Flat-Repair Wisdom

[THIS ARTICLE APPEARS ON THE BICYCLING.COM WEBSITE, A GREAT RESOURCE]
You know the drill: Remove the wheel from your bike and the tire from the rim. Yank out the old tube, put in the new, remount the tire and inflate. Sounds simple. But as every mechanic will tell you, there are pro-savvy tips that can make this most fundamental repair even easier. We solicited advice from mechanics at some of the top 100 bike shops in the country, as ranked by the trade publication Bicycle Retailer. Collectively, they have changed countless thousands of flat tires, and their wisdom will get you rolling again with ease.

Shift to make life easier

“For rear-wheel flats, make sure you shift the rear derailleur down to the smallest rear cog before taking off the wheel. It makes removing and installing the wheel much easier.”–Andy Gonazalez, mechanic, Bike Barn, Katy, TX

Prevent pinches and blowouts

“Inflate the tube a little before inserting it into the tire. Use just enough air to almost round it out. This makes it a lot easier to get the tube in place straight, and it helps prevent the tube from getting pinched underneath the bead of the tire, which can cause a blowout.”–Marc -Divall, service manager, Contender Bicycles, Salt Lake City

Avoid the wire-bead headache

“Many riders have trouble dealing with tires that mount very tightly to the rim–people with less hand strength often have this complaint. So I recommend staying away from wire-bead tires and going for fold-ups. Wire models never get any easier, but once a folding tire has been installed, it stretches and is much easier to remove and reinstall.”–Steve Williams, shop mechanic, Newbury Park Bike Shop, Newbury Park, CA

Remount that last bit of tire

“The hardest part is getting the last couple of inches of the tire back on. It can be daunting. Try squeezing the part of the tire that’s already on toward the center of the wheel to make sure it’s fully seated. That gives you just enough slack so you can get that last bit of tire over the rim.”–Aaron Corso, senior mechanic, Belmont Wheelworks, Belmont, MA

Inflate smarter

“Be careful that the tire is properly seated when you inflate it–especially with high-pressure road tires. When you’re pumping, stop every 20 psi and check: Hold the wheel in your hand, spin it, and look for a bulge or a dip. If you find one, let some air out and wiggle the tire into its proper place. If you ignore a bulge or a dip, 100 psi of pressure can blow the tire right off the rim.”–Gareth Jones, service manager, Free Flite Bicycle, Marietta, GA

Keep just one tire lever

“Usually you don’t need more than one lever to remove a tire. Just pop a lever under the edge of the tire and pry the bead over the side of the rim. Then just slide the lever around the rim–it should peel the whole side of the tire off.”–Shane Meadows, service lead, Bicycle Garage, Indianapolis

Inspect your rim strip

“When you have the tire off, inspect the rim strip. Rubber strips can migrate to one side, which can expose a spoke end and cause a flat. The cloth kind of rim strip is much better–it’s adhesive-backed, so it stays in place. Reinforced strapping tape (with filaments running the length) works great, too. Just find it in the right width for your rim.”–Mike Chapman, shop mechanic, New Mexico Bike and Sport, Santa Fe, NM

Find the puncture culprit

“After you remove the tube, pump in a little air and hold it up alongside the tire to align the valve with its rim hole. Look for something sharp–a thorn, glass–in the tire at the spot where the tube was punctured. Sometimes whatever caused the puncture has fallen out, but it’s good to check. Just remember which direction the tube was facing.”–Dean Whipple, mechanic, Pedal Power, Middletown, CT

Boot your tire to get home

“Check the tire and look for cuts. Anything more than a quarter-inch long needs to be booted–reinforced with a patch. If you don’t do it, the new tube is going to bulge out and pop right away. You should always carry a tire boot in your seat bag–Park Tool makes adhesive-backed ones; a dollar bill is the old trick. You can ride it home, but then take it to a shop. If it’s cut badly, it should be replaced.”–Tyson Myer, service manager, Penn Cycle and Fitness, Bloomington, MN

Use your spokey poke

“People come in all the time with multiple flats in the same week, so we always say to be very careful to check the tire for embedded pieces of glass. We use a rag to sweep the inside of the tire. Then we pick any bits of glass from the outside of the tire with a spokey poke, which each mechanic has. It’s just an old spoke with an end sharpened to a point, but a paper clip or tweezers works too.”–John Teske, mechanic, Gregg’s Greenlake Cycle, Seattle

This entry was posted in tips and tagged , by Wyatt B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Wyatt B.

The creative genius behind the team, I keep us looking dang good on the road. When not designing logos and websites and such, I wonder to myself why I ever left the flats of Minneapolis for the hills of southeastern PA. Maybe someday we'll get along.

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