Tips for Fixing a Flat on Your Bicycle and How to Avoid Getting Another
By Thomas Deaner, Brick City Bicycles
One of the essential skills for bicycle owners everywhere is learning how to repair a flat tire. With a little know-how and just a few tools, you can be ready to spring into action in the event of a flat. A tire lever, patching kit and/or replacement inner tube, and pump are the basic pieces of equipment you’ll need. Some of these items even come in convenient little kits that attach to your bike to use in case of emergency.
Take off the wheel.
Many bikes today have quick release tires that make it easier to transport a bike or remove tires to service them. To remove a front tire, you’ll want to release the brakes first. Then, pull the quick-release lever to its unlocked position and unscrew the nut on the opposite side. Once the wheel is fully loose, you can lift the bike frame and the wheel will drop out of the fork. A back tire removal is only slightly more complicated because it is next to all of the gears in the cassette. After releasing the back brakes and opening the quick-release lever, make sure to shift the derailleur so the chain is in the lowest gear. This means the chain will be sitting on the smallest cog next to the rear derailleur and on the smallest chain ring next to the pedals. Then, you’ll gently lift the derailleur up and back which releases the spring tension from the chain and makes it easier to reinstall the chain later on. Then, lift up the bike frame so the back wheel can drop out of the frame.
Carefully remove the tire and inner tube.
After the wheel is removed, you need to remove the tire from the rim. A tire lever can be especially helpful for this task. Position the tire lever between the rim and the wheel to pop out the tire from the rim so you can access the inner tube which is held in place by the tire and the air valve.
Check for damage on the tube and tire.
Next, check for damage on both the inner tube and the tire. Start with the tire first and be sure to inspect the tread, side walls and the inside of the tire. If you’re lucky, you may find what caused the puncture so you can remove the thorn, nail or other sharp object if it is still there. Checking for damage on the tire means you won’t accidentally puncture your tube again. If you can see a hole that is 1/8” or larger, you may need to replace the tire, too.
Replace or repair the tube.
If you have a new inner tube to install, you can pull it out and begin reinstalling it. If you don’t have a tube or you are on a ride, a patch kit can get you back on the road pretty quickly. Before you start patching, be sure to inflate your flat to determine where the leak is. If it’s hard to find, you can squeeze the tube and hold it up to your ear to listen for the leak. For my own bikes, I like the Rema brand vulcanizing patches which hold better and for longer than typical quick glue patches. Depending on the patch kit you select, be sure to follow the directions for placing the patch.
Reinstall the tube inside the wheel.
Once you have the tube replaced or repaired, you’ll need to place it inside the wheel. Inflate your tube just enough to give it shape to make it easier to reinstall and find the hole in the metal rim where the air valve pokes through. Then, you can begin placing the tire rubber back over the inner tube, placing the tire bead back on the rim. I recommend doing this by hand if you can to reduce the chance of accidentally puncturing the new inner tube with the tire lever. Do not be tempted to use a screw driver for the same reason. Then add air to your tire so it is full. You can pinch the tires to make sure they are fully inflated or use the exact tire pressure which is printed on the side of your tires.
Reinstall your tire and ride on.
Reverse the steps you used to reattach your front or back tire to your bike’s frame. Then check to see that you re-engage the brakes and that they are working properly before you hit the road.
Besides making sure your tires are properly inflated, keep an eye on your tires before every ride. The intense sun and heat is hard on rubber tires over time. Whether you ride frequently or your bike has been cooped up in the garage, a visual inspection for cracked rubber or excessive wear on the treads, can save you a bumpy ride down the road. Our bike shop offers full-service repair services whenever you need them, so we can outfit you with supplies, patch kits to do it yourself, or more assistance if you need a second opinion on your tire or tube.
About Thomas Deaner
Thomas Deaner is a licensed USA Cycling Mechanic and general manager for Brick City Bicycles in Ocala, Florida. A long-time bike enthusiast, he has been on two wheels for more than 20 years and enjoys sharing his love for cycling with others.