Getting a flat while out riding will happen to all of us at some point. It’s inevitable. Just as sure as the Sun will come up each day we can all look forward to it. It doesn’t have to be the end of the days ride though if you’re prepared and know a few tips to make it easier.
Six Tips To Easier Flat Repair
- Be prepared. If you’re out riding with no way to repair your own flat then you’re riding on borrowed time. If you’re riding with friends you may be able to bum something off one of them but if you’re all alone and 30 miles from nowhere then you’re what I like to call ‘screwed’. Being prepared starts with having the equipment needed to repair your own flat – patch kit, tube, tire levers, pump/CO2, etc. Most all of this can be easily carried in a seat bag and I discuss this in the article I wrote about what you should carry in a bicycle seat bag. Having the right tools doesn’t help if you’ve never used them though. Practice changing tubes while at home until you get the hang of it.
- Shift to the smallest cog if the flat is on the rear. Putting the chain on the smallest cog on the cassette will make it much easier to remove and install the rear wheel. Chances are you won’t be in the smallest cog when you notice the flat. To get the chain there just shift the gears, pick up the rear wheel by grabbing your seat with one hand, grasp a pedal with your other hand and roll the crank forward one or two revolutions.
- Inflate the tube a little before installing. Putting some air in the tube forces it to hold its shape as you install it. This will help keep the tube installed as you work the tube into the tire around the rim.
- Find small leaks with saliva. If your going to use a patch on the tube you’ve got to find the leak. If it’s small it could be hard to locate (using Tip #5 will help) and you could waste a lot of time putting air in the tube and then squeezing it while you try to listen for the leak. If you can find the general location by listening or using a reference point you can pinpoint the leak by moistening a couple of fingers with your saliva and rubbing it on the the tube in the approximate location. The saliva will cover the hole and as air escapes will begin to bubble up. With the leak located you can now patch it. This is just like the soap bubble test when looking for leaks in natural gas and freon lines.
- Create a reference point using the tube stem and tire. By creating a reference point you make it easier to find the hole in the tube if you have something sticking out of your tire such as a nail. If the culprit of the flat isn’t obvious you can use the reference point to correlate the hole in the tube with a spot on the tire so you can check for small foreign objects like glass or thorns. To create this reference point, install the tube stem aligned with a specific spot on the tire like a logo, letter, color, or mark you’ve made.
- Inflate halfway first. It’s very easy to accidentally get the new/patched tube caught between the rim and tire when installing it. If you fully inflate the tube with it pinched like this you’ll either pop the tube right away or shortly after you start riding. By inflating the tire halfway you give yourself an opportunity to see if the tube is pinched and correct it.
Do You Have Any Tips?
I’ve started the list with six but I’m sure some of you have other tips that are great so lets hear them. Post’em in the comments below.
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Feature image courtesy of Brampton Cyclist.