Story and Photos by Dan Goldwater
The theory of the flat tire is simple; the reality can be maddening to the unprepared. Yet, there are many paths to your goal. I hope to guide your journey and help you learn your way around flats.
Common Causes of Flats
Sharp thing on the road.
Underinflated tire: Slamming a curb or pothole with an underinflated tire can cause a “pinch flat” that breaks the inner tube even without any hole in the tire. If you ever got a flat and couldn’t figure out why, this is likely the reason.
If you’re riding a junker, a lot more can go wrong: spokes can poke through the rim and into the tube, the rim tape can be out of place or disintegrating (this tape normally protects the underside of the inner tube from sharp bits on the rim), the valve on the inner tube can leak. If you get a flat on a junker anything can be suspect, which is why your flat kit should include rim tape.
The Responsible Rider
This upstanding member of society believes in full preparedness at all times. He or she knows how to fix a flat tire and always carries a “Trusty Toolkit.” For the budding responsible rider, follow the handy steps below. For the rest of you, I suggest learning about the responsible rider and their Trusty Toolkit.
Becoming a Responsible Rider
Google “how to fix a flat bike tire.” You will find dozens of videos and instructions written by experts. Here are the ones I recommend:
Always carry your Trusty Toolkit when biking. I recommend the following:
-two plastic tire levers,
-inner tube patches,
-mini-sized pump and
Your bike shop can hook you up with this equipment and it will fit easily into any backpack or handbag. You may prefer a spare inner tube instead of patches – it’s bigger, but you don’t have to spend any time finding holes in a popped tube. Carry patches even if you have a spare tube.
Practice changing your inner tubeand using patches a couple of times at home before venturing out into the world. Try both the front and rear wheels. You don’t want to be figuring out what does and doesn’t work at a rainy bus stop late at night.
Ready for Anything
Now that we’ve covered the basics, what remains is a vast store of situational methods to help you solve any problem with whatever is at hand.
Tire levers: Most tires can be removed and replaced without levers. The beginning of this video shows the best method for creating slack in a tire: youtube.com/watch?v=j3nm8fHCPBU
Once the slack is there, and with a little bit of practice, you can roll the tire off the rim with your palms or thumbs. If you still prefer levers, handy substitutes include your axle quick-release levers or metal spoons. Sharp tools like a screwdriver must be covered in layers of tape or cloth first.