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How to Fix Your Bike’s Flat Tire

THAT’S a blowout

I mentioned last week that I had a problem with flat tires. Well, over the years I HAVE had a couple of blowouts, but nothing like the one on Valentine’s Day in West Palm Beach.

Just a few hours earlier, that 42-foot pile of debris behind Osa had been a 30-story condo damaged by two hurricanes. At a few minutes past 9 A.M. on Valentine’s Day, it took about 10 seconds for 2,000 pounds of explosives to pancake the building. You can see a video of the implosion on this TV station’s site.

I decided that it wasn’t worth fighting the crowds to see the explosion (plus it was chilly), but Osa and Chuck and I cruised by the site that afternoon.  [I could have used a picture of Chuck, but I looked at Osa. Then I looked at Chuck. Yep, no contest, even if he WAS riding a bent.]

How to fix a flat tire

After my flat tire experience last week, I decided to let Wayne at Bicycle change my front tire so I could video the process for those folks who are a bit intimidated by the thought of doing it on the side of the road. Wayne was kind enough to let me shoot a video of him building a wheel around my SON generator when I first bought my Surly Long Haul Trucker last year, so he was OK with shooting the flat fixing.

I’ve been lucky enough not to have so many flats that I’ve gotten proficient or fast at changing them. I’ve done it – on one memorable ride on the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail when I flatted at Mosquito O’Clock – but I figured I’d let a pro do it on camera. Plus, it’s about as easy to film yourself changing a tire as it is to change a tire while swatting mosquitoes with both hands.

Patch or Pitch?

Some of you may question why Wayne said that he was going to discard the tube because it had been punctured. Why not patch it?

Wayne’s perspective as an LBS owner is that the customer will always blame the patch if there’s ever a flat on that tire in the future. He’s perfectly happy to give you the old tube back if YOU want to patch it, but he always installs new tubes.

What’s that Presta to Schrader adapter he’s using?

Wayne prefers to adapt Presta valves to the automotive Schrader format when he’s working with tubes.

  • It means that he can use the same chuck on his air hose for all tires.
  • He thinks the Presta valve is less likely to be damaged.

(Note: the adapter is installed upside down here on my tire. I keep it that was because it’s easier to take off.)

If I’m home with my Blackburn floor pump, I’ll use it in the Presta mode. If I’m on the road, I’ll use the Schrader adapter for my Topeak Road Morph with Gauge or my CO2 inflator.

That keeps me from having to switch heads around and lessens the chance of damaging the Presta valve stem.

9 comments to How to Fix Your Bike’s Flat Tire

  • George

    Nice video. I didn’t know bike tire treads were directional, that it made any difference which way they’re installed.

    Note that Wayne wore gloves. First time I changed a rear tire, my fingers got fairly greasy from moving the chain and some of that grease later ended up on the handlebars and brake levers. I’ve since added a pair of disposable gloves to my bike-flat kit.

  • Trailgumby, one of my Australian buddies, gave me some advice when I asked if there any spell or incantations one could use to keep the puncture fairies at bay:

    Spelling it wright would be a good start. It’s tYre. That’s tyre with a WHY in the middle.

    Tire is what you do at the end of a long ride when you haven’t taken enough bananas. You don’t want the puncture fairy mincing about saying “Well! Either you’ve run out of bananas or you aren’t very pleased to see me!! ”

    It’s not a good idea to offend him. Especially when you’re tired.

    TYres are what go on the outside of your wheels to stop the pavement dinging them. Kevlar belted ones help keep the puncture fairy away. You don’t want him getting the wrong idea about your bananas. Although keeping them in your jersey pocket as opposed to the pocket of your shy shorts would probably help avoid any confusion.

  • Using Osa in the photo rather than me was one of your rare good calls.

  • gary sherck

    Thanks Ken for sharing this video. I did leave a comment on You Tube, too. They limit the number of words. What caused your flat? Mine was glass, and I was able to find more glass inside the tire when I found the leak in the tube, then lined up the tire with the tube. Wayne did check the inside of the tube carefully. Best of all, I like his thin tire levers. Do you know the mfg. Seems better than my plastic REI ones, and I needed them at the end with my Conti tires. Thank you for the excellent video. Gary

  • […] posted some tips and reviews about what tools I carry, some pump recommendations and a how-to video.Video of Wayne at my LBS changing a flat.Blackburn sent me a new AirTower 2 to replace a defective TPS-2 floor pump.How to use and mount a […]

  • Stacie

    Loved the video. I’m going to start riding a bike now that there’s some nice weather coming along but I do get worried about what might happen if there’s a problem with my bike while I’m out. I have never learned what to do in those situations.

  • I got a flat today but didn’t fully realize it until I got home; the tire was totally flat when I took the bike out of my truck bed. It was a slow enough leak that I didn’t damage the tire or rim when I was riding this morning, but I did notice some strange noises I hadn’t heard before from my bike – now I know what it sounds like, for next time! I’m a newcomer to road riding and was out with my cycling club this morning. Thanks to your video, I was able to fix my own flat, and in the comfort of my home! My tire is very tightly fit and I needed the tools to get the bead into the rim for both sides. I agree with Gary about the REI plastic tools – my hands are very sore now, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be sitting along the side of the road doing this with these tools. Wayne made it look so easy! Question: what is the best least expensive repair stand for minor bike maintenance, like chain cleaning and flat repair? $160 seems way too much but the $39 one got bad reviews.

    • Mary Ann,

      Glad to hear your first tire changing experience didn’t happen after dark in the rain with mosquitoes buzzing around you. I’ve had good luck with my Park Tool PCS-10 Folding Repair Stand that I reviewed back in February 2009. It available on Amazon for under $150 (there’s a link in the review that’ll give me a couple bucks of kickback if you order from the link).

      I jury-rigged work stands, but there’s nothing like having something made for the job. In the long run, buying the right tool makes working on your bike a pleasure, not a pain.

  • Chris

    Nice tutorial Ken, although unfortunately my first puncture repair did indeed occur in heavy mizzle with midges (Irish version of mosquitoes!) buzzing around me!