Changing a flat tire on your bicycle
Having assisted a dozen different cyclists with flat tires this summer, I found that very few experienced cyclists fully understood the process of fixing a flat. If you plan to ride your bicycle beyond the proximity of your immediate neighborhood you need to be prepared for a flat tire.
OK, you are flying down the road and a tire suddenly goes flat. Hopefully, you are not on a downhill stretch, but if you are speeding downhill, apply the brake of the wheel on which the tire is not flatting out. Keep the bike perpendicular and slow down with a gentle application of the one brake. First priority is to get clear of the roadway and find a safe, suitable location to perform repairs. Presumably, you maintain a constant inventory of necessities, (2) tire tools and (2) tubes in your seat bag, along with (2-3) Co2 cartridges. A mini-air pump is a wise addition which can be clipped to your water bottle cage.
If you are dealing with a flat on the rear wheel, shift to the smallest cog before you remove the wheel. Open the caliper release lever to spread the brake pads farther apart, open the quick release lever on the left side of the skewer, loosen the axel nut on the right side until the wheel is free to drop-out from the frame/fork.
Before you do anything else, inspect the flat tire to identify the cause of the flat and remove any objects protruding from the center ridge or the sidewalls.
Besides offering a smoother, more efficient ride, properly inflated tires are less prone to flatting-out. Before every ride take a few minutes to top-off your tires’ air pressure and perform a quick-check to identify potential tire/wheel/brake problems. It is not uncommon for tires to lose 5-10 psi overnight or between rides. Prioritizing your ABC Quick-check may prevent a “garage flat” from making you too late for the ride start.
Properly inflated tires should last approximately 3,000-5,000 miles. Regardless of miles ridden, tires should be replaced if there are cuts or other breaks in the integrity of the tread or sidewalls. Rim tape should be replaced on a yearly or bi-yearly basis, or when damaged.
Ian Seecof is the Safety & Education Chair for the Central Indiana Bicycling Association. If you have concerns regarding safe cycling, touring, commuting or any other cycling related questions he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.