Women’s 100: Fix that Flat

Guest author Tori Bortman AKA Gracie’s Wrench gives us the ultimate guide on fixing ‘you know whats’. Read it, but don’t talk about it…

Above all things dreaded by most cyclists is the annoyance, the waste-of-precious-riding-time and, in some cases, end to your ride, that can be caused by punctures. For the average rider, it’s a ten to fifteen minute detour that causes momentum to cease and frustration to build. For those who don’t know how to repair a flat tire it’s a complete game changer, leaving them subject to the skills of the riders around them— if there is another rider. Otherwise, these folks may be wary of venturing out too far with the looming threat of being stranded.

Have no fear. Anyone can become a flat-repair expert. All it takes is knowing a few tips that most mechanics and practiced riders know. These are a few of the gritty details that can cut minutes off your repair time and give you the confidence you need to venture further, from everyday cycling to something greater such as the Women’s 100.

No matter who you are, flats are one of the more technically difficult repairs on a bike. Not easy, but common. Which means it will become easier with each repair. If you’re investing in new tires for your Women’s 100 ride (a spectacular idea since good tires are your first line of defense against getting a puncture in the first place) take that as an opportunity to install them yourself.

However, if you find yourself a long the side of the road, you can fix it as well.

You’ll need:

• A new tube
• 2 tire levers
• A hand pump or CO2 cartridge and inflator

Remove the punctured wheel

The rear wheel is the most difficult to get off— but also the most likely place for a flat since most of your weight is centered over it.

Some bikes, it will need some less-than-gentle persuasion to pull it from the frame. You won’t hurt the bike. You may have to push the derailleur in giving the chain a bit more slack to remove the cassette from the chain.

Top Tip: shift into the smallest gear in the rear cassette to remove the rear tire easily. Also remember not to rest your frame on its rear derailleur. Some people may chose to flip their bicycle and rest it on its saddle and handlebars, but be sure to remove any computer apparatus first.

Remove the deflated tube from the tire

With the wheel resting on the ground and the valve stem nearest you and facing downward,place your hands on the tread facing out (palms down, fingers facing away from you), grab the sidewalls of the tire between your fingers and thumb and drag the tire around towards the side of the wheel opposite the valve stem. This will bring any slack from the tire to one area making it much easier to remove.

Working at the area opposite the valve stem (where you’ve conveniently pushed the slack) use a tire lever to scoop one bead over the rim edge and hook the other end of the lever on the spoke below it to hold the lever in place. With the second lever, repeat scooping the bead over the rim but this time pull the second lever out with each scoop until enough slack is created to make the tire loose enough to easily fit the tire lever under the exposed section of bead.

– Run the lever around the rim so bead is entirely off.

– Remove punctured tube from tire.

Top tips: remove as much air as as possible by compressing the valve stem. Even a tiny amount in the tube will make it much harder to remove the tire.

If you so choose you may only remove one side of the tire. This makes for easier installation, but also makes it harder to locate the cause of the flat.

Inspect the tire and find the puncture

Squeeze the tread of your tire the entire way around to look for debris that may have caused this flat— or some that hasn’t worked through the tread yet and may cause a flat later. Remove all debris. Run your finger tips lightly around the inner casing of the tire looking for anything that may have poked through. Lightly is the key word here as glass, nails and other refuse that has made it through the casing of your tire may also puncture the skin of your hands.

Top tip: Check your rim strip too. The piece of cloth or plastic lining on the inside of your rim — make sure it’s firmly in place and no spoke holes are exposed (which can cause flats).

Note: You may choose to look and see what caused the flat. If you are on a group ride they may not be willing to wait while you locate the flat, in which case, getting back on the road is your first priority. Some people may choose to only remove one side of the tire, leaving the opposite connected to the rim to ensure a quick installation. Remember, always discard destroyed inner tubes properly.

Replacing the tube and tire

Inflate your new tube very slightly with your hand pump or by mouth if you’re using CO2. You only need a very small amount of air so the sides of the tube are no longer sticking together. Too much air will make getting the tire back on difficult.

Tuck one side of the tire in and under the rim.

You’ll be putting one side of the tire on at a time. Push the valve stem of the tube through the hole in the rim making sure the bead closest to your body is sitting inside the rim. The other side of the tire will be hanging off the rim.

Starting at the valve stem and working both hands around until they meet on the opposite side, push the entire bead you’ve started back on the rim. Be sure to check by looking on both sides of the wheel that the first bead is entirely on.

Start back to the valve stem to get the second side of the tire on. With your left hand about an inch over from the valve stem, pinch and hold the remaining bead towards the middle of the rim BUT do not tuck it entirely into the rim. At the same time with your right hand start a few inches over to the right of the valve stem working the same bead into the rim until the bead begins to settle in.

After the bead starts to tuck into the rim, work both hands around the rim in opposite directions, pressing on the sidewall to tuck as much of the bead as you can until you are opposite of the valve stem.

Make sure the tube is tucked into the rim well and not pinching between the bead and rim edge as you tuck the tire in. Usually by the time you reach opposite the valve stem, there will be one part of the tire left that’s not easy to get over the edge of the rim.

To get the final bit of tire over, start with both hands very close to each other and wrap them around one of the edges that won’t easily go over. With your thumb under the rim and your hand wrapped around the tire, twist the tread of the tire over the edge of the rim away from you, pulling the remaining bead over the edge.

Top Tip: Look for the label. Put the tube into the tire with the valve stem at the tire label (where the brightly colored Vittoria, or Continental is stamped). Bike shops usually do this to help give you a point of reference the next time you have a flat— so when you inflate the tube and find your hole, you’ll know exactly where to find the culprit in the tire. It will also help you find the valve each time you inflate your tires before your next ride.

Inflate the new tube

Inflate to your recommended PSI (between 80–110). Remember the max PSI (printed on the side of your tire) is for a person who weighs over 185lbs (84kg). Maximum inflation does not yield maximum efficiency as traction and comfort are often better achieved with pressures below the highest rating. Experiment within the recommended range and ask your riding partners to determine what works best for you and your riding conditions.

Top Tip: Inflate to around 20 PSI first. Check that the edge of the tire is seating into the rim properly. If you can see bulging in the tire — deflate, check to make sure the tube isn’t caught under the edge of the tire, press the bead into the rim and and inflate again to check for bulging.

Re-install the wheel

As you did during removal, stand at the back of your overturned bike and pull the clean part of the derailleur back to make a clear path for the gears to get past it and into the frame.

Top Tips: If you shifted your derailleur all the way down to the smallest cog, make sure to re-install the same way, but laying the chain over the same cog it came off.

Over tightening the quick release can damage your wheel and make it harder for your bike to move forward. Tighten firmly, but not so hard you’d need two hands to open it later. It has been designed not to be over tightened. Also, don’t close the lever against the frame, but next to it. Against and it might not only may not be closed all the way, but also is hard to get your fingers behind to open it next time.

Finally: Enjoy the remainder of your ride.