How to fix a flat in five minutes

Bicycle flat tire.

Curing the most common mechanical failure encountered by cyclists is a simple roadside repair. As long as you take the right tools along for the ride…

If you ride a bike, encountering a flat tyre is more or less inevitable unless you’re riding tubeless.

And yet, it’s surprising just how many stories we hear of people wheeling their ride into a local bike shop when it happens. Sometimes it’s because cyclists head out without the right tools, and sometimes it’s because they simply don’t have the basic know-how to fix it themselves. So, for all of you who aren’t hardcore fettlers (it’s not as rude as it sounds!) here’s our quick and easy guide to getting home next time you encounter a flat on the road…

Tools needed

  • Tyre Levers
  • A spare tube
  • A mini pump (+ gaffer tape)
  • All will fit in your pocket or a saddle bag

Disengage The Brakes

If you have rim brakes, disengage the brake, either by using the quick-release lever or disconnecting the linkage. Alternatively, on some models you can do this by pressing a button at the brake lever. This creates greater clearance. If your bike has disc brakes you can skip this stage, although once the wheel is off don’t depress the brake at any point as this will cause difficulties with the brake pads that you may well struggle to remedy at the side of the road.

Removing The Wheel

Most road bikes these days use quick release (QR) skewers which make removing the wheel incredibly simple. Just pull the lever away from the frame, grab the nut on the opposing side and spin the lever counter clockwise until it comes free. If your bike doesn’t have a QR system, you’ll need to add an adjustable spanner to your tool kit. When removing a rear wheel, ensure your chain is on the smallest cog. Then, loosen off the QR skewer, and pull the rear derailleur back gently, and lift it upwards. The back wheel will just drop out.

Remove The Tube

Now deflate the tube completely, by removing the dust cap and depressing the air valve. You should hear the air hissing out. Push one side of the tyre to the center of the rim to loosen the bead (the wire that runs around the edge of the tyre) from against the rim’s sidewall. Now crack out your tyre levers. Squeeze one end of the lever between the tyre and the rim to jemmy the bead up and over the rim. Insert the second lever a few inches away and repeat until you feel the bead loosen enough to run the lever under the bead all the way round.

Replace The Tube

Remove the busted inner tube (don’t sling it, take it home and patch it). Inspect the tyre for the cause of the dat. Remove any sharp objects and, if necessary, use your gaffer-tape boot to patch it. Next, unfold the new inner tube and, using your mini -pump, inflate it with just enough air so that it holds its shape. Now feed the tube around the i ns i de of the tyre, making sure that you align the valve stem correctly into the rim so that it’s not crooked. Finally, work the bead back onto the rim and inspect the wheel to see that it’s uniformly seated.

Inflate The Inner Tube

Securely attach one end of your mini pump to your bicycle tyres air valve and use the pump to start inflating the tyre. Just add a little bit of air initially, and then inspect the wheel to see how the bead is siting. If you find that the bead is bulging up in one spot, remove the pump, deflate the tyre again and push it back down to reseat the bead. When you’re satisfied that it is sitting correctly, reattach the pump, inflate the tyre to full pressure, tighten the valve stem up again and replace any valve nut and the dust cap. You’re now ready to put the wheel back on your bike.

Reinstall The Wheel

Line your wheel up with the bottom of the fork, seat the axle into the dropouts and tighten the QR lever/nut. Be sure to realign the QR lever so it’s facing up and flush to the bottom of the fork so it’s both sufficiently tightened and less likely to snag on something. Never force the QR lever shut-overtightening can break it. When fitting a rear wheel, lower the frame onto the wheel, guide the lower loop of the chain under the sprockets, rest the derailleur on the smallest cog, and slide the derailleur back again until the wheel drops into place. If the wheel’s on straight, close the QR lever, get back on the bike and ride on!

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