How To Fix a Flat Bike Tire

While this isn’t one of the posts from which ever so so many readers will be able to immediately draw something to integrate into their lives (although I really think you all should bike absolutely all the time), I am still throwing it up here on le Blog because fixing a bike flat is a lot easier than I thought it would be, and, well, if the singular reason that you’re holding off on the bike riding is because you’re nervous to ever be in a situation in which you have to fix a flat, I’m here to help. But I’m sure that that’s not stopping people from bike riding. But. It’s a good skill to have, so here’s what you do when you’re faced with this type of situation mid ride:

You may remember that this lovely tire situation interrupted a ride I took a while back. It’s taken this long to muster up the ability to revisit the experience. And since then, I have also upgraded to a Real Grown Up Modern Road Bike which doesn’t get flat tires every 40 miles! But. If it does get a flat, I am prepared.

There are some items that I recommend you strap to your bike so that situations like this one are easier to improve upon. I got all of these things at eastern moutain sports (Obviously lying my way into the student discount)–they’re pretty easy to find at any sports/bike/etc focused-store. Hey, I wouldn’t be surprised if Target had this stuff, too. I have a little pouch that straps underneath my bike seat and fits all of this stuff.

left to right: replacement bike tube, mini bike pump, tire levers, regular wrench, bike tube patches, and tire patches

All right, so the first thing to do, after cursing and taking off your helmet, is take off the flat tire. If you have those quick-release tires, awesome. If not, well. Wrench.

If a wrench needs to be involved, there might also be one of these lever-type things that you’ll need to pull back in order to make it possible to remove the wheel. it took me far too long to figure this out. and I know I’m not doing a good job explaining it. Once again, I’m falling back on that picture=1k words thing.

Before taking off the wheel, you’ll have to finagle the chain out of the way, too. Also try to deflate the tire as much as possible before you remove the wheel so that it’s easier to get it through the break pad area. More on that later…
Then it’s necessary to remove the tire. Do this with the tire levers. Jam one in between the tire and the medal frame.and then pull the lever down and hook it on one of the spokes, which will pull the tire out of the frame. wheeee.
jThen just insert more tire levers until it’s easy to completely remove the tire.once the tire is off, the tube will come off pretty much automatically, unless you have the kind of bike tube where you need to unscrew the air valve thingy.

Then you’ve gotta figure out what it was that caused the flat. First, check the tire itself for any tears by just examining the inside bit of it. 

If it does turn out that whatever caused the flat punctured both the tire and the bike tube, I’m sorry. Patch the hole in the tire with one of those tire patches you’re so conveniently carrying along. I’d show more details, but alas–this has never happened to me. And hopefully it won’t. Ever.

Next it’s time to examine the bike tube to try and find the hole. To do this, pump air into the tube, and hold it up to your ear until you hear where air is escaping. Just so you all know, this is not actually what my face looks like.

This takes a while, or at least it took me a while. My littlest brother talks about sticking the bike tube underwater for this part of the process, but I don’t imagine that it would be as easy to attach a patch to a wet bike tube. And by “I don’t imagine,” i mean, “Google told me.”

Yes. That teeny tiny hole caused all of this hubbub.

There are very easy and clear directions, probably, right on the patch case.I am quite excellent at following very easy and clear directions. Although I am not excellent at keeping my hands clean when fixing things.

If you can’t find the hole, or don’t feel like searching for it, just use the spare bike tube that you happen to be carrying around and get rid of the damaged tube.

After you’ve patched the hole, fill the tube with some air and squeeze it to make sure that air doesn’t escape from anywhere else.

And now the reconstruction process begins. You’ll want the tube to have a little bit of air in it, but not all that much, please. I have way too much air in the tube in this picture.  Put the beautifully repaired tube inside of the beautifully unscathed (or repaired) tire. 

Line up the air valve with the air valve hole in the wheel frame, and begin the terrifying process of putting the tire back together, starting with the tire edge closest to the air valve. Basically work everything back into place with your thumbs. It’s not easy. But. It must be done!

I basically wrestled this all together. Then I was delighted with myself. 

perhaps a bit too delighted, but whatev.

Then it’s time to put the tire back on. Once again, please make sure that your tire is pretty deflated for this process. Finagle your way around the bike chain, putting it back in place. Don’t force anything — when everything is lined up correctly (and the tire is deflated enough), this should happen fairly easily.

Then it’s time to true your wheel, unless you have the easy release/automatically truing wheels. Basically, just keep on spinning the wheel, making small adjustments until it’s spinning straight. This is also a pain. Actually, there’s not a lot about fixing a flat I like, other than the sense of self-made-success that follows it.

But, once all that nasty work is done, it’s time to fill your tire back up with air! 

When i was doing this, I missed one key step and inflated the tire quite a bit too much before putting it back on the bike. I also forced the tire back in. This was the result: 

That would be one of my break pads. Bike riding with out rear breaks? Not safe. But, now you have all learned from my mistake!

So, I hope this was somewhat helpful to some of you. It’s pretty frustrating to get caught 10 miles from a bike shop with an ailing bike and not know what to do! Fixing a flat is a pain, but having to walk for 3 hours to get home is more of a pain!

 

In other news, to whoever googled “Normal People Faces,” and got to my blog, I hope you found what you were looking for.

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5 Comments to “How To Fix a Flat Bike Tire”

  1. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions!

  2. AWESOME. I am terrified somewhat of the bike thing – mostly because the last time I rode a bike I was like…11 and it had no gears or anything. so I’m afraid of brakes, gears, clippy pedals (I know that’s not necessary), and also flat tires. So hey! You have alleviated one of my fears! 🙂 hahaha

  3. It doesn’t hurt to marry a guy who likes tinkering with bikes. Even if you *can* do it, sometimes it’s nice to let somebody else get their hands dirty, LOL.

    Clipless pedals (which really are clippy) are okay!!! When I was first trying them out, I got really frustrated because I just could not get my left foot out. I just kept trying and trying…..FINALLY, we realized that something was either too loose or too tight, on either the shoe part or the pedal part, and once it was adjusted properly I could do it just fine. I keep my pedals on the easier-to-clip-out side of the spectrum, and if I think there is any chance I need to have my feet free, I clip out. I haven’t had any problems.

    On my commuter bike I have Power Grips and a lot of people love these and prefer them over toe clips or clipless pedals: http://bicycling.about.com/b/2009/01/19/power-grips-pedal-straps-reviewed.htm.

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