How to Fix a Flat Tire on a Bicycle

How to Fix a Flat Tire on a Bicycle
Before you get in a situation where you need to fix a flat tire, it's important to be prepared. Being prepared means bringing the proper repair tools along every time you ride. It also means having the basic knowledge of your equipment to repair a tire. Bikes use different types of tires and repairs vary. Here we'll discuss a basic inner-tube repair, as this applies to most bicycles.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tire levers Wrench Patch kit (patches, sandpaper, glue)
  • Tire levers
  • Wrench
  • Patch kit (patches, sandpaper, glue)
Step 1
Before you ride, you should know what tools that you'll need to get the job done. To change a tire, you'll need to take the wheel off. Many bikes use a toolless quick-release system for this; however, some bikes still use nuts. Determine whether you need a wrench, get the correct size and carry it with you. Another consideration is the valve type of your inner tube. You'll need a pump that is compatible with Presta or Schrader, depending upon which tube your bike uses. Pack the right pump as well as two tire levers and a patch kit containing patches, sandpaper and glue. Also pack an inner tube, which will be necessary if your damage is irreparable.
Step 2
Unhook the brake pads. If your brakes keep you from pulling the wheel off, pull out the cable end to loosen the brakes so that you can fit the rim through. Take the wheel off. Unscrew your nut or quick-release lever so that you're able to pull the wheel off the bike. No need to take the nut off, just get it loose enough.
Step 3
Deflate the tire. Presumably, the source of your flat already did this, but if it didn't, deflate by pressing the air release on the tube valve. Slip the tire lever into the rim. Grab the tire bead with the lever and lift it up over the rim. Keep this first lever in place.
Step 4
Move two inches over from your first tire lever and pry the bead up as you did in step 3. Continue working in this way around the rim until the tire is loose enough to pull off by hand.
Step 5
Take the cap off the valve, if it's still on. A Presta valve will have a nut at its base; take this off as well. Pull the tube off the rim and out of the tire.
Step 6
Find the hole in the tube. Begin by putting air in the tube and inspecting it for the leak. You may see, hear or feel the leak and locate the hole. If you can't find it, another method is to inflate and submerge the tube in water. Hold about a foot-long segment under the water and inspect for bubbling. Rotate the tire through the water until you've found the hole.
Step 7
Clean and dry the area around the hole. Rough up an area the size of your patch around the hole using your sandpaper. Squeeze a thin application of glue onto the repair area and wait two or three minutes for it to dry. Before applying the patch, the glue should be thick and tacky. Pull the film off the back of the patch and press it down onto the tube. Apply uniform pressure for a minute or two. Allow several minutes for bonding.
Step 8
Inspect your tire. Look for any tire damage and be sure that there are no sharp objects stuck in the tire--you don't want to get a second flat tire! Check the rim as well. Inflate the tube into shape. Insert the valve into the rim and put the tube back into the tire. Make sure it's seated evenly.
Step 9
Using your hands, lift the bead back into the rim. You may need to use the tire lever to finish the job. When using the lever, be careful not to prod or pinch the inner tube. Rotate the tire to make sure the bead is firmly in the rim all the way around.
Step 10
Check your tire wall for the manufacturer-specified pressure and inflate the tire. Verify that the bead is still properly seated in the rim. Close your Presta valve, put the cap on the tube and reinstall the bike wheel. Don't forget to hook the brakes back up.

Tips & Warnings

Some tube damage is irreparable. In addition to a repair kit, carry an extra tube or two to ensure you don't get stuck without a ride home.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

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