How to Fix a Flat Bicycle Tire

How to Fix a Flat Bicycle Tire
Tire repair might seem perplexing if you are a new bicycle rider. Luckily, it's a straightforward procedure that requires just a bit of technique on your part and a few inexpensive tools. Be sure that you carry the tools with you every time you ride because flats are most likely to occur on the road.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Wrench (many bikes have quick-release wheels that don't require a wrench) Two tire levers Patch kit: sandpaper, glue and patches Pump
  • Wrench (many bikes have quick-release wheels that don't require a wrench)
  • Two tire levers
  • Patch kit: sandpaper, glue and patches
  • Pump
Step 1
Check what type of brakes you have to assess what you'll need to do to remove the wheel. If you're operating on disc brakes, you can slide the wheel right off, though you might consider inserting a placeholder, like a piece of cardboard or paper, between the brake pads to prevent them from clamping shut. For V-brakes and cantilevers, you'll want to hold the brakes to remove the cable from the slot on the brake assembly. This will open the pads and make room for the wheel to slide through.
Step 2
Remove the wheel. If your bike has quick-release wheels, pull open the release and unscrew the nut on the opposite side until the skewer is loose enough to allow the wheel to slide off. Remove nuts with the wrench. Pull the wheel off. When working on the rear wheel, shift to the smallest gear to make removal a little easier. You also will need to lift the chain up a little and maneuver the cogset around the chain.
Step 3
Remove the cap from the valve of your tube. On a Presta valve, you need to open up the nut as well. Press the air release to remove all air from the tube. On a Schrader valve you may need to enlist help from a narrow tool or stick because the release is recessed in the valve. Completely deflate the tire.
Step 4
Wedge one tire lever between the tire sidewall and the rim. Push it to the bottom of the rim and get a hold of the tire bead. Lift the lever until you effectively pull the bead over the rim. Keep that lever in place with the tire bead held over the rim.
Step 5
Repeat step four with the other tire lever. Work about an inch or two over from the first lever, pull the bead over and move another inch or two over and repeat. Pay attention to the bead and you'll notice that once you get enough over, it won't take much effort to remove the rest. You can simply pull by hand now.
Step 6
Remove the valve stem from the rim and pull the tube out of the tire. Take a close look at the inside of the tire and the top of the rim to see if you can locate and remove whatever caused your flat---otherwise you'll have to fix the tube all over again.
Step 7
Pump the tire full to get air leaking out of the hole. Locate the hole by sight, touch and sound. If you can't seem to find the hole on your own, enlist the help of some water. Hold the tube under the water and the bubbling will give the hole away.
Step 8
Scuff up the area around your hole to both mark it for easy location and to get it ready for glue. Make sure it's dry and apply enough glue (a thin coat) to cover the surface area of your patch onto the tube. Wait for the glue to dry for several minutes.
Step 9
Remove the foil backing from your patch. When the glue has thickened and appears like a tacky paste and not a runny liquid, press the patch down onto the glued area. Apply pressure to allow it to bond with the glue for a minute or two. If the thin cellophane is still on top of the patch, pull it off after the patch has fully stuck.
Step 10
Pump the tube up just a little bit. You want to get it to fill into its round shape, but don't want to inflate beyond that at this point. Check the patch to make sure it's still bonded cleanly without any edges pulling up.
Step 11
Push the valve up through the valve hole in the rim. Place the tube around the rim inside the tire. Check it once over to verify that it is straight all the way around without any twisting or bunching.
Step 12
Push the bead of the tire next to the valve back onto the rim and rotate the rim around, pushing small sections of the bead onto the rim. You should be able to complete this by hand, but if it gets too difficult, use the lever very carefully to pry the last part back on. Don't insert the lever any more than you need to get the bead over the rim.
Step 13
Pump up the tire until you're about halfway to pressure. Check the tire all the way around to be sure the bead is sitting evenly in the rim. Adjust it by pushing the tire sidewall to even it out and then finish pumping your tire up to the right pressure.
Step 14
Close your Presta valve, put the cap on and then reinstall your tire. When using nuts, be sure to tighten them evenly. Tighten the nut of a quick release valve until it is good and tight; it should be difficult to fully close the lever. Finally, if you disconnected your brakes, be sure to remember to reconnect them.

Tips & Warnings

Always carry an extra tube in addition to a patch kit. Some flats cannot be repaired because they're too big or placed in a bad spot. Also, a new tube will save some time if you're in a hurry.
Be sure that your tire, wheel and brakes are all installed correctly before attempting to ride.

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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