My local bike shop has a lot of events that engage their customers: shuttle days, demo days, customer appreciation BBQ’s. And now they have added a women’s repair series to their roster. Their first event, Tubes and Tires 101, was a huge success.
I have changed many flats in recent years, but never well. A lot of guess work went into how to get my wheel off properly—easily—and even more guess work on how to get it back on. Being someone who always wants to know as much as possible about my craft, I am not sure why I never took the time to really learn how to change a tire—but I am glad I finally did! So here are my Coles Notes from Tubes and Tires 101 at Trail Bicycles in Courtenay, BC. My riding wonderland.One thing I always forget—a small thing that makes a big difference—is to put your bike in the lowest gear before you flip it over to get to work. This puts less tension on the derailleur, makes removing the wheel easier, and when putting it back on, you only need to guide it on to the smallest ring on your cassette.
Get familiar with your quick release. Making sure you know how to get your wheel off can make that moment of, “I got a flat,” much less stressful. I found myself frustrated when trying to change a flat with my new bike for the first time. It turns out my quick release has a notch that I need to get it into before it will turn—I know that now. Once your axle is out, keep it somewhere free of dirt and debris; you don’t want something stuck to it that could cause damage when it goes back in.
Do you have a clutch? The clutch keeps your chain from ‘slapping around’ by creating additional tension, so if you release it, your life will be a little easier and less tense – that’s a good thing.
Check your tire. Before you begin to change your flat, see if you can find the culprit! If there is glass or sharp objects you want those out before you continue. Remember not to toss that evil intruder back on the trail for the next victim. Putting it into your bag is the best bet.
Use two tire levers across from the valve. Get your tire lever under the tire, lined up with a spoke that is across from the valve. Hook one on, then get the other one on a few spokes over. Once you have that edge up it makes it nice and easy to slide on of your levers around and get the one side of the tire off the rim. You don’t need to remove the whole tire, but if you do, be sure to get one side on before you proceed.
NOTE: Are you Presta or Schrader? Presta valves are thinner and have a tip that needs to be unscrewed to allow air in or out, and they also have a nut that holds the valve firmly in place. Shrader has neither of these and is wider. If you use Shrader valves, ignore my nut talk…
Pull out your tube. First, remove the nut from your valve. (Not you Shrader, you just chill.) This holds your valve in firm so hang onto it, although your new tube should have one as well. Starting from the side opposite the valve, pull your tube out, and finally pull the valve out.
Check your tire again. Now you can use two fingers to run along the inside of the tire. You have checked for sharp objects at the start, but still proceed with caution. Make sure there is nothing in the tire that will cause another puncture. Also, have a look at your rim. Is your rim tape in good shape? Those sharp little spoke ends can cause damage if they are not properly covered.
Now you will want to get your new tube out and give it a bit of air so it takes shape. This makes it easier to get under the tire and on the rim. Put the valve into the rim opening and gently push the tube into place around the wheel. Once it is in place, put the nut back on and tighten it. This will prevent unnecessary movement that may damage the valve. (Again, Shrader users, enjoy your moment…)
Time to retire! (I wish!) With the valve across from you, hold your wheel against your abdomen. Now pop the tires edge back in using your thumbs about 5 or 6 spokes apart. With those 8-10 inches of your tire back on, you should be able to continue around the edge of your rim gently pushing the rest of the tire back onto the rim. The last few inches can be tough, so before you continue, check to make sure your tube is all tucked in, and then give your tire a final adjustment. Gently manipulate it back and forth making sure it’s set properly. Now you should find it easier to roll that last bit onto the rim. Instead of using your thumbs, use the palms of your hand to ‘knead’ the tire away from you and onto the rim. If it still doesn’t want to go—which can easily happen—then use your tire lever to gently push it on. This is a last resort and can easily pinch the tube, so try the “tire massage” first; then proceed with caution by getting the tire lever just under the tire and on the rim, and lift it to roll the tire on. Awesome! You have a tube back in and a wheel back on.
Now it’s time for finishing touches and to pump it up! Take the valve cover off and unscrew the Presta valve. (Remember, this is the tiny tip at the top of your valve that allows air in and out. Shrader, you know by now…this bit doesn’t concern you.) Check again to make sure your nut is tightened and get your pump locked on. I recommend getting to know your pump. They all have their little quirks and practicing a flat repair with your own pump at least once is a good idea. Once it’s locked on, pump your tire up until it’s firm, but not too hard. At this point, spin your wheel in front of you. You are looking for any kind of wobble in the tire. If your tire seems to be uneven, it may not be seated properly. If you look around the edge of the rim, you should see an even line. If it is uneven, you may need to start over. But first, try to let a little air out and massage the tire, moving it side to side, trying to get the bead to seat properly. You may hear a popping sound, that is your bead popping into place. You may now proceed to pump it up!
A couple of things to remember:
The pump that you take on the trail will likely not have a pressure gauge, so pump you tires up to where you like them and get a feel for the pressure.
Give yourself a reference point. When you put your tire on, put the brand name above the valve. This gives you a reference point to help you find foreign objects in your tire that may have caused the puncture in the tube. You can line up the puncture on the tube with your wheel and get a general location to look in.
Practice this all the way through once or twice to get the feel for it. This makes your on-trail experience much nicer and less stressful! Biking is not about stress.
Go to your local bike shop and ask them if they would hold some workshops. I’m looking forward to our next in the series.
Vanessa Marshak went on her first mountain bike ride four years ago, and has been enjoying all the ups and downs of riding ever since. When not on her bike, she’s probably making something delicious to eat on her ride, playing a guitar, or hanging out in her garden. But more than likely…she’s on a bike. She is STOKED to be a part of the Mountain Bike for Her team, and hopes to inspire and be inspired.