There is nothing more deflating than a flat tyre. Except of course there is, and thats a pre-ride flat at 4 am in the morning. How. Frustrating. This is when you are presented with two options. Option 1; go back to bed sleepy head. Option 2; fix that son-of-a-”femaledog” and get out on the road.
Flats (we aren’t talking the shoe variety here, girls) come in many shape and forms. We are susceptible to slow leaks, punctures, and blowouts to name a few. And some changes are not always to the book (see image below). Though we can try our best at learning and applying some knowledge and skills to change that sucker that tried to deflate our fun.
Regardless of where you are, be it the living room at 4 am, or on the side of the road, you will need some trinkets from your saddle bag to get the wheel spinning (quite literally). Tyre levers, a spare tube, patches, a regulator and a CO2 canister or pump should help you get out of any flat related pickle.
Position your bike…
The first step in changing a tyre (for me) is to flip the bike upside down, balancing on the seat and handlebars. (HINT: If you have a bike computer or light on your bike you might like to take these off first). This gives you the ability to inspect the tyre for any external clues to why it has deflated. The usual culprits are glass, metal, nails, or sharp rocks. If you do see something, you can try to remove it, remembering to check the inside of the tyre once you have the tube out. The next step is then to remove the wheel from the bike.When the wheel is off the bike, release the rest of the air (if any) from the tyre.
HINT: Sometimes you may need to release your brakes, allowing the wheel to come out easily
Side note: I have demonstrated the front wheel. For the rear wheel I put the chain on the big chain ring, and the middle gear on the rear cassette. Be gentle but firm navigating around the rear derailleur as you take your wheel out, and again when popping it back in.
Removing tyre from wheel…
Then use levers to remove the tyre from the rim, by flipping the lever inside the rim and under the tyre (the rubber part), and start levering it off (see photo below). When most of the tyre is off the rim, the last part is ALWAYS hard to get off, and requires a little more brunt (use those muscles!).
One side of the tyre should now be on the rim, and the other side (the side you just levered off) should be off the rim. NOTE: You do not need to take the tyre completely off the wheel to change the tube!
Removing damaged tube…
Now remove the old tube, making space for the new one (one that stays up). First, pull the valve out of the hole in the wheel, and then lift the old tube out from around the rim and tyre. Then carefully slide your finger around the inside of the tyre, checking for glass or other protruding objects that may be the culprit for the flat. The culprit could pose a risk to the longevity of the new tube (and your ride!).
Out with the old, in with the new…
The old tube is out, and the new tube is moving in! With the new tube, slip the valve into the hole in the wheel. Carefully manoeuvre the tube inside the tyre, ensuring there are no kinks or knots in the tube. Make sure the tube sits high inside the tyre, and not around the rim.
Time to lever the tyre back inside the rim. Use the levers similarly to how you removed the tyre from the wheel initially. Ensure that the tube remains in the tyre as you lever the tyre back onto the wheel. Once the whole tyre is back inside the rims, check that the tube is tucked in all the way around. The last thing you want is for your new tube to get pinched between the tyre and the rim. We don’t want any more flats!
Inflating the deflated…
Use a CO2 canister and regulator to inflate your tyre. Usually people only carry one CO2 canister in their saddle bag. CO2 canisters can only be used once, so it is important to try your best to do this step with flying colours. CO2 canisters can be daunting to use and hard to control, as they get VERY cold and become painful to hold. In the picture below, you will see that my canister has a rubber slip, this protects your hands and eases the fear of getting ice burns (yup, thats right, ice burns).
To further assist in controlling the air flow into the tyre, I keep a CO2 Regulator in my saddle bag. You screw the regulator onto the valve of your deflated tyre, and then screw the canister on.
Fasten the regulator onto the valve of your deflated tyre, and then attach the CO2 canister onto the regulator. Once the seal of the canister is broken, air will flow quite quickly into your tyre. This is when fears of ice burn set in, and my natural instincts tell me to drop the freezing canister. It is important to remain calm and in control (remember you might only have one shot at this!), don’t let it catch you off guard! Once the tyre reaches optimal pressure (you have to guess this part), use the regulator to stop the airflow from the canister, then remove all devices from the valve.
Now you are ready to roll…again!!
It took me a few years to confidently say I could change a tyre. When I first started riding, my Dad would often change it for me (thanks Dad!). And if I was riding alone in the morning before work and I got a flat, I’d call and get a lift home (thanks Dad!).
Riding with my partner last summer, I was
really wheelie unlucky and copped a flat tyre. Determined to fix it myself (to prove us girls can do anything!), I refused to stand back and let him change it. He talked me through the steps, and I followed the best I could. Huzzah. My tyre was plump with air and ready to roll. Success.
Ten whole kilometers down the road, another flat (can you believe it!????). To the same tyre. Grrr! Again refusing to let him change it, he hovered over my shoulder with strict orders not to tell me anything. I wanted to change it myself. Huzzah. My tyre was again plump with air. And ready to roll, again. Success, again.
Two. Hundred. Meters. Down. The. Road. Yes thats right ladies and gents, two hundred meters. Another Flat (believe it!). To the front tyre this time. Though we were carrying patches, spares, levers, and the rest of the kitchen sink, we had already used all of the CO2 canisters that we were carrying. Admitting defeat, a lift home was in order with three flat tyre’s over a thirty kilometer ride. Disappointing.
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. As a teacher, I know that repetition is key to learning a new skill. THAT ride was an important ride for me to endure, as I learnt valuable skills and gained confidence in changing a tyre successfully. My last two flats have been at 4 am in the morning, and I have that ride to thank, for giving me the confidence to change them.
You might be luckier than me, and not get three flats consecutively in one ride. So if you want to learn through a hands-on approach you can either practice on your own bike at home (when you don’t even have a flat), or offer to change your riding companions tyre if/when they get a flat. Ask for them to guide you through it. And if they aren’t as trusting, watch on as they work and ask for them to give you pointers.
There are often education evenings held at local libraries or bike shops for riders on changing flat tyre’s and general bike maintenance. Here’s some to get the ball rolling: City of Gold Coast Bike Maintenance, Bicycle Queensland’s Maintenance Workshops, Events held by Brisbane City Council, TAFE Bicycle Maintenance Course . You might also get the chance to meet some more like minded people you can rope in as new riding buddies!
Safe riding girls xx