Quick Guide: How To Change A Flat Bike Tire

It’s an all-too-familiar scene: You’re making your way down the road, enjoying your ride, when all of the sudden, something doesn’t feel right. In fact, it feels quite mushy and sluggish.

Yep, you’ve got a flat bike tire.

If you’re not prepared, you may find yourself having to walk the bike all the way back home.

Depending on where you are, this could be a pretty big problem. Fortunately, all you need is a spare tube, a patch kit, some tire levers, possibly a bike multi-tool, and you’re equipped to handle such a situation.

Whether you’re on the road, or at your home, repairing or changing a flat tire is a fairly simple task that requires very little time. This article will walk you through changing both the front and back tires, along with instructions on how to repair one if you have a small puncture.

Changing a Bike Tire Tube

Before anything, turn the bike upside down to where it’s resting on the handlebars and saddle. This will make the process much easier.

Bike set upside-down for a tire change.

Step 1: Undo the quick release lever that holds the wheel’s axle onto the bike. If your bike has nuts instead of a release lever, loosen the nuts that hold the wheel’s axle onto the bike’s frame.

Step 2: Release the brakes if they are positioned to where you can’t take the wheel off. On some bikes, you can press the brakes and remove the cable with the slack from the caliper. On others, you may also need to loosen the cable to allow the brakes to open more.

For disc brakes, undo the cable from the stopping mechanism.

Step 3: Take the wheel out of the frame, and lay flat on the ground..

If you’re doing the rear wheel, lift the chain up and away from the gear cluster. Shift the chain to the smallest gear on the wheel beforehand, as this gives you enough slack to easily remove the chain.

Step 4: If the tube still has air in it, deflate it by pressing down on the inner part of the valve.

Step 5: Loosen the tire beads from the rim by squeezing the tire all the way around the rim. This helps to get rid of the last part of air, which makes the tube’s removal easier.

Step 6: Using two tire levers, ease one lever in under the wheel rim and lever out the edge of the tire, slowly and gently working your way along as you pry it up over the wheel rim. Move around the rim and repeat until it’s off.

Step 7: Carefully inspect the inside wall of the tire by rubbing along its surface area. Inspect the rim for problems such as glass, nails, thorns, or anything else that could’ve punctured the tube. Remove any sharp objects with pliers if you have them. If necessary, readjust the rim tape to cover any spokes.

Step 8: Time to either patch the flat, or replace the entire tube.

If you are patching: Take your air pump and fill the punctured tube with a little bit of air. Inspect the punctured tube for the source of the air leak.

If you can’t locate it, place the tube underwater until you see air bubbles being made, and make note of the punctured area. Chalk is a good option.

Follow the directions on your patching kit where the hole is. Some kits have glue, while others may just be a sticky gel patch.

Equipment necessary for patching a flat bike tire.

New tubes: Unwrap your tube from the packaging, and remove any ties or rings around it. Lay flat on the ground.

Step 9: Once your tire is repaired, air it up to make sure the patch is working, and then deflate until it has just a small bit of air to give it structure.

Step 10: Place the new or repaired tube into the tire, while making sure the tube is not twisted. Fill the tube with a few pumps of air, as this helps the tube avoid any pinching when placing it inside the tire.

Step 11: Begin to slowly work the tire onto the rim one side at a time. This is a bit hard to do without using tire levers a screwdriver to wedge the tired back on the rim, but doing so will help you avoid any accidental pinching of the tube.

Make sure to check inside the tire wall for an arrow that shows the direction of rotation, as some tire models have a specific pattern that faces a direction. Put one side of the tire in first, then push the partially inflated tube into the tire and put the other side on.

Step 12: Examine the entire wheel and tire, and make sure there is no part of the tube is sticking out anywhere. Inflate the tube slowly, while ensuring there is no pinching, or the tube getting bunched up inside the tire. One you’ve reached the desired pressure, you’re good to go.

Pumping a bike tire.

Follow this up by setting your brakes back up, and tightening the tension cable if needed.

Emergency Repair Without a Patch Kit

Although not recommended, (and easily avoidable,) it is possible to come up with a few makeshift ways to repair a flat tire without a patch kit -- just enough to get back home without having to walk the bike. You’ll still need a way to air the tire up, however.

Follow the same directions above, including finding the source of the air leak. Once located, take your sunglasses strap, shoelace, or anything else you can use to create an airtight seal around the tube in the affected area.

Tie two or three knots around the puncture, until you are sure the tube is sealed off.

Emergency fix of a flat bike tire.

After doing so, fill the inside of the tire with grass, leaves, or whatever else you can find, and place the tied-off section of the tube where you’ve filled the tire.

This ensures that the tube remains in place, despite the fact that part of it has been minimized.

You should then be able to slowly ride back home, or to a location where you can obtain a patch.

Conclusion

Tire problems are bound to happen, often when you least expect it. Being prepared with both knowledge and the right tools and gear can ensure that your ride continues on as it should.

Be sure to always carry at least one spare tube, a patch kit, and something to help you pry the tire off the wheel (tire levers obviously preferred.) These things are all easy to carry in a small backpack, or even a hydration pack.

As long as you have these things you’ll never have to worry about having your ride ruined by a flat.

This post was last updated on May 14th, 2018 at 09:00 am

About the Author Max Shumpert

Over the last few years, I’ve taken my love of the outdoors, hiking, skiing, trekking and exploring to the next level by starting this site. I started a bike shop in Denver, CO, and have seen amazing growth over the last few years. Getting paid to do what I love has been a dream come true for me. That’s also what led me to start BikesReviewed.com. In my shop, I spend a large amount of time helping people find the perfect bike for them and the style of biking they’re going to be doing. It only made sense that I expanded my reach and got online, making it possible for me to help people all over the world. If biking and staying fit is your priority, too, you’ve come to the right place.

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