After getting two flats in two rides, I wanted to learn how to change my own inner tubes. It will be a very handy skill for trail side repairs, as well as home repairs. Overall this was a fairly simple process, and only required minimal tools. I will be using a very handy video from Park Tool for reference material, as well as adding tips I found useful while doing it myself.
- Repair Stand (this is optional, but is really nice to have)
- Tire Levers, or a Multitool with levers on it
- Air Pump (Floor stand is best, but a hand pump will work)
Removing The Tire And Tube From The Rim
The common bike tire is called a “clincher” tire, and is made with a bead on the inside edge of the tire. The bead fits snugly into the wheel rim. As the inner tube is inflated, the tire bead is pushed against the “bead seat” of the rim, the portion of the rim that is hooked to hold the bead.
Because tire beads can be a tight fit in the rim, you might need to use tire levers to pry the tire bead up and over rim (I was able to do this with just my hands, but your mileage may vary). Do not use a screwdriver, knife, or other sharp things, which may damage the tire or tube. You may have a locking nut next to the rim. Take the locking nut off before you deflate the tire.
Deflate the tire completely. Even a small amount of air left in the tube can make it more difficult to get the tire off. For best results, press downward on the wheel while depressing the valve.
Push one bead of the tire towards the rim. The tire bead will be pressed tight against the rim. Pushing it inwards loosens the bead from the rim. Repeat on the other side.
Put one tire lever under the bead of tire. Put the second lever 1-2” from the first lever then pull both levers toward the spokes to lift the bead off the rim. Remove one lever. Move it 2″ along the rim and put the lever in the bead. Pull the lever to lift the next section of the bead off of the rim.
Repeat putting the levers in until the bead loosens. Then slide the lever along the rim all the way around.
Starting opposite the valve, pull inner tube from tire. Take the valve out and remove the tube from wheel.
Remove the second bead from the rim, which takes the tire completely from the rim. To fully inspect the tube and tire, it is best to remove both completely.
Tire, Rim and Inner Tube Inspection
When servicing a flat tire, always inspect the tire, rim and inner tube carefully to locate the cause of failure. This will help prevent future flats from the same cause. While inspecting my last flat, I found a small piece of sharp metal that was floating around inside the rim, and also found what most likely caused the flat, a nail puncturing the tire.
Pump the inner tube up quite full (twice its normal size) and carefully listen and feel for air moving. Find the same spot where the tube would have been on your tire and start your inspection there.
Don’t forget to inspect both the outside, and inside of your tire. Look for any punctures, rips, tears, or wear marks that may give you a clue to why your tire went flat.
Give your rim a good look over. Most rims that are not tubeless ready will have a vinyl strip covering the spoke holes. Look under this for loose debris that may puncture your tube. Also take a look at the rim edge, checking for large scratches or dents. If you find any major damage it will most likely be time to replace the rim.
Tire and Tube Re-installation
Note the directional arrows on the tire, if any. Directional arrows printed on the sidewalls indicate rotation of wheel. Not all tires have direction orientation.
Inflate the tube just enough for it to hold it’s shape.
Place the tube inside the tire. A good tip is to put the tube valve right beside the air pressure recommendations written on the tire. Make sure that the tube is completely inside the bead of the tire.
Place the tire and valve into the rim valve hole and align the valve so it is pointing straight toward the hub. A crooked valve can lead to a flat tire later.
Install one bead at a time. Work the tire bead onto the rim with your hands. If the tire bead will not seat using your hand, use a tire lever as a last resort. Be careful when using tire levers to avoid pinching the inner tube.
Work the tube over the rim sidewall and into the rim.
Install the second bead onto your rim.
Inspect both sides of the tire for bead seating and for any sign of the inner tube sticking out. Reinstall if necessary.
Inflate the tire to low pressure and inspect the bead again on both sides. Look for small molding line above bead. This line should run consistently above the rim. Deflate the tube and adjust if it isn’t uniform.
If the tire bead is stuck below the rim, and extra air pressure doesn’t move it, use a lubricant (soapy water). Do not use grease or oil.
Inflate the tire to full pressure and check it with a pressure gauge. It may be necessary to press downward above the valve in order to engage the pump head. For fully threaded valve shafts, reinstall the locking nut. Do not use a wrench or pliers to tighten the nut – only tighten it finger tight.
At this point, the wheel is ready to be reinstalled on the bike. See this Wheel Removal and Installation video for help with that.
Overall this should take about 15 to 30 minutes. I am really glad that I learned how to do this myself. It is going to be a great skill to have during my biking career. If you have any questions about the process check out the video below.