How To Change A Flat Tire On Your Bicycle

Understanding Tire Construction

It might help to understand a little more about your bicycle tires. Most tires consist of three main parts:

  • Beads – two hoops that are on either side of the part of the tire that fits in the tire rim that are usually made from steel cable or Kevlar
  • Cords – nylon cloth woven between the beads that forms the body of the tire
  • Rubber – this covers the beads and cords and is thicker where the tire comes in contact with the ground

The actual tire is not airtight; therefore an inner tube, which is nothing more than a donut-shaped balloon, is used to hold air within the tire structure. When the tire becomes worn or is exposed to road hazards, such as sharp metal objects, stones or glass, damage to the inner tube may occur. Regularly inspecting your tires for wear or slow leaks is always a good idea as a preventative measure.

Tools You Will Need

  • Tire repair kit
  • Tire levers
  • Spare inner tube
  • Bicycle pump, portable for repairs on the road
  • Adjustable pocket wrench

There are two main steps you'll need to follow:

1. Removing Your Tire from Your Bicycle

You will need to remove the wheel to remove the tire and gain access to the inner tube.

  • Start by releasing the brake. Most brakes have a quick-release mechanism that requires you to pinch the brake arms together to remove tension from the brake cable and release the arms.
  • Depending upon your bicycle, you will either use a quick-release lever or need to remove a nut and bolt with a wrench to remove the front wheel from the frame.
  • Removing a back wheel is slightly more difficult. Push the rear derailleur arm that hangs down at the rear of the bike, back and up towards the frame to remove tension from the chain while removing the wheel. Shifting to the lowest gear before attempting to remove the wheel will make this easier.
  • Locate the source of the damage by checking for foreign objects, such as nails or broken glass. “Pinch flats” are also extremely common and are the result of the tube being compressed to the point where it bursts.

2. Replacing or Repairing Your Tube

Remove the inner tube and make sure that all air has been released from the tube. This can be done by pressing in the nipple on the end of the valve.

  • The easiest way to remove a tube is using a set of tire levers; never use a screwdriver because you may damage the tire.
  • Use the levers to pry the tire away from the wheel’s rim. By hooking the tire levers to the spokes, slowly work your way around the wheel. Once the tire has been removed, simply pull the tube off the rim.
  • If you wish to repair the tube rather than replace it, find the source of the leak and follow the directions in your patch kit to repair it. An easy way to find the leak is by submerging the tube in water and look for air bubbles, but of course this may be difficult to do if you are en route.
  • Pump a little air into your repaired or new tube to give it shape and fit it over the rim. Fit the tire over the semi-inflated tube and ensure it is inside the lip of the rim all the way around.
  • Finish inflating the tire and reinstall the wheel.

Whether you are an avid cyclist or a leisure rider, chances are you will one day need to repair a flat tire on your bike.