Jul 292013
Bike rim

Chances are at one time or another you’ll get a flat while out biking. They always happen when you least expect it and they can be a real inconvenience. In this post we’ll show you how to repair the puncture and be on your way in a matter of minutes. Under five minutes in most cases.

Admittedly, I’ve had more than my share of flats (sometimes two in one trip), most attributed to horrible luck. It comes in waves and if there is something that can flatten a tire, I’ll find it. Others, like Connie have never had a single one. I’ve even heard of hard core riders going years between flats.

Most of my punctures have been on pavement which makes sense I guess. There are all manner of nasty little things scattered about on the road – glass shards, sharp metal bits – all waiting to ruin your day. On the other hand, I’ve ridden rocky trails without a single problem.

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Out of need I’ve become very good at making repairs quickly and efficiently and I gladly share my techniques with you.

The first thing you’ll need is a tire repair kit. Keep it in your pack, pannier or handlebar bag, and you’ll never get caught unprepared.

You’ll need a small piece of sandpaper, vulcanizing rubber cement and patches. Often these are sold together and are collectively known as a patch kit. Along with that, you’ll require a set of plastic tire levers, a pressure gauge (not shown) and finally a small hand pump. I also recommend you carry an extra tube as well, just in case. You might need it if your punctures are unrepairable for some reason. These can all be packaged together in a small plastic container of some sort, along with your other bike repair tools – our kit also has the necessary Allen keys, a spoke tool and a Leatherman multi-tool, allowing us to do most repairs in the field.

On discovering a flat, find a safe spot away from traffic to pull off and make your repair.

At this point, do the following…

1) Dismount the wheel from the bike, then remove the tire valve cap and nut.

2) Using the tire levers gently unseat the bead, being careful not to damage the tube inside. You don’t need another puncture!

3) Using your hands, remove the tire from the rim.

4) Take out the tube and examine it for leaks. If not visible, pump it up a bit and listen or feel for the escaping air.

5) Your patch kit will have a piece of sandpaper and use this to scuff the tube in a circular area around the damage, just a bit larger than the diameter of the patch. It DOESN’T need to be pretty.

6) Spread a thin layer of rubber cement on this spot and set the tube aside for a few moments allowing it to dry. Again, no need to be fancy here – if the glue goes beyond the patch, who cares.

7) In that time, inspect the rim and tire for the possible cause of the flat. Look carefully and run your hands lightly over the surface feeling for foreign objects. Sometimes the source of the flat can be hard or even impossible to find, other times it’ll be obvious. Remove whatever you find.

8) Back to the tube – take a patch and centre it on the puncture. Press firmly and evenly so that the two bond. Your flat is now repaired and all that’s left is to put everything back together and fill with air.

9) Pump up the tube a little and insert it inside the tire.

9a) At this time I also took the opportunity to add a liner. This sits inside the tire between it and the tube, providing extra protection from flats. This step is one I recommend if you are susceptible to punctures – as I was – it worked wonders for me.

10) Next, seat one side of the tire on the rim, then the other. Make sure if your tires are directional that they are mounted correctly. Start at the valve, which you’ll insert through the valve hole, and work outward from there. You should be able to do all this by hand but if the last bit is hard, use the tire levers to help.

11) Check to make sure the tire is seated on the rim and then proceed to pump up it up. At perhaps 10psi, “massage” the tire, which will help the tube seat properly. Then, holding each axle, spin the wheel to make sure the tire is on the rim evenly. If so…now pump!

12) Fill to at least the minimum PSI indicated on the tire’s side wall. Anything less and you’ll risk a pinch flat or the tire may unseat itself while riding. Pumping is hard work and if you can not fill to the desired pressure above the minimum, do the best you can and top off the air at the next gas station you pass.

13) If you have a Presta valve turn it to the off position now, attach the valve nut, if your tire uses one, tightening so it’s lightly against the rim, then finally attach the valve dust cap. Schrader valves (like those on your car tire) just require the dust cap.

14) Be on your way, once or twice to make sure the tire is not losing any more air. If there is no lose, you are now done. This is a permanent fix.

We repaired a mountain bike tire in this report but these techniques can be applied to road bikes as well.

While our pump supposedly works equally well with Presta or Schrader valves, I found it works better with the latter, so I added an adapter. This also allows us to use a gas station tire pump if needed.

There are many causes of flats: foreign objects of course being the most common. You can also get a flat from under inflation (pinch or snake bit flats) or improper tube seating. You may also come across the defective tube every now and then. I have.

As mentioned earlier I was the reigning “king of flats”. The one step I have found that make the biggest difference for me, is the tire liner mentioned earlier. Since using them I have not had a single flat.

To see some other bike themed posts, follow these links…
Calgary to Chestermere (and back) canal pathway cycle.
Happy Trails High River cycle.
A little more Lille and a flat car.

If you wish more information on bike maintenance, by all means contact us!

Date: July, 2013.
Location: Anywhere a flat happens.

Bike flat

Opps, a flat tire!

Tools to fix a flat

Our on the road tool and flat repair kit.

Bike Presta valve

First step, remove the wheel from the bike then the valve cap and nut from the tire and rim.

Bike tire levers

Gently unseat the bead using your tire levers.

Flat bike tire

If you can not see the puncture, fill up the tire and listen or feel for escaping air.

Bike tire patch kit

The patch kits contains sandpaper, rubber cement and patches.

Fix bike flat

Roughen the area around the puncture using the sandpaper.

Rubber cement bike tire

Cover the area with a thin film of rubber cement and let dry.

Bike tire patch

Take the patch and carefully centre on the hole and press down firmly.

Bike rim

Before reseating the tire, check for possible puncture sources.

Check bike tire

At the same time. check the inside of the tire for any foreign objects.

Bike tire liner

I took this opportunity to add a tire liner for extra protection from flats.

Bike tube

Fill the tube a bit and place inside the tire.

Massage bike tire

Put the tire back on the rim – you may be able to do this by hand. Fill it a bit and massage the tire so the tube seats properly.

Bike tire pump

Now pump!

Bike tire rotation

If you have directional tires, make sure you’ve mounted them correctly.

Bike tire PSI

Hand pumping is hard, but be sure to fill at least to the minimum shown on the side wall.

Pesta valve Bike

If you have a Presta valve, turn it to the off postion when you’ve done pumping.

Presta valve adapter

Attach the cap (and in this case Schrader adapter) and lightly tighten the valve nut against the rim.

Fixed bike tire

Viola, it’s time to ride! From start to finish > 5 minutes.

Bike repair kit

Our tool and repair kit in an easy to manage package.


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6 Comments on "Fix a flat in no time flat"

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Todd 1961
Todd 1961

Under five minutes? I’m lucky if I can change a tire in under half an hour. Then as you say, you have lots of experience doing it. I got MEC to put some tire liners in my wheel and you are right, it helps a lot. I have not had a flat since.

Terry's Cycle
Terry's Cycle

Great advice!

HL Kent
HL Kent

Took your advice and added the tire liners. I was getting flats all the time too. Let’s see how it goes.

Jimmy Choo
Jimmy Choo

Interesting article. I get punctures all the time too, so many that I dread heading out sometimes. I’ll try the tire liners for the next flat.