admittedly, though, the TyreKey will cover the vast majority of tyre widths being used by road cyclists at the moment. So, assuming you're rolling a typical 28mm or less, the TyreKey is likely to fit.
Squeezing a 28mm tyre and tube into the TyreKey is easy enough, as is setting it up with the lever side on the opposite rim edge and the hook side just under the exposed bead.
Starting to work your way around, the TyreKey does what it should – but the issue for me came when things start to get tight. Your other hand is then needed to hold the opposing end of the exposed bead in place, lest you end up chasing it all the way around. That means one-handed operation of the TyreKey, and as the amount of free bead decreases, the effort required increases.
The tool is made of thinnish plastic, the width of most of my traditional levers, but with no reinforcing in the core. This means that with the extra leverage possible because of the longer 'handle', there is considerable flex at the business end. Fitting a 28mm Continental Gatorskin onto a 17mm internal width Alex rim, I found the TyreKey to be slower and more error-prone than just using a standard lever, and considerably worse than using the 'install' side of a specialist lever like a CrankBros Speedier Lever (which I personally rate 4.5/5).
Fitting a 25mm tubeless IRC tyre to a carbon rim using the TyreKey proved to be impossible, as the aero rim bulged out ever so slightly, meaning the hook engaged and then moved free of the rim side as it angled over the rim bed, losing contact with the then-tight bead with quite a snap. So it's very much a tool for straight-sided rims.
The tyre removal end of the TyreKey is definitely not ideal – on tight-fitting tyre-rim combos it was often hard-to-impossible to get the rounded nub of the lever underneath the bead far enough to then pull it back over the rim edge. There's a specific reason why good tyre levers are only a millimetre or so thick – so they can get in under the tightest of beads.
Trying several other rims and combinations of tyre from 23mm up to 28mm, I couldn't find a situation where a decent lever – CrankBros, Tacx, Unior or Pedros – was out-performed by the TyreKey. In a few cases I'd say the TyreKey was on a par with levers, and as mentioned the TyreKey design does remove the risk of catching the tube or rim tape. This for me would be the reason to go for the TyreKey – if you are prone to damaging inner tubes during fitting, or have hands incapable of wielding traditional levers. Otherwise, a traditional set and a bit of practice will likely yield better results.
Possibly an aid for tight tyre fitting, but not really better than traditional levers
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Tyrekey tyre tool
Size tested: n/a
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?
It's for people who struggle with traditional levers.
THE SIMPLE, NO-PINCH TYRE TOOL
TyreKey, the tyre-tool that makes changing an inner tube simple. The double groove glides round the rim, lifting the tyre off with ease. The unique claw reinstalls the tyre in seconds without touching the inner tube, eliminating the risk of pinch-punctures.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Imagine struggling with rain-soaked and frozen fingers to change an inner tube, then levering your stubborn tyre back onto the rim only to find when you try to inflate it that you have pinched a hole in your last spare tube. Aaaargh!
Out of this very situation TyreKey was born. Designed to tackle even the tightest of tyre and rim combinations. TyreKey is safe to use with tubeless setups and carbon rims.
Great care was taken while designing and developing the product to use local businesses in Yorkshire to further develop the county's strong connections to the cycling community.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
TyreKey is designed to work with road tyres from 18-35mm.
Designed and manufactured in North Yorkshire.
A bit bendy.
Mostly not as good as normal levers.
Rim side looking a bit scuffed after review use, but basically OK.
20g isn't much.
£8.99 will get you any number of other levers that will work as well, if not better.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Not as well as I'd hoped. In some cases it was as good as an average lever, in others it was decidedly worse. On a few occasions it lived up to the promise.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The delivery. It just doesn't stack up.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Expensive. I'd rather have the Crank Bros Speedier lever, for £3 less.
Did you enjoy using the product? No
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not really.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I really wanted to like this product – local design and manufacture, unique take on tyre fitting – but in practice I just couldn't see the benefit for the gain of not pinching tubes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is: Velocite Selene
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling.