Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How to Fix a Bicycle Flat on the Road

9 Steps to Getting A Bike Flat Tire Fixed While On a Ride

You bike just got a flat while you were out on a ride.  Now what?

Step 1 - Ask your girlfriend (wife, kids, friends) to calm down.  It will only take a little while to fix the flat and get everybody back on the road.  If they continue to complain and moan and groan, tell them to either help or give you a break.  Try to keep the entire thing from turning into a big huge scene.

Step 2 - Review your tool kit.  You don't have a tool kit?  Does someone with you have tools?  Are there others out on the road that might have bike tools.  Flag these people down and hope they are friendly.

Step 2A - Second version.  You have some tools.  Tire changing levers, (or some not too sharp object that will work).  Option:  You've seen people take tires off with their bare hands.  Surely that will work.   You have a patch kit or a spare tube or both.  You have a pump or a CO2 Cartridge.  Your bike has quick release or you have a tool to remove/loosen the nut holding the wheel on the frame.

Step 3 - With a set of tools now at your disposal, you can begin to work.  Remind all who are watching what a pro you are at changing bike tires, regardless of your experience.  Begin by removing the wheel.  Well, not exactly.  You first need to relax the brakes so that you can slide the wheel out from beneath the brakes.  The ways to do this are as numerous depending on the type of brake.  Sometimes you can force the wheel out without relaxing the calipers.

Pictures thanks to http://www.bikewhenever.com/flat_tube_removal.html

Step 4 - After removing the wheel, you can now remove the tire from the wheel.  Slide your tire lever under under the bead of the tire. . . The bead is that part at the very end of the casing . . . the casing. . . never mind.  Look over at the picture.  Pull the bead up and over the bead of the rim, and lock the tire lever on one of your spokes.  Now use the second lever (if you have one) to pull the bead of the tire out of the rim a few inches away from where you did the first one.  Now you should be able to slide the lever around under the bead and the tire is off.  If you think taking the tire off was hard, wait until you want to put it back on.

Step 5 - Clean up the blood on your knuckles as best you can and see if anyone has some anti bacterial soap, Neosporin, band-aids or other helpful first aid products.  The pain in your eye will subside, usually, in few minutes.  Flying tire changing levers are just part of the fun.

Step 6 - Ask your wife (girlfriend, kids, friends) to stop crying, whining, laughing, etc.

Step 7 - Now remove the inner tube from the wheel.  You may need to remove a small nut that is keeping the valve in place.  Inflate the inner tube if your intention is to patch it. (With any luck your pump will have the proper head for the valve)  This is so you can find the hole in the tube.  You may need to substantially over inflate the tube to help with this.  Now hold the tube up to your ear and rotate, hoping to hear the leak or feel the escaping air against your ear or face.  Warning: Be extra cautious around your prank-prone friends. Concentrating on finding a small hole in a tube is a great time to catch you off guard!

You can submerge the tube in water and rotate, looking for bubbles.  However, this is not likely on the road.  When you think you have the leak, check around the same spot for possible additional leaks.  Sometimes the thorn or other road debris will have punctured you more than once.

How large is the hole.  If more than 1/16" in diameter, you may not be able to patch it.  Aren't you glad your have the spare tube?  If possible, patch the tube following the instructions on the packaging for the patch kit.  After patching, blow the tube up again with your pump and see if the patch worked.  In my experience the odds of that are somewhere around 50-50.

Step 8 - Run your hand up under the tire casing and all around the full circumference to see if you feel any sharp objects.  You can also do a visual exam of the inside and outside.  Pay special attention to the location where the flat occurred by lining up the valve with the valve hole and checking where on the tire the leak would line up.

Step 9 - Puff up your chest and announce to all who still care that the tube held air, and now all you have to do is replace all this, and we can be on our way.

Step 10 - Find the nuts that go on the wheel and the valve stem.  If any of your fellow riders are still hanging around, ask them to help in the hunt. 

Step 11 - Place half of the tire back on the wheel.  Have the part of the tire that is not on the wheel facing you.  Now stuff the inner tube up inside the tire.  Pump up the tube to help hold it in place.  Now replace the nut that you have hopefully found back on the valve stem.

Step 12 - Using the heal of your hands, push the other bead of the tire back up onto the rim.  Do this all the way around.  Sometimes you can use both hands and have them rotating in opposite directions.  Eventually you will get to a point where you are unable to force the bead onto the rim.

Some who are practiced and strong can actually  finish the replacement of the tire with their bare hands.  You will likely need to get out the trusty tire tool at this point.  Using the tool as a lever, place the end of the tool on the bead of the rim under the tire, and lever the tire up onto the rim.  There are two things you want to watch out for at this time.
  1. Try to scrape different knuckles this time.  It hurts a lot to rescrape earlier owies.  
  2. Do not get any part of the tube in between the tire tool and the rim.  This is much easier than it might seem.  Pinching the tube will mean starting over, and your adoring fans will leave you.
Once the tire is back all the way onto the rim, check to make sure that the tire is evenly seated.  Seated is geekspeak for - the tire is even on both sides and all around the rim.  You might add a bit of inflation to help with this process.

Step 13 -  Place the wheel back on the bike before fully inflating.  Grease from the chain and the derailleur will undoubtedly get all over you and your clothes, but most of it will come out.  Make sure the wheel is spinning evenly and not off kilter.  Once you have tightened the QR or the nuts, reposition the brakes and reactivate them.

Step 14 -  Inflate the tire to the recommended amount and pray:
  • That there were no other holes that are unpatched
  • That there was no other road debris or thorns still in place
  • That you didn't pinch the tube when you levered the tire in place
  • That you have properly replaced all parts
Step 15 - Step back to admire your work.  Remount the bike and pedal around.  Get off the bike and readjust the brakes so they stop rubbing on the rim.  Test the brakes to make sure they stop the vehicle as needed. 

Step 16 - Use your cell phone to find out where the other members of your party are at this time.

Step 17 - Immediately upon returning home from your ride, head over to the local bike shop.  Do not regale the clerk with your story.  He has heard it many, many times before.  Buy any and all tools that you didn't have when you needed them.  Buy a spare tube.  Then buy a pair of tire liners.  Not just any tire liners, but RhinoDillos Tire liners.  You see - having all the tools and the spare tube and stuff will not solve the problem.  RhinoDillos will.  And you will get the benefit of being in the crowd that does the complaining, laughing, and leaving. 

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