In my previous post I covered the four main causes of flat tires for road bikes. In this post I will talk about fixing flat tires. The best way to fix a flat tire is to get someone else to change it for you! Just kidding, but that is what happens if you go on group rides with an awesome local bike shop like Oakdale Bike Shop. Your ride leader can have that tube changed out in a jiffy. Of course, not every shop has a great ride leader like Ed! So then, unfortunately, you have to change the tube yourself.
Pedro's, Crank Brothers and Avenir. There are advantages and disadvantages to each one, but the general favorite/standard is the Pedro's levers. The Crank Brothers Speedier lever has some features designed to make it more ergonomic and easier to use but it hasn't quite worked out to be easier for me. Some people swear by the Speedier lever and others swear at them! Fortunately the levers are cheap and you can find them online or at your local bike shop for very similar prices.
Using the tire levers to pop the bead of the tire over the rim will make it possible to remove the tube for inspection and repair or replacement. You may need to pop the tire bead away from the rim by pressing with your thumbs as you go around the rim. I have to do this with my Giant's rims because the bead locks in place. On other rims this is not an issue and you can just use the tire lever to pry up the bead over the edge of the rim while being careful to not pinch the tube (if you want to save it) and then slide the tire lever around the rim to bring one side of the tire over the edge. You can now remove the tube. I usually start at the valve stem and simply move the tire over so I can slide the valve stem out of the rim. Don't forget to remove the stem nut if you use one, though according to my weight weenie friends you shouldn't use it because it is just extra weight!
Once the tube is out locate the hole(s) causing the leak. This is important especially if you don't know what caused the flat. If you know it was a pinch flat caused by hitting a pothole or you pulled the thorn out of the tire that caused the flat you can skip this part and go straight to replacing the tube. When you are on a ride it is just quicker to replace the tube with a spare tube and then you don't have to worry about whether the repair will hold. You can then repair the tube later with a good quality patch kit like the one manufactured by Rema. If it was not a pinch flat you will want to run your fingers along the inside of the tire before installing the new tube. Even if you pulled out the thorn, there may be other thorns in the tire ready to puncture that brand new tube 10 minutes down the road!
If the tube failure was caused by a hole in the tire you need to locate the hole in the tire and reinforce it with a tire boot. For this you can use the official tire boot such as the one by Park Tool, or a thin piece of cardboard or even a dollar bill! The advantage of the tire boot is that it is adhesive backed so that it will stay in place better than a dollar bill.
Once you have made sure there are no sharp objects still sticking through your tube and taken care of any holes in the tire you are ready to install the new tube you were carrying with you. First step is to put a little air in the tube to give it some shape. This will make it much easier to put back into the tire, but it will also reduce the chance that you will have a twist in the tube that could cause it to fail when you inflate it up to pressure (pow!). Insert the valve stem first and then work your way around the tire sliding the tube into place and working it back onto the rim. Now it is time to re-seat the tire bead. You can do this by hand or use the tire lever. I usually start it by hand and then use the tire lever to finish popping the bead over the rim by sliding the lever around the wheel.
You are now ready to inflate the tube using either a CO2 cartridge powered inflator or a frame pump. Just take one final look at the tire as it sits on the wheel to make sure the beads are where they belong and there are no funny bulges where the tube is wadded up! You should begin by partially inflating the tube and checking again to make sure the tube isn't folded inside the tire. Just last week a fellow rider blew his brand new tube at this point in the replacement because of a kink in the tube. After verifying the tube is not kinked inflate the tire to full pressure and reinstall it on the bike. You will get faster with experience, but it is better to take the time to do it right rather than have that tube blow out on you a few miles down the road. Also, see my next blog where I talk about steps you can take to avoid getting the flat in the first place!
Please see my earlier post, Part One of a Trilogy on Flat tires, What Causes Them? for information on the causes of your cycling flat tires, Thanks for reading, and as always I look forward to your comments.