How to Fix a Flat Bicycle Tire

by Ragtimelil

It always happens. You are miles from home, enjoying a wonderful bike ride, when the darn wheel goes flat. What do you do now?

You could whip out your cell phone and beg someone to drive out and pick you up. Make sure they have a big enough vehicle to fit you bike in.

Or you could just fix it yourself. If the tire just has a tiny hole in it, you can replace the tube and be on your way. If it has a large gash or sidewall damage, you might have to replace the tire as well.

Changing a flat on a bike with inner tubes is not all that difficult. You do need to carry some basic equipment with you however.

Tools You Should Carry With You

Wrenches to fit the axle nuts if you don’t have quick release levers to remove the wheels.

Tire levers (Do not use screwdrivers or other sharp objects. They will damage your new tube.) You can use spoon handles but levers are cheap enough.

A new inner tube the right size and valve type for your bike

A small portable hand pump with the right attachment for your valve type or CO2.


Remove the wheel and Tube

Be sure brakes are released to allow clearance for the tire. It’s easier if it’s the front wheel. Just slide it out. With the back wheel, you have to pull the chain out of the way. This is easier if the chain is on the smaller gear. Let out any excess air in the tire by pressing the inner part of the valve.

Remove the Tube Run a tire lever under the edge of the tire around the wheel so that one side of the tire is completely off the wheel. If it’s tight, use two, hooking one to the spokes and gradually moving it around until the edge of the tire is completely off the rim. Push the valve up through the hole in the rim and remove the inner tube.

Inspect Tire and Replace Tube

Look to see if you can find the cause of the flat. Be sure to feel around inside and make sure there is nothing still there that would cause a problem.

Replace the Tube

Put a little air in the new tube just to make it easier to handle. Work the tube up into the tire. Put the valve through the hole in the rim. Work as much of the tire on as you can. At some point it will get tight and you will need your tire lever to, well…lever the tire on. It’s very important at this point to do a visual inspection to make sure the tire is seated and nothing is crooked or protruding.

Fill with Air and Replace Wheel

Fill with air carefully.If you notice any bulges or bubbles, stop and let the air out. You may have to replace the wheel a second time to make sure the tube isn’t twisted. Don’t exceed the recommended air pressure. Be warned that gas station air pumps are notorious for over inflating bicycle tires.

Replace the wheel and you’re off.

Slide the wheel back into the slots and replace the chain if necessary. Tighten the nuts securely. Check to make sure the wheel is all the way in the slots and spinning freely. Use your brake pads as a rough guide to see if the wheel spins straight and isn’t wobbling.

Updated: 08/14/2012, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 08/14/2012

That's the spirit!

katiem2 on 08/14/2012

Thank you very much. For the first time in a really long time I've got a flat bicycle tire. They often get low and I simply add air but this time it need serious repair. Thanks for the tips. I'm on it now. :)K

Ragtimelil on 08/14/2012

Ha Yes, it's really easy to do if you're prepared. I've done many in my day.

BrendaReeves on 08/14/2012

Great article, Lil. It's at times like this that I think it would be nice to have a man around. But then I stop and think, it wouldn't be worth it. I'll fix it myself.

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