Changing a flat can seem daunting, difficult and intimidating. Here is the simplest way to change a flat on your road bike if you’re stuck in the middle of a ride. Note: this may not be the cheapest way, but it is fast, helps to ensure you will not flat again, and allows you to get back on the bike and keep riding. All you have to do is 1) have the tools on hand and 2) learn the steps.
What you will need:
1. A tube (top left).
This goes inside your tire and fills with air. It needs to be the right size for your tire.
Size: A standard road tube is usually 700c x 18-25 mm. This is the diameter and the width of the tire. These should be written somewhere on your tire. For example, my road bike takes 700 c x 23 mm and this is written on the tire. They come in rubber or latex. Latex is slightly faster due to lower rolling resistance, but tends to hold air for a shorter period of time. Either is fine.
Valve: There are presta and schrader valves. Presta is the right valve for a road bike tube. They come in different lengths. Longer lengths are designed for deeper rims on the wheel (for example, race wheels have deeper rims and require a longer valve). If you don’t have deep rims then you can buy either kind. Schrader valves are more often found on mountain bikes.
2. Tire levers.
These come in a set of two or three. They help pry the tire off of the wheel so you can replace the tube inside. They sneak under the tire at one end, and latch onto your spoke at the other end. Pick your favourite color, and boom, you’re done.
3. CO2 cartridge.
This contains CO2 that will fill your tire up with air. They are usually 16 g. There are two types: threaded cartridges (like a screw) and non-threaded. Buy one that fits with your adaptor (below).
4. A CO2 adaptor.
This is a small piece that screws onto the CO2 cartridge on one end, and onto your tube valve (the presta valve on the tube inside the wheel) on the other end. When you open the valve it releases the air into your tube, and voila! You have a refilled tire.
- Remove the tire using tire levers and remove punctured tube.
- Insert new tube into the inside of the tire, and poke the valve through opening in wheel.
- Screw CO2 cartridge onto the adaptor (one end) and the adaptor onto your open valve of the new tube, which is now inside your tire.
- Open the adaptor (usually a turn) to release the CO2 into the tube and inflate it.
Of course this sounds very simple! But here is where you may go wrong:
Check for what caused the flat. There may be a small piece of glass in your tire, or maybe your wheel is damaged and nicking the tube. Most of the time, you won’t find anything, but it is better to check to prevent another flat on the ride.
Make sure the tube is completely inside the tire, so the edges cannot get pinched by the tire and re-puncture the tube when you inflate it. Putting a tiny bit of air in with a hand pump can help with this (if you have one).
Make sure the CO2 adaptor is closed when you screw on the CO2 cartridge. Otherwise it will leak. Also ensure that the other end of the adaptor is fully screwed onto the valve (of your tube) as much as possible so that no air can leak.
Release all of the CO2 into the tube. Some people think they will pop their tire if they release it all. You will not over-inflate it, so don’t worry. If you don’t use enough, you may have to ride on tires with very low pressure. This also increases your risk of having another flat.
NOTE: Getting the tire off and on again can take some practice. Once you get the hang of using the tire levers, this will become easier. Don’t be alarmed if you have to use a bit of force when starting out, it get’s easier!
Hopefully you won’t have to use these tips a lot, but it always pays to be prepared!