Monday, 10 September 2012

10 point survival guide to fixing a flat

Fixing a flat is an essential skill for a new road cyclist

Riding out this weekend, I was genuinely thrilled to see so many new road cyclists out and about.  The Wiggo and Olympics effect can genuinely be seen by the number of new shiny bikes, fluorescent kit and lung busting big gear efforts being made.  I wondered how many of them would know how to fix a puncture if they got one on their maiden voyage.

More fool me, about five miles after that thought - pssssst - I flatted.  After a quick change on auto-pilot, I thought to myself that this is a learned procedure from many punctures over the couple of years I'd been riding and perhaps these new riders could benefit from my quick guide to fixing a flat.

Items you should always have with you
  • A spare inner tube with a valve long enough to fit your rim (normally 42mm covers most rims and you need Presta valves for a road bike).
  • 3 x Tyre levers (two should normally suffice, but some tyres are tough).
  • CO2 cannister or high pressure pump.
My 10 point survival guide to getting back on the road quickly is below: -
  1. Remove items like trip computers, bottles and the items you need to fix your puncture BEFORE you flip the bike onto the bars and saddle.  Also release the quick release on the brakes so that you can get your wheel out quickly.
  2. Be careful when you flip the bike over not to land it too quickly as this can lead to scuffs on your saddle and brake lever hoods.
  3. Change the gear on the rear cassette so that the chain is sitting on the smallest cog possible before removing the wheel if the puncture is on the rear wheel.
  4. Release the QR (quick release) lever and pull the wheel towards y ou, it should come out easily.
  5. Using one tyre lever, hook it under your tyre rim and secure it on a spoke.  Use the other lever to flip another section of the tyre out until you can remove the tyre.
  6. When done, remove the old inner tube aswell as the tyre from the rim.
  7. Here's the bit most new cyclists miss.  It's important to see if there is anything inside the tyre which may have penetrated the outer surface.  If you don't remove it, you may well re-puncture. Carefully inspect with your eyes and fingers the tyre for any signs of debris and remove.  I made this mistake once and got three punctures on the trot.
  8. When happy, mount one side of the tyre and then blow a little air into the inner tube with your mouth to give it some shape.  Push the valve through your rim and then position the tube inside the tyre before then folding the tyre back in on the remaining side to re-mount it.  If possible, re-mount it using hand pressure only.  If you have to use levers - be careful, you may well pinch the tyre.
  9. Re-inflate the tyre before re-mounting the wheel on the bike.  I use a CO2 cannister for speed.  Make sure you put appropriate pressure in the tyre.
  10. Re-mount the rear wheel and tighten the skewer, then get your bike up onto its wheels and re-set the brake calliper release.  Final tip is to then re-release the wheel skewer and put downward pressure on either the saddle or the bars (depending if it's rear or front) and the wheel will naturally find it's set point, then re-tighten the skewer.
I always fit a new tube when I'm riding, then take the tube back with me to either repair or re-cycle at home, it's far easier than fiddling around with patches and gets you on the road more quickly.  A bonus tip is to always carry a spare piece of inner tube in your saddle bag so that if your tyre gets a gash, you can put the tube inside the tyre to get you home.  Punctures are inevitable, follow these tips and you'll be back on the road quickly.

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