How to fix a bicycle flat


Getting a flat tire on your bicycle is no fun, but it doesn't have to be a big deal. Steve Madden, editor of Bicycling Magazine, shows you the quick and almost easy way to change a bicycle flat. (We still think you should have a cellphone and money for cab fare, just in case ...)

How to fix a bicycle flat Step 1: Remove the wheel from the bike. If a quick-release wheel, first open the brake, then open the quick release lever. Unscrew the skewer (opposite the lever) a couple of times, then lift bike and remove wheel.

Step 2: Visually inspect sidewalls and tread, looking for holes.

Step 3: Open up the air valve stem and completely deflate tire.

Step 4: Insert tire lever between the wheel rim and tire bead. Insert second tire lever about three inches away and run the lever halfway around the tire — separating the tire bead from the rim around the entire wheel.

Step 5: Remove the inner-tube by pushing on the valve stem, rolling the tire back from the rim — pulling the tube out of the tire.

Step 6: Insert new inner tube by inserting valve stem of new tube through the valve stem hole in wheel. Insert the inner tube into tire around the entire wheel.

Step 7: Go back to valve stem and snap tire bead back into the rim around the entire wheel. If tire gets tight, insert tire lever to help stretch and snap the tire back into the rim

Step 8: Tug on valve stem and examine to be certain tire is fully back in place.

Step 9: Reinflate tire.

Step 10: Re-attach tire (quick-release lever on left) and tighten. Close quick-release lever and brake.

Step 11: Spin wheel to ensure it rotates smoothly. Adjust brakes to ensure they grasp wheel.

If Repairing a Back Wheel:

Process is essentially the same, but you will need to work around the gear cassette.
  • Remove rear wheel as in Step 1 above. In order to get the wheel off, make sure the gearing is in the smallest gear (closest to the derailer) and that the front of the gear cassette is on the smallest chain ring.
  • Gently pull derailer back, lift bike up and the wheel should easily come off.
  • Fix the tire as described in Steps 2-9 above.
  • Reattach rear wheel, reversing the process above.
Transcript Hi I’m Steve Madden with Today I’m going to show you how to fix a flat on a bicycle. First thing you got to do is take the wheel off, and that’s pretty easy. If you have a bike like this one with quick release wheels the first thing you do is open the break to make sure the wheel will come off more easily. Then you reach down and open the quick release lever. Then give the whole skewer a couple of twists so there is plenty of room to come off the drop out. Lift it up and it comes right off.

Okay, so here’s the flat wheel. First thing you want to do is give it a visual inspection. Look over the sidewalls and the tread to make sure there is not a big hole in it. Because, if you have a hole in it, you have a slightly more complicated problem then just a flat. Open up the valve and press it down a little bit to make sure all the air is out of the tire. Then you reach for these two tire levers here. A real pro can change a tire with just one, but it is easier to do it with two. The tire has a thing on it called a bead. It’s a piece of wire that’s embedded in the edge of the tire, and it snaps into the edge of the rim on the wheel. That’s what holds the tire on.

So what you do is take one lever, which has a little bit of a hook on the end. And you place it down on the inside between the rim and then bead. You hook it under the bead and lift up, pull it off. And this is how we’re going to start to pull it off the tire to get to the inner tube. And you reach in a little down the line with the other lever, and you hook that over two. Then run the lever down liker that so the bead is disengaged from a third to a half of the wheel. This way it should be pretty easy to pull it off. So put your finger right up there, run it along, and separates the bead from the rest of the rim. Now the next thing you need to do, you need to take the whole inner tube out. So press up like this, I’m sorry on the valve stem, there you go, pull it back out a little bit, and just putt the inner tube out. Push the valve stem up and bingo the whole stem is out.

Take a brand new inner tube out from your repair kit. Shake it out so it is pen like this and go back to the hole here in the rim where the valve stem goes through. Place that in and work your way around placing the inner tube back in. You go back to the valve stem and you start working your way around to snap this bead back in. Come back up to the valve stem now, and as you go again visually inspect to make sure that it’s working okay. It’s going well. Now I’m at the point where the bead is stretched. It’s going to be hard to get in there. On inner tubes that go up to very high pressures you’ll need to use the tire leer again to lift it back, to life the bead back over the rim. Okay, so now you take another look at it, so pull the valve stem and make sure that it is out far enough. Open it up and go to your pump.

Great piece of equipment, I recommend that you get it. Tire pressure suggested for each tire is located on the sidewall here. This is suggested to go up to 100PSI. So that’s what I’m going to do. Take the valve stem here, then you take this part of the pump and place it over he valve stem. Hear it click and lock it, then I like to use gravity to make sure it stay’s in place, and I start pumping. This has a dial, which shows you how high it will go. So I’m going to pump, get this up to one hundred.

Okay, so now we’re at the proper inflation, ready to put the wheel back on the bike. Again this is very simple. Take the bike; this is the quick release you want to make sure this is on the left hand side of the bike so it is symmetrical with the rear. Bring the bike over and bring the droplets over the skewer, and drop it down like that. Then you need to tighten this, you hold the quick release and turn the opposite side of the skewer a few turns just till you feel a little bit of pressure there. And then close the quick release. You should feel a fair amount of resistance here when you close it to make sure it’s on tightly. Now its time to lower the break, just push the lever down. Again we’re just reversing the process we used to take it off, and give it a spin. Everything seems to be working well. Close the break just to check it. Spin it again to make sure the break is seated properly. Okay, so that’s how you fix a flat on the front wheel.

What do you do if it’s on the rear wheel? Well changing the flat on the tire is pretty much the same thing, but you’ll notice the assembly of the rear wheel is a little bit different because that’s where the cassette is with all the gears. Nothing to be afraid of its pretty simple to fix let me show you how to do it. Same deal, you want to open the break, then reach for the quick release, pull both side of the skewer, open the quick release and give it a few turns. Then in order to get the wheel off you want to make sure that the gear is in the smallest gear, which is the gear closest to the derailer and the drop off. And then on the front it’s on the smallest chain link. Pull the rear derailer back, gently, so that there is clearance and just lift the bike up and the wheel comes right off.

Fix the flat, and its time to put it back on. You just reverse the process. Getting flat’s is part of riding a bike, they’re pretty simple to fix. Once you do it a few times you’ll see it’s not a big deal. I’m Steve Madden for
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  • Steve Madden

    Steve Madden Editor-in-Chief of Bicycling and Mountain Bike Magazines Steve Madden is the Editor-in-Chief of Bicycling and Mountain Bike magazines. He was also a reporter and columnist for Fortune, staff writer for M, and Editor and Publisher of Cornell. more about this expert »

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