Surprised by a flat tire on the road? You might have a repair kit but perhaps aren’t sure how to replace bike tube or fix it.
I’ve got you covered!
When I started cycling, the most useful skill I picked up was changing and patching bike tires. Flat tires are so common that every cyclist should learn how to fix them and get back on the road quickly.
This is how to replace bike tube:
- Find some tire levers and take out the tire.
- Go around the tire, breaking the bead with your thumbs.
- Push out the tire.
- Slide the tube out and patch it.
- Inflate the tube and put it back in.
- Finish and check.
Sounds easy, right? Well, there’s a bit more to it than that…
How Long Does It Take To Replace a Bike Tube?
Learning how to replace bike tube is a relatively easy job that shouldn’t take longer than 10 to 15 minutes. Patching up the tube will take 10 more minutes because you need to give the glue time to dry. On your first try, this process might take longer, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
Step-By-Step Guide on How to Replace Bike Tube
You have two options for replacing a bike tire tube:
- Replace the tube and the tire together, taking them both out and putting them back at the same time.
- Only taking part of the tube out while keeping the tire in place.
Before you get to work, you’ll need the right tools:
- Wrench: This is for your bike’s bolts.
- Tire levers: These help you break the bead and push out the tire. You can also use a flathead screwdriver.
- Patching kit or new tube: Depending on your tube’s damage, you can either fix or replace it. A patching kit should include tire repair patches, sandpaper and glue, and sometimes some chalk and a grater.
2. Take Out the Wheel
You can’t work with the tire still on the bike, so you’ll need to take it out.
- Loosen the bolts at the center of the wheel using the wrench.
- Slide the tire out by ensuring there’s no an additional release lever, and be careful of the brake cables when you pull the tire out.
- If the tire still has air pressure, let the remaining air out by opening the valve. The tire without air pressure is softer and much easier to work with.
- If your valves have a cap, remember to put it back on or keep it in a pocket—valve caps are tiny and will easily get lost when you’re working!
3. Break the Bead
This can take a little bit of strength on some tires, especially on thick mountain bike tires.
- Grab the tire with both hands, with your thumbs over the rubber right next to the rim.
- Push the tire toward its inner part to separate it from the bead, going around the tire.
- If the bead is stuck, help break it with a tire lever. Just carefully stick the lever between the rubber and the rim, running it around the tire. Ensure you don’t drive it too far in and damage the tube further.
- If you plan on taking the tire out completely, repeat this step on the other side.
4. Slide Out the Tire and Take Out the Tube
You can do this on just one side, but it can be useful to take the tire out completely to inspect it for cracks.
Getting the first part of the tire out can be tricky:
- Push in and up with your thumbs until you get the rubber past the rim’s edge. This is where tire levers are extremely useful since they help you dig out the tire.
- When you’ve got one side of the tire out, you should be able to fit a couple of fingers inside the tire to dig out the tube. Your other option is pulling out both the tire and the tube. This should be easy once you’ve broken the bead and taken out the other side.
- Inspect the tire to make sure there are no sharp objects in it. If something punctured your tube, it would likely do it again.
5. Patch the Tube
Next, it’s time to work on the tube itself. If it looks damaged or the puncture is too wide to patch safely with your kit, go for a new tube. It’s always safer to ride on a new tube than a patched-up one, especially one that has more than one repair.
If you decide to patch the tire tube on your own, these are the steps:
Find the Spot
First, you’ll need to find the puncture, which isn’t as easy as it seems.
If your puncture is tiny, pump the tube up again and squeeze it in your hands, listening closely if you hear hissing.
If you still can’t find it, fill up your sink with water and submerge the tube to see where the bubbles come from. When you find the spot, mark it with some chalk or a marker.
Prepare the Tube
Let out the air from the tube again, and grab the sandpaper.
The tube’s latex is very slick, so you’ll need to use the sandpaper to rough it around the puncture.
Don’t overdo it; just going over the spot for five to ten times with the sandpaper is usually enough.
Apply the Glue
Apply the glue on the spot.
You can use your finger to spread it, but don’t use too much. This will make it harder for the glue to dry, and it’s even possible the patch won’t stick.
Leave the glue to dry for about 5 minutes.
Patch It up
Find your patch and peel off the foil or plastic on the back side.
Place the patch over the tube, with the center of the patch right where the puncture is.
Push it down with your finger for a couple of seconds, and try to get out any air bubbles. Use your wrench to help press out the air.
Leave the patch on for a couple more minutes before you peel off the plastic on top.
Be careful not to take off the patch with the plastic; take it slow instead of ripping it off like a band-aid.
If your bike repair kit has chalk and a grater, grate some of the chalk on top of the patch. This will prevent the glue coming out from beneath the patch’s sides from sticking onto your tube and tire when you put it back.
If it’s your first time patching a bike tube, I highly recommend checking that it’s properly fixed by submerging the tube in water. This will help you save time, so you don’t go through the work of putting the tire back in only to have to do it all over again.
Pro tip: Keep a bike tube or two with your repair kit just in case, especially on long trips. Sometimes, your repair won’t work, or the tube is too damaged to patch up, so it’s best to go out with a spare.
6. Slide the Tube Back In
Prepare it by inflating it enough so that it’s easier to handle.
If one half of your tire is still in the bike, you’ll only need to slide the tube back in.
Use your tire levers to push the tire up so you can get the tube in. Ensure the valve is in the right spot, and be careful not to pinch the tube when you push the tire under the rim.
If you’ve taken out the tire completely, you have two options:
- Put the tube inside the tire and push it all in together.
- Place one side of the tire in first, then the tube, and close it on the other side.
7. Finish Checking
You’re almost done!
Go around the wheel, making sure you haven’t pinched parts of the tube between the rim and the tire.
The tire should align itself pretty well on the rim. When you inflate it, it should pop perfectly into place if you’ve done everything correctly.
Why Does My Bike Tire Keep Going Flat?
If you’ve changed or patched your tube and your tire still keeps going flat, the problem might be elsewhere:
- Valves: If your valves are leaking, your tires won’t hold air, and you’ll always be left with a flat tire.
- Wheels: Your wheel might have suffered damage that’s giving you a flat. Inspect the wheel to ensure that nothing is poking out or scratching the tube.
- Tire: If your tire is very worn and has large punctures, it will let dirt inside that can eat through the tube’s rubber. Also, a sharp object could cause your tube to get punctured time and time again.
- Overinflated tires: High air pressure isn’t always a good thing. If it’s too high, you might be causing a blowout on the tire, especially if there’s been an impact to your tires. Look for the recommended air pressure printed on the tire and try not to go over it.
- Pinching: You may have done your bike repair incorrectly, and a part of the tube could be pinched and leaking. This is surprisingly common, so take it easy when you put the tube in place. I also recommend you inflate it to prevent something from getting in between.
If you’re not sure where the problem is, the easiest way to see where the air comes out of is with the submersion test:
- Fill a tub with water.
- Put the tire and even the wheel in.
- Look for where the bubbles are coming out.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Should You Replace Bike Inner Tube?
You only need to replace a new bike inner tube when you have cracks or punctures, which can take years to appear. Bike tubes are usually made of latex, so you should store them away from heat and sunshine to make them last longer. There’s no reason to regularly change perfectly fine tubes.
How Often Should I Change My Bike Tires?
You should do a regular checkup on your bike tires at least once a year as part of your bike tune-up. This includes checking your tires for cracks and punctures. If you ride on most days, I recommend you do it every couple thousand miles.
What Should Be in a Bike Repair Kit?
A basic bike repair kit includes a pump, tire levers and a patching kit for your tires. It also includes wrenches, screwdrivers and a chain-breaking tool for other emergencies.
Do Bike Inner Tubes Go Bad?
Bike inner tubes can go bad over time if you store them in high temperatures or the sunshine. They’ll also lose air quickly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your tube is punctured; air loss is common in bike tires.
How Often Should You Put Air in Bike Tires?
You should put in bike tires once or twice a week to keep the pressure optimal. Even a bike tire in perfect condition will lose air, both when in use and when left sitting still. Pumping them every couple of days is completely normal if you use your bike a lot. Remember to keep a pump with you, as well as a repair kit.
Flat tires aren’t only common; they’re inevitable. Knowing how to replace bike tube is among the necessary top skills for a cyclist, whether you’re a weekend road racer or an everyday commuter.
Changing a bike tube is simple and doesn’t take too much time. Just separate the bead from the rim, push the tire out and patch or replace the tube for a new one.
The first time you do it is always the hardest, but this skill can save you money and get you back home safely.