Flat tires can happen on any surface, to any type of bike. If you ride, you have to be ready with the tools and knowledge necessary for a roadside repair. With practice, the right equipment, and a little baby powder, you’ll be back on the road or the trail in no time.
BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT
“The best thing you can do before you ride is to inflate your tires to the correct pressure,” says Peter Mead, general manager of Colonial Bicycle in Portsmouth, N.H. Follow the guidelines printed on the tire: Typically, road tires require 80 to 130 psi, hybrid tires 50 to 70 psi, and mountain tires 30 to 50 psi.
Another proactive measure is conducting regular maintenance checks to make sure your tires aren’t worn out. When the time comes to replace them, you might consider upgrading to higher-quality tires. Keeping your gear in top condition will reduce the chances of getting a flat in the first place.
According to Mike Barry, a bike leader for AMC’s Boston Chapter, you’ll want to carry the following equipment on every ride: at least one spare inner tube; an inflation device, such as a mini frame pump or CO2 inflator; tire levers; and a patch kit. You’ll also want to practice changing a tire before going on a long ride. “Doing something for the first time on the side of the road is never a good idea,” Barry says. If you do find yourself with a flat, proceed as follows.
OUT WITH THE OLD
To begin, release the brake and the skewer then remove the wheel from the bicycle.
Next, remove the inner tube. Using two tire levers, insert one on either side—at 12 and 6 o’clock, for example—between the metal rim and the rubber tire bead (that curved edge of the tire hugging the metal rim). Starting with the side of the tire opposite the valve will make removal easier, Mead advises. Push the levers away from the wheel and remove one side of the tire bead. You may need to drag the lever slowly along the rim to extricate the tire, but you only need to remove one side of the tire from the rim.
Pull out the damaged inner tube, inspecting it and the inside of the wheel for any sharp debris. If you plan to patch the damaged tube, use your mini pump to inflate it partway and see if you can find the hole.
IN WITH THE NEW
Once the tire and wheel are clear of debris, insert a new inner tube, valve stem first. Before you pull the bead back onto the rim, inflate the tube to 10 pounds so it’s soft but round. This makes it easier to work the tube onto the rim without twisting it. If possible, push the bead of the tire back on the rim without using a lever, which can accidentally pinch the new tube.
Once the tire is back in place, make sure the tube isn’t crimped between the bead and the rim. Then begin to inflate the tube slowly, checking regularly to make sure the tire bead remains seated in the rim. Reattach the wheel to the fork and tighten the brakes to finish.
DON’T FORGET THE BABY POWDER
One trick to make your changes easier? “Put the tubes in a zip-locked bag and put some baby powder in there,” Barry says. This helps keep the tube from sticking between the rim and the tire’s wire bead.
As long as you’re riding, why not improve your technique? Learn how to pedal faster and smarter.