Tool review: Bike Hand tire bead jack

An unfortunate fact of life for those of us with small-wheeled bikes is that their tires can be very stubborn to remove from, and remount to, their wheels. Some cyclists can remove and reinstall tires using their bare hands on a typical 700C road bike wheel; they’d struggle to do the same on a 20″ BMX or folding bike tire.

Moving the tire off the rim of a 20″ folding bike tire is a fairly straightforward job involving at least two tire levers, one preferably hooked over a spoke. Remounting is a different story, though. Sure, you could use tire levers and reverse their action, effectively hiking the bead from outside into the rim bed…but that also introduces the risk of pinching the inner tube. That’s why many people recommend not using levers at all for tire remounting. It doesn’t help that almost all folding bicycle tires have wire beads, too.

There has to be a better way…

…And here it is.

This scissors-like tool is called a tire bead jack, or a bead jack for short. This one in particular is made by Bike Hand, the same tool company that makes torque wrenches re-sold under different brands. I bought mine while on vacation in Shinjuku back in 2014.

The bead jack is a specialized tool, meant only for yanking stubborn tire beads up and over wheel rims. Because I’m sure most people have zero idea of what this is, I decided to write an entire post about it.

 

You remount one of the tire’s beads onto the rim as normal, with the partially inflated inner tube inside. Then you try to push the other bead into the rim.

 

You’ll naturally come to a point where that last part of tire bead starts to fight off your attempts and basically become uncooperative.

This is when you press the bead jack into service.

 

You’ll notice that the two arms of the bead jack have different ends. One is shaped like a “U” or half a cylinder; the other is hooked. Rest the U-shaped end on the side of the rim which has the bead inside it. This will act as your fulcrum point.

 

While continuing to rest the U-shaped end on the rim, make the hook-shaped end grab the remaining tire bead that you want to hoist over and into the rim. Once it catches, close your hand around the handles – much like how you would a pair of scissors.

 

Now for the bead jack’s party trick: Maintain downward pressure on the U-shaped end while pulling the hooked bead into the rim bed. In effect, the bead jack acts the same way a tire lever does, but in reverse. Because the bead jack’s lever action never intrudes into the inner tube, it will never puncture it.

Work the bead over into the rim in small sections until you have all of it inside the rim bed – and you’re done!

This is a supremely useful tool for stubborn tires. It’s just a minor shame I haven’t seen it sold anywhere in Metro Manila, so I guess it has the rarity card going for it too.

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Check your rim strips and rim tape

One part of bike maintenance that’s easy to neglect is the rim strips (or rim tape) that cover the spoke holes on your wheels. They’re a bit of a chore to inspect, since it requires removal of your tires.

Here you can see a rip in the rim strip. You’ll have to check for these every once in a while as they can give you hidden punctures.

If left unchecked, eventually they will get holes ripped into them as they age. Your inner tubes rest against the rim strip. Once the rim strip is compromised, you’re literally riding on a cause of punctures.

Fortunately rim strips and rim tape are fairly cheap. I’d advise getting something that’s in any other color but black, as this will help you check your inner tube for any pinching against the tire bead once you reinstall your tire.

Use a tire lever to pry out the old rim strip. You should be able to get a finger underneath it. Once done it’s all a matter of pulling it over the rim walls and yanking it free of the wheel.

Take your new rim strip. Match up the hole on the rim strip over the valve hole of the rim, then lay it flat along the rim bed. Make sure you cover all spoke holes.

For rim strips like the one I’m using, they’re supposed to be under tension so that they sufficiently cover all spoke holes. It’s normal for the rim strip to need some persuasion to cover the last bit of rim.

Correcting a twisted rim strip. The aim is to cover all the spoke holes – you can see one still exposed.

If the rim strip gets a bit twisted, pry it straight with your tire lever. Job done!

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I hope this helped you. Let me know what other bicycle maintenance tasks you’d like me to write about in the comments.

Removing, cleaning, and reinstalling a cassette

Compared to the screw-on freewheels of yore, cassette sprockets are easier to remove and replace.

There are a few reasons why you’d want to do this.

  • As your chain wears down, it wears the cassette and chainrings along with it. If you use a chain wear indicator, a chain is usually replaced when it displays 0.75% stretch. Following this logic, a cassette is usually considered ready for replacement once its third chain wears down.
  • Different terrain calls for different gearing, hence different cassettes. Close-ratio cassettes, such as an 11-25T unit, are useful for riding over flat areas and in closed-course criterium racing, the smaller steps between cogs offering better cadence control. Wide-ratio cassettes, such as a 12-30T unit, come into their own when climbing steep hills. Note that this change of cassettes also requires a resized chain.
  • Most frequently however, removal of the cassette allows you to clean it off the bike without affecting the grease inside the rear hub and freehub body. While a grimy cassette can be cleaned while installed, excess degreaser can eat the grease in places that you need it. This will be our subject for today.

This is a Shimano TL-LR15 cassette lock ring tool, also used for lock rings on Centerlock brake rotors. Better lock ring tools have their own handles, eliminating the need for a wrench.

Whichever your reason, you will need a couple of specialist tools for this job. You will need a cassette lock ring tool and a chain whip. The chain whip is there simply to counteract the freehub’s one-way rotation while you unscrew the lock ring off the top of the cassette. In addition, you’ll usually need an adjustable wrench to actually turn the lock ring tool.

CASSETTE REMOVAL

 

To start with, remove the quick release skewer from the wheel. Make sure you slide both the end springs on the skewer so you don’t lose them, then thread the end nut back on. Many lock ring tools, such as my Shimano TL-LR15, have a locator pin that goes into the axle where the quick release skewer would normally be, so slide the lock ring tool into the axle and make sure it’s inserted as far as it will go.

Lock ring tool sunken into the axle. You want it as deep as it will go for its splines to fully engage the lock ring.

My chain whip is a Park Tool HCW-16, which is also a 15 mm pedal wrench. Here it’s on my left, while the adjustable wrench is on my right.

I find it best to stand over the rear wheel with the cassette facing away from your feet. Hold the chain whip in your left hand, and wrap its links around one of the larger cogs on the cassette. Now take the adjustable wrench in your right hand and put it in around a 30-degree angle to the chain whip, then push hard on the wrench to break the lock ring loose. It may take some effort, as most lock rings are held on with 40 Nm of torque.

Once the lock ring is loose, unscrew it all the way off. Now you can slide the cassette off the freehub body.

CLEANING THE CASSETTE AND FREEHUB BODY

If you’re cleaning the cassette, put it in a bowl, apply degreaser, and leave it for a few minutes. You’ll find that it’ll do a lot of the work for you. Take a brush and scrub off whatever the degreaser missed.

Once done with the degreaser, make sure the cassette is dry. Take an old rag and floss it in between the pinned cogs of the cassette. This will also lift any dirt stuck in between.

It’s worth paying attention to the condition of the freehub body, as it’s the unsung hero of your drivetrain, directly turning the rear wheel. You’ll find that the cassette cogs can bite into the splines of the freehub body. This is normal wear and tear. Apply some degreaser into a rag and wipe it clean.

CASSETTE INSTALLATION

Flossing the spaces in between cogs with a rag. It’s easiest to do this with the cassette on the freehub body.

The cogs all just slide onto the freehub, but they’re keyed by the splines such that they will only go in one specific way. One spline on the freehub body is thinner than the others, and that’s the key.

The three smallest cogs on my Tiagra CS-4600 cassette are loose. Note the engraved “14T” and “12T” and the serrations on the face of the 12T cog.

In case you have free cogs in your cassette, they are engraved with the number of teeth they have on one side. Remember that this side always faces outward. Finally, the smallest cog usually has serrations on its face that the lock ring will bite against.

Before screwing the cassette lock ring back on, apply a bit of grease to the threads. This will make it easier for you to unscrew the lock ring in the future, and prevent corrosion from seizing it shut on the freehub body.

Now put the lock ring onto the cassette and screw it in by hand using the lock ring tool. For the final tightening, you don’t need the chain whip any more. The lock ring usually has its recommended torque engraved on it, and it’s usually 40 Nm. Take your adjustable wrench and turn the lock ring until it clicks into place.

Finally, return the quick release skewer into the axle. You’re done!

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I hope this helped you. Let me know what other bicycle maintenance tips you’d like to learn about by leaving a comment below.