We are all not bike mechanics, but we all have a love for bikes! (If your reading this blog I imagine you at least have a crush on bikes.) With that love, if it is true, means that you actually pedal your two wheeled friend with a big fat smile on your face, acting in every way possible like a little kid again. Not like we need to act that hard. It’s medicine, I swear! Like every relationship, there are going to be times when you quietly curse at your partner: when the hills are steep and gears too high, the pedal teeth too sharp and the shins too soft, and inevitably when you get a flat. It’s all part of riding a bike, some will scar our spirits and our skin, but we should not let it scar our egos. So, I am going to cover some very basic flat tire repair and tools which every rider should carry with them. Hopefully, wiping away some fear for the new rider or the old.
This video goes over the key points of changing a flat tire on any bike.
A couple notes on the video that I feel are worth mentioning:
- Release all remaining air from punctured tube if it is not completely flat
- The lip of the tire lever remains pointed up when taking the tire bead OFF and ON in order to get under the bead and not pinch the tube as easily
- If using two tire levers on a tight tire, insert first tire lever above a spoke, then insert second tire lever adjacent (one or two spokes) from the first lever. Do not pry first lever down before getting second one under the bead. Once the first lever is pried down it can be hooked on the spoke in order to free one of your hands so you can then pry the second lever down and remove one side of the tire.
- There is no need in removing the tire completely, this will aid in finding the cause of the puncture in relation to the tube.
- Be careful when running fingers inside of tire when checking for cause of flat, if anything is still in there it could cut you.
- When inserting the fresh tube into the tire and you begin putting the tire bead onto the rim at the valve core, it may be necessary to push up on the valve and then pull back down in order for the tire bead to sit fully into the rim and prohibit the tube from escaping. From that point you can install the rest of the tire.
- If a tire lever is Absolutely necessary to install the last bit of the tire onto the rim, make sure the tube is pushed up into the tire as best as possible and make sure the tire lever lip is pointed up. You easily run the risk of puncturing the new tube at this point, but sometimes it is necessary to use one.
- Make sure quick release skewers are closed properly if you have them.
- Practice before it you need to!!!
The above items are what I usually carry with me when I ride.
- Spare Tube (correct size and valve type)
- CO2 inflator and at least one 16oz canister (one 16oz canister should fill a road tire to about 90-105 psi, and mountain tire 35-40 psi)
- Tire Boot (can be used between tire and tube if your tire gets a cut in it big enough that the tube would poke out.
- Hand Pump
- Presta to Schrader valve adapter (in case I need to fill up at a gas station. Gas station pumps only work on Schrader valves)
- Quick Stick tire lever (gives more leverage than normal tire levers, you only need one, and it doesn’t break as easily)
A word about CO2 inflators and hand pumps: I always at least carry a hand pump, it is a reliable source of air, whereas CO2 inflators are not. CO2 inflators are nice because they are quick and easy, but you could run out of them, get multiple flats, or find that when you go to pump up the new tube you just installed it turned out to have a hole in it because of failure to install it correctly or you didn’t remove the source of the puncture. That is why I like redundancy with both options.
Flats are inevitable, they are going to happen no matter what you do. There are a couple preventative options which will help decrease those chances of getting a flat.
- Tire sealant such as Orange Seal (pictured above) or Stan’s. These are liquid sealants which you install into your tube or tire (if you are running tubeless) and works as a flexible sealant for holes up to a quarter inch. I have been a fan of Stan’s for multiple years, but recently I have switched over to Orange Seal with greater results.
- Thicker thorn resistant tubes. These are heavier than normal tubes of course, but they do offer some nice puncture resistance.
- I am not a fan of the tire liners that go between the tube and tire.
- The tire itself is also overlooked sometimes. Yes, you are going to pay more for a more durable and puncture resistant tire, but they do help and last a bit longer.
- Go Tubeless! Best option, especially if you mountain bike. Not always a simple and cheap option, but you will never go back to tubes once you switch.
Now Suzy Q should feel a bit more comfortable riding her bike more than a few miles from the house. There are some free classes on these basic skills that are usually held at local bike shops, I know REI offers them. If your local shop mechanics are cool, they will take a few minutes to help with any questions you have too.