When one of our employees (who will remain unnamed to protect her now “bike expert” reputation 😲 ) used to get flat tires when she first got into cycling, she admitted to us her best approach. “I just stood on the side of the road while sporting my best ‘damsel in distress’ look.” Luckily for her, she didn’t have to wait long until the next guy who came riding along would inevitably stop and fix it for her.
But once she moved to a more rural town, although there was no shortage of chivalrous men, their proximity to her flat tire was an issue. And out of a strong aversion to walking her bike, she quickly decided to take matters into her own hands – literally!
Now that she is an expert tire-changer (in fact, we timed her at 1min32sec), we asked her to share her technique with the rest of us so that we too can avoid taking our bikes for that stroll of shame:
Remove the wheel, but first…
- Make sure the brake is not in the way of removing the wheel. This may require first having to open, disconnect or simply be careful with the brake. If using hydraulic brakes, be sure to NOT squeeze on the brake lever when the wheel is out.
- If it's the rear wheel, shift chain into smallest cog.
- Loosen the skewer by pulling on the lever or remove it completely if it's a thru-axle style.
- For bikes with rear derailleur, pull it back while pushing wheel down and forward.
Once the wheel is removed, take out the damaged inner tube
- Deflate the tube completely if not already fully deflated. If it’s a Schrader valve, use your fingernail. If it's a Presta valve, twist the tip counterclockwise and push down on it.
- Slide a tire lever under the edge of the tire - farthest from the valve. Pull the lever down to lift the sidewall of the tire over the rim edge. Hold the lever in place, either manually or hook its other end to a spoke. Slide the second lever about 3 to 4 inches from the first and pull down.
- Repeat this process until you get a section of tire over the rim. Run one of the levers under the sidewall until the whole side of the tire is over the rim.
- Lastly, remove the tube.
Check for anything that can re-flat your new tube
Check the tire for buried treasures. Carefully run your fingers on the inside of the tire, feeling for anything such as glass, nails or splinters that could be lodged in the casing.
Check the rim strip. Make sure all spoke holes are fully covered. If not, adjust rim strip or cover with electrical tape. A dollar bill or energy bar wrapper will work in a pinch.
Install the new tube
- Inflate tube slightly and install it starting from the valve stem. Tuck tube neatly into the tire, then adjust tire so that is centered over rim – but still with the one side not yet reattached.
Time to reattach the tire
- Stand the wheel up, with valve side up. Start at the opposite end from the valve stem and run your hands down the sides of the tire to tuck it into the rim. You’ll end up with a gap of a few inches at the end, opposite the valve, that requires a bit more elbow grease to tuck in.
- Go back up to the end opposite the valve stem and push it in slightly to ensure that the tube isn’t caught in the sidewall of the tire.
- Now, again run your hands down the sides of the tire, making sure to push very firmly in a downward back-and-forth motion towards the valve stem. In essence, you are stretching the rubber of the tire to close that few-inch gap as best you can.
- Once you’ve gotten that gap as small as possible, it’s time to push that last stubborn bit over the rim by using your palms and a bit of brute force.
- IF it is still not budging, remove a tiny bit of air from the tube and again run your hands down the tire with slightly more force this time around. Then try again to use your palms to tuck the tire into the rim. You may have to repeat this process a couple more times until it succeeds. Also, make sure the tire is in the center groove of the rim as this will make it easier to fit.
- NOTE: Try to get the tire on WITHOUT the use of a tire lever, since a lever can easily puncture the tube.
Check tire for proper installation
- Pump a little air into the tire and run your hands down the sides with a back/forth motion to ensure that the tube is not pinched between rim and tire. Spin the tire while looking at both sidewalls, to make sure there are no protrusions along tire/rim.
- Inflate tire to desired pressure, then spin to make sure that everything remains properly tucked in.
Return the wheel to bike
- If using disc brakes, be sure to line the wheel’s rotor up to slip in just between the pads. Again, if using hydraulics do NOT squeeze brake lever.
- If using rim brakes, you may need to loosen them a bit to fit the tire through. If the tire doesn’t fit, you may have to remove some air and try again – then re-pump to desired pressure.
- If using a rear derailleur, be sure to pull the derailleur back while pulling the wheel up and back, making sure the cassette is situated within the chain loop.
- Firmly tighten thru axle or skewer. If using a quick release, you may have to adjust the skewer bolt oppose the quick release lever to ensure a tight fit.
- Tighten or re-attach brakes, if non-disc brake equipped.
Ready, set, TEST
- Lift the bike and spin the wheel to make sure it looks centered and is not rubbing against frame or brake pads.
- If rubbing on a bike with quick release skewer, loosen quick release push down on bike to make sure quick release skewer is seated properly. Tighten again while continuing to apply downward pressure on the bike.
- For hydraulics, if rubbing, simply squeeze the lever a few times to readjust.
The moment you return home from your adventure, we recommend that you immediately repair the damaged tube with patch kit and pack it in your saddle bag for the next time you find yourself short on air. There you have it!
PSST, if the whole tube thing is getting tiring, then consider switching to tubeless (yes, it's a thing for roadies too now)! We love the Pirelli P ZERO Race TLR SL or the Continental Grand Prix 5000 Tubeless S TR tires.