If you are a regular cyclist, and even if you are an occasional one, you ought to know how to fix a flat tire. Regardless of the type of riding you do; a flat tire is the most common bicycle repair. However, a deflated tire doesn’t automatically mean a flat. This can sound strange for novice, but a tire can be deflated for several reasons. Indeed, bad storage or inactivity for a long period, and weather are some of the things that can affect the tire pressure. So before removing the wheel to fix a flat tire, make sure you do have a flat.
Check the Tire Pressure
First step, to make sure the tires are inflated correctly find the recommended pressure by the manufacturer. This information is usually printed on the side of the tire. Most likely, it will be somewhere between 25Psi and 40Psi (Pound per Square Inch) for a mountain bike. Though, for a road bike it probably will be more between 80Psi and 110Psi.
To simplify your life, use a bike pump with built-in tire pressure gauge. However, we do not recommend using a gas station air pump, as they are very powerful and can easily blow out the tube and small wheels. Once inflated, if the tire starts sagging immediately, you have a puncture, and it’s time to deal with it.
Required Tools to Fix a Flat Tire
To fix a flat tire you will need just a few things: an inner tube or a patch kit, a set of tire levers, and a bike pump. If you go with the patch, you should have a kit containing a few different patch sizes, sandpaper and a tube of glue. Oh, and the most important things you will need are your dexterity and patience…
Remove the Wheel
Most bikes have a bicycle wheel quick release which makes it easy to remove the wheels without tools. Just turn the lever in the open position and release the wheel. However, if there is no quick release you will need a tool that fits the nuts exactly. They are most likely be 15mm or 13mm.
Firstly, note the position of any washers between the nuts and the fork. Turn one nut a few degrees to check it can move. Then, unscrew the nut on the opposite side of the wheel fully. Return to the first nut and loosen it. Make sure the wheel is detached; and if you have rim brakes, open the brakes.
For disk brakes, be careful not to bend the rotor as you take the wheel off. Also, if you have a derailleur gear, select the smallest combination of sprockets (cogs). Lift the bike, and gently pull the wheel out.
Inspect the Tire
It is now time to inspect that tire. Inspect the outer surface of the tire to make sure there are no sharp objects like a thumbtack or thorn, or piece of glass stuck in the tread. Be careful, anything that cuts a tire can easily cut a finger. At this step, you might also find that you need to also change the tire.
Remove the Tire
Next, you will need to remove the tire from the rim. This is often the tricky part. The part where your patience is king as the tire doesn’t always collaborate. Remove the valve cap and fully deflate the tube by depressing the valve stem with the hooked end of your tire lever. (FYI, there are two main types of valve stems, Schrader valve and Presta valve).
Next, place a tire lever under the edge of the tire until it pops out of the rim. Choose a place away from the valve and in line with a spoke. Then hook the end of the tire lever to the spoke. Do the same thing with a second lever a few spokes away from the first. Place a third tire lever another few spokes away. The second lever should have fall out when placing the third, so you can continue the process around the wheel.
When about half the wheel is loose, you can run a lever under the tire around the rest of the rim to pull the entire side out. You do not need to remove the second side, if you don’t change the tire. Simply pull out the inner tube gently and be careful with the valve.
If you do not have tire levers, you can still remove the tire with only your thumbs and dexterity. However, this process will only be a little bit harder.
Inspect the Tube
Inflate the inner tube you just removed about twice its normal size and find the puncture. You should hear a hissing sound that indicate where’s the hole. Take note of where it is. If the hole is on the outer side of the tube, inspect the surface of the tire around it to make sure noting is still stuck there. If the hole is on the inner side of the tube, inspect your rim to make sure there are no damage to the metal and the tape is still protecting the tube from the spoke ends.
Another way to inspect the tube is by immersing it in water after inflating it. This way, you will see bubbles where the whole is. But, of course, this is not a viable way when on the run.
Now, we recommend changing the inner tube as a patch is most like just a temporary solution. But we know it’s not always possible, or you just prefer patch. Time to choose.
Patch the Tube
You decided to patch, great! Firstly, start by selecting a good-sized patch for the hole. Make sure the tube is completely dry. Secondly, buff the surface of the tube with the sandpaper or scrapper from you kit until it’s not shiny anymore and it’s completely flat. The area should be a little bigger than the patch. Avoid touching that area with your finger. Thirdly, apply a thin smooth coat of glue quickly. Then, peel the foiled from the patch and press the patch onto the tube firmly. Let it set a few minutes.
Install the Tire
Inflate the new inner tube or the patch tube about halfway. Then, slide it gently and evenly under the tire. Of course, make sure you line up the valve stem with the rims’ valve hole. Use your thumbs to place the tire edge back into the rim. Make sure to not pinched the tube with the tire.
Inflate the Tire and Install the Wheel
Inflate the tire to the manufacturer recommended pressure. Inspect the tire while inflating to make sure it remains in place and doesn’t bulge. Finally, put back the valve cap and put back the wheel securely in place.
That’s it! This is how easy it is to fix a flat tire.
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