How to change a bike tire… fast
Flat tires. Nothing is more irritating. Whether you’re in a race or just racing the clock to get to work, knowing how to change a bike tire or repair a flat (and having the right bike repair kit) is essential knowledge for anyone on a bike. So here’s our quick guide to how to change a bike tire quickly.
Essential kit for changing a tire:
- Tire levers (or teaspoons if you're in a tight spot)
- A spare tube
- Pressurized CO2 cartridges – or a mini-pump
- Patch kit (optional)
Method: How to change a bike tire
- Undo the brakes. Unless you have disc brakes, it helps to loosen the brake on the wheel you're changing – unhook cantilver brakes or look for a quick release lever on caliper brakes. If there's no quick release, and you're in too much of rush to unscrew the brake cable, you can try skipping this step and slide the wheel out without loosening the brakes – but once you've fixed the flat, don't forget to reattach the wheel before you inflate it.
- Free the wheel. Open your wheel's quick release lever and unscrew it until there is enough space to free the tire. A front tire will slide right out. A back tire takes more wiggling – start by shifting your chain onto the smallest ring, then give the tire a gentle push downwards and it will drop out.
- Strip the tire. Insert the tire lever non-hook side down (or the bottom end of your teaspoon) in between the wheel rim and the tire. You’ll get more force pulling the lever towards your body than pushing away. Pull the lever all the way around the tire.
- Pull out the old tube. Be careful around the valve to avoid ripping – and make sure you keep one side of the tire inside the rim for quick reassembly.
- Check for the culprit. Run your fingers around the inside of the tire to make sure nothing is poking through; glass, nails, etc. Careful! Whatever poked your tire may poke you! If you're planning on patching the hole, this can help you work out where the hole is without having to reinflate the tube – then simply follow the instructions on your patch kit, but don't forget to clean and roughen the surface before sticking.
- Insert the new (or patched) tube. Place the valve in first, then, without twisting the tube, place the tube inside the rim, underneath the tire. As you place the tube, pull the tire back over the tube and into the rim, careful not to pinch the new tube underneath the tire.
- Use your muscles. Closing off the last few inches of tire will be tough! Grab the wheel with both hands, palms facing away, and thumbs facing each other (like a sideways thumbs up). Rotate your hands away from your body, using your thumbs to push, push, push!
- Inflate. If your carbon doesn’t have flow control, you get one shot. If you have flow control or a hand pump, take a listen before you bother to fill it all the way up. Hear anything leaking? If so, your patch may have lifted or you could have pinched a hole in the tube.
- Good to go. Fill your tire to the recommended pressure. Even though you’ve got somewhere to be, don’t forget to securely close your brakes and quick release before taking off. Stash your old tube – you can always patch it later – along with your packaging and levers, and you’re off!Pro tips - changing a flat tire
Pro tips - fixing a flat tire
- It's easier to place the new tube inside your rim if it has some shape to it. Give it a quick puff (like you are blowing up a balloon) to get a tiny bit of air into it.
- Keep latex gloves stashed in your bike kit during the winter months. Taking your warm riding gloves off to change a flat in icy weather is miserable. The latex gloves provide a surprisingly effective layer of insulation but keep your fingers nimble as your change the flat.
- Different sized tires require different sized tubes. If you switch between multiple bikes with different sized tires, invest in a seat bag and kit for each bike. The extra money will be worth it to avoid a mix-up that leaves you stranded.
- The more you practice, the easier it will get. On a lazy Sunday, get a beer and a wheel and practice, practice, practice.
So now we've shown you how to change a bike tire fast, you can venture out on two wheels with confidence. Happy riding!