Almost soon as I pulled out of our driveway for my ride two weeks ago, I heard a ‘pop’ and a flapping sound.
Yup, flat tire. Less than two lots away from our house.
And then I realized that the only set of tire irons and patch kit was in Dan’s bike bag. At his office. Eight miles away. Cycling fail.
On the bright side, I finally had the opportunity to take photos for my “how to change a flat tire” tutorial that weren’t staged!
How to Change a Flat Tire
Anatomy of a Tire:
What You’ll Need:
- Patch Kit and/or a Spare Tube
- Tire Levers (optional, but highly recommended)
Flip the bike over, release the brakes and turn the quick release lever until the wheel is loose.
Making sure not to catch on the chain, remove the wheel.
Try to figure out what caused the tire to go flat. Examine the tire for any pieces of glass, metal or other debris that may have poked through and punctured the tube. If you can’t immediately find it, try adding some air to the tire and listening for the leak. If there is anything embedded in the tire, remove it so that it doesn’t poke a hole through the new or patched tube.
Time to remove the tire. Slide the end of one tire lever under a bead of the tire, locking the other end on to a spoke. Slip the other tire lever in next to the locked one, and slide it around the wheel to release the entire tire.
Savvy Tip: If you don’t have tire levers, you can use your hands for this step. It may just be a little trickier, particularly for thinner tires.
Remove the washer on the valve stem and set aside.
Savvy Tip: Most road bikes have this kind of valve. If not, they may have Schraeder valves, which are like the ones on your car tires.
Push the valve stem through the tire so that you can remove the tube.
Slide the tube out from beneath the tire, starting at the valve stem. Remove the tire and run your hand along the inside to make sure there aren’t any sharp points.
If you choose to patch the tube rather than immediately replace it, find the source of the leak in the tube. Again, if you need to, pump some more air into the tube and listen for the leak.
Get out your patch kit.
Using the sandpaper in your patch kit, smooth the area around the leak in the tube. Sand a larger area than you think you need so that the glue and patch will adhere properly.
Apply the glue from your patch kit to the sanded area. Again, cover an area larger than you think you need. Set aside to dry.
Evenly press the patch over the dried glue, being especially watchful of the patch edges. Remove the plastic covering from the patch.
Pump air back into the tube. Do not inflate fully, but just enough that the tube will not fold in on itself when you slide it back under the tire. Double check that the patch is holding and that no air is leaking out of the tube.
Slide one bead of the tire back on the wheel.
Peel back the tire at the hole in the rim, and slide the valve stem in.
Starting at the valve stem and working your way around the wheel, nest the tube under the tire and fit the second bead onto the rim. Be careful not to allow the tube to fold back on itself or get pinched by the tire, or you will get another flat as soon as you inflate it. This is aptly named a pinch flat.
Savvy Tip: You can use the tire levers here, but it is better to use your hands. With the tire levers, you are more likely to get a pinch flat.
Inflate the tire partially and ensure that both beads are secure on the rim and that the tire is not bulging unevenly. If everything looks good, pump the tire up to your riding pressure.
Pull the chain out of the way and replace the wheel on the bike.
Tighten the quick release and the brakes. For some reason, we forget to tighten my brakes every. single. time.
Savvy Tip: Don’t over-tighten the quick release. You shouldn’t need tools for this step, just your hands!
Ensure that the wheel is on straight and aligned properly:
Wrong: There is a larger gap between the rim and brake on the right than on the left.
Correct: There is an equal spacing between the rim and brake on both sides.
Spin the wheel to make sure it isn’t rubbing on the brakes.
Put your patch kit away, flip your bike back over, and you’re ready to ride!