I recently attended a basic bicycle class led by Axel of Revolution Cycles, because though I’ve ridden a bicycle before, I’d never bothered to learn how to fix it.
The first time I owned a bicycle as an adult was in 2007. Same as this go, the bike came into my life around my birthday. I was so ecstatic to have it that I convinced myself it would be a brilliant idea to ride the 20-mile commute to work – without a patch kit, and without much biking experience at all. Yet even though “brilliant” transmuted itself into “stupid” about 5 miles in, by the time I reached work (although being much stinkier and sweatier than a professional barista should be), I was exhilarated.
Unfortunately, I was also sore, exhausted, and the proud owner of a bike with a flat tire.
I found a ride home from work, but after that bloody marathon, the bike stayed in my godmother’s garage. I think it’s still there – 3,000 miles away.
Not wanting to repeat my past mistake through negligence, I decided anything that happened to my bicycle I would learn how to repair myself – within reason. For instance, I don’t own a spot welder. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure if that fact relieves or slightly disappoints. But a flat tire? Sure! I learned. Practising it was a little time-consuming, but that’s something that improves each time you have to do it.
Not that I want anyone to get a whole bunch of flats or anything, but that is one way to get better at it. (Yep. Always look on the bright side!)
How I Fixed My Flat Tire:
1. Turn the bicycle upside down.
2. Disconnect the brake.
3. Use a crescent or socket wrench to loosen and remove the nuts on either side of the wheel. The kickstand will come off. This is okay.
4. Lift the wheel up and out of the frame, letting the chain guide the direction.
5. Use a tire wedge (or, in my case, an old bottle opener I had in my backpack) to gently pry the rubber tire off the wheel. If “gently pry” doesn’t work, and you’re replacing the whole tube, try “furiously dig.”
6. Unscrew the cap from the inner tube on the inside of the wheel. Now the tube can be removed.
7. Make sure the strip inside is covering all the spokes. With mine, the strip is so thin and loose that you can’t really make it stay anywhere, but at least I know that until I can get it fixed, I need always be prepared for excessive wear and tear on the tube.
Extra Steps (for patch kits):
– Find the hole in the tube by inflating it and listening for the escape of air. If it’s small, you can still generally feel the air if you pass your hand over it.
– Use sandpaper or some kind of buffer to prime the rubber around the hole.
– Spread a thin but generous layer of glue (the hardcore self-vulcanising variety) on the back of the patch. Put the same amount on the tire itself, and let both dry.
– Press the patch down against the tube, covering the hole.
– Remove the patch backing, like a temporary tattoo.
8. Put a little air in the new (or repaired) tube. Don’t put the cap on.
9. This part gets a little tricky. Set the wheel in the rubber tire only halfway, so that one edge is still outside the wheel rim. Now, put the inner tube valve through the hole in the rim. Start pushing the tube inside the tire all the way around. Once the tube is fully encased in the tire, start snapping the other edge of the tire in place behind the rim. It’s easier than trying to put the tire and tube on all at once.
10. Inflate the tire fully and replace the cap.
11. Use the chain to help guide the wheel back into its rightful place on the frame. Put the kickstand back in place and replace the nuts on either side, tightening them fully and making sure the wheel is on straight. (This is important. If you don’t tighten the wheel enough, it can get jostled out of place, and then you’ll have to carry your bicycle a few blocks back to where the tools live in order to get the damn thing to move again. Not that I have a particular experience with this or anything.)
12. Reconnect the brake.
13. Turn the bike right-side up, re-use or recycle the old inner tube (here’s an idea!), and be on the way!