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How To Fix a Flat Bike Tire While out on a Ride

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

If you don’t have the right equipment, fixing a flat bike tire can be difficult and frustrating. One way to make it easier is by knowing how to fix your tire so that you can get back on the road quickly. Thankfully, there are several ways to fix a flat tire and none of them require an advanced degree in physics.

how to fix a flat bike tire

It’s a nightmare scenario for any cyclist: You’re halfway into a 50-mile ride when you suddenly begin to feel your wheel rumbling against the pavement. You pull off to the side to examine your tire, and your fears are confirmed. It’s a flat. Now, if you had come prepared with the right supplies and experience fixing a flat bike tire change, this would only be a minor nuisance. But as it is, you have neither, and now you’re stuck 25 miles from your car with no easy way to get back in the day.

8 Steps to Changing Your Flat Tire

Nobody likes having to change a flat bike tire. It’s dull, it’s dirty and it’s difficult. But if you have the right equipment and know-how, you can change your tire, pop on a fresh tube and be back on your bike in about 10 minutes.

1. Take the Wheel Off

Changing a flat tire can be pretty straightforward. If you have a quick-release wheel, that’s even better, as you can simply twist the lever to release the wheel from the frame and then pull it straight off. If your flat is on the back wheel, however, it might be a little trickier. First, change your gear to the smallest cog, furthest from the bike frame. This will make it easier for you to access your rear wheel later on. Once you’ve done this, remove the chain by undoing the quick-releases on your rear derailleur (if you have one) so that the chain slides off easily when you remove it from the sprockets.

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2. Carefully Separate the Tire From the Wheel

Getting your tire off the rim can be tricky, but we’ll walk you through it. First, let any remaining air out of the tube so that it’s easier to detach from the rim. Then use your tire levers to remove it. Starting at one side of the valve stem, use a tire lever to pry the tire away from the rim. If you encounter resistance, use a second tire lever about three inches away and continue prying until you get it off.

3. Pull the Tube Partially Out

Before you remove the tube completely, you should find the hole. Otherwise, the object might still be in your tire, ready to puncture your new tube when you get back on the bike. Once you find the hole, you can then line it up with the tire to see if the cause of your flat is still lodged there.

4. Find the Hole and Remove the Culprit

Place the bicycle tire partially over the tube. Use a hand pump to inflate the tube slightly. If you can't hear where the leak is coming from, place your ear or face close to the tube and listen for air escaping. Coach Darryl says that if you think it's likely that a bump caused a hole instead of something sharp, you can skip this step.

5. Remove and Replace the Tube

After you are sure that your tire is completely deflated, remove it from the rim. Before you put the new tube into the tire, blow it up just enough to give it its normal shape. This will keep it from getting twisted or folded when you seat it inside the tire. Once it is partially blown up, start by seating the valve stem where it fits, then work your way around from both sides of the valve to get the tube all the way inside the tire.

6. Put the Tire Back on Your Wheel

Here’s how to put on a tire: Start at the valve stem, pushing it up from inside the tire so that it pushes the tire higher than it would normally be on the road. This will give you enough clearance to get the tire around the rim first. Now work your way around from both sides of the stem so that you’ll finish at the farthest point from it. Those last 8 inches or so are going to be difficult, and Coach Darryl recommends keeping your gloves on and using your palms (not your thumbs) to push the tire onto the wheel. The hands are far stronger than the thumbs, and they will protect your palms as you put on your flat bike tire.

7. Make Sure the Tire is Seated Properly

When you are inflating your bike tire, be sure to inspect it carefully. You should see a 1/8 inch ridge all around, and no portion of the tube should be sticking out from under the rim. If any of these things are wrong, adjust the tire accordingly before proceeding.

8. Inflate and Check Again

To fill your tire with CO2, attach a cartridge to the adaptor valve and screw it all the way into the valve. Make sure the adaptor valve is positioned on the ground so you can apply pressure to the valve while filling your tire. Then tighten down one end of the adapter onto your wheel's valve; unscrew just enough to release CO2 into your tire while holding down on it with one hand. Depending on how much CO2 is in each cartridge, you may need to refill your tire once or twice at home. To fix a flat bike tire, inspect the tire tread and sidewall for signs of wear. Make sure that no part of the inner tube is sticking out through the tire. If everything looks good, put your wheel back on your bike and you’re ready to ride.

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