How to Change a Bicycle Tire

Uh oh, the tire on the Orange Monster is flat. How did it happen? What did you run over? What did you hit? There’s no need to worry about any of those things now. How it happened isn’t important: we just need to change the tire.

There’s a bit of a misnomer about changing bicycle tires, because you seldom actually replace the tire. We say we want to fix the tire, but it’s the innertube that’s actually flat. 

Get a New Tube

So, take a look at the tire and hunt for the numbers that tell you the size of the tube you need to buy. A standard bicycle tire size is 26 inches, which is the diameter of the wheel, by 1.25, which is the diameter of the tube itself.

You can find the innertube at most bicycle stores, and even places like Target. It’s usually around five dollars.

You’ll need a bicycle pump, which, if you have a bicycle, it wouldn’t hurt to have anyway.

Remove the Tire from the Bike

First, we need to get the wheel off of the bicycle. Let’s imagine it’s the back tire, which makes it a little bit tricky because of the chain. But, it’s probably safe to say that fifty percent of bike flat tires happen on the back wheel, so here goes.

First, we need to release the brake caliper to make room for the tire. Most bikes have a release: squeeze the two calipers together to get slack in the cable, and then lift the cable out of the tray. 

With the brake released, it’s time to remove the wheel.

Old bicycles had a nut-and-bolt axle that required two wrenches to remove, but most bikes have a skewer, which makes life super easy.

One side of the skewer is simply a knurled nut – forget about that side. The other side has a lever. Pull the lever open, and now you can pull the tire out of the cradles on the frame. 

As we remove the back wheel, the spring-loaded rear derailleur propels the chain along with it. Just keep going, the pull the wheel up and away from the frame. 

Remove the Old Tire

Find the valve stem, remove the cap, and push in on the little post in the center. You might hear a tiny whoosh as the last of the air leaves the tire.

There are specific tools you can buy to help you remove the tire from the rim, but a couple of flat-bladed screwdrivers can work, too. 

The tire has a bead on its inside edge that matches to a bead on the rim – that’s what keeps the tire straight. 

Gently push your screwdriver over the edge of the rim, angled towards the tire. Push the blade against the tire to lift it up and out of the rim. 

Keep that blade in place, and use another screwdriver to do the same thing about six inches away. Now slide the first blade along the rim, away from the other blade. The tire should rise out of the rim. Keep going until the tire pops over the side. 

Now go back to the valve stem and push it straight into the tire. You can pull the valve, along with the innertube, out from inside the tire. We’re done with this one. 

Install the New Tube

Before you install the new tube, run your fingers carefully along the inside of the tread part of the tire to see if you can find what poked a hole in the old tube. If you find it, pluck it out. If you can’t, it may not be stuck in the tire, which means we’re okay.

Use the bicycle pump to shove a few blasts of air into the new tube. Don’t fill it – just give it enough air so that it looks, well, tubelike.

Starting with the valve stem, shove the tube over the rim and up inside the tire. Push the valve stem through the hole in the rim, and then pull it down from the outside.

Now, gently push the tube into the tire. 

You can fit the tire back into the rim with your fingers most of the way around, but you’ll eventually need to use the screwdrivers to pop it over the edge.

When you do use the blade, be careful not to pinch the new tube between the blade and the rim or the tire. If you pinch it, you could poke a hole in it. Carefully pop the tire back into the rim.

Inflate the Tire

Connect your pump to the valve stem and pump away, taking the tire up to the recommended pressure. If you have a compressor, be very, very careful to fill the tire slowly – these are thin tires that fill up really fast. Work the tire from side-to-side with your hands to make sure the tube fills up evenly.

Put the little cap back onto the valve stem.

Replace the Wheel

Lift the wheel into the frame, with the gears on the same side as the derailleur. As before, the derailleur is spring-loaded, so it’s in an upside-down position now. 

Turn the derailleur over with your hand as you drop the tire in. Make sure the gears push down on the lower section of the chain – as the bike’s upside down, that’s the chain closes to the seat. The chain will engage the gears, and will ride with the wheel down into position.

Slide the axle into the dropouts on the frame, working the wheel from side-to-side slightly, until it rests firmly against the back of the dropouts.

Flip the lever on the skewer, so that the wheel is firmly clamped in the frame. 

Turn the bike over and set it on its wheels, and reconnect the brake.

Now that you’ve got a good tube correctly mounted, you can pump the tire up to its full pressure – the pressure is marked on the side of the tire.

Test ride the bike briefly to make sure there’s no rubbing, which means the wheel isn’t pushed firmly against the dropouts, and that it shifts smoothly.

Congratulations! You changed your bike tire! You did it!

Please Note: Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.

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Published by John Reinhart

Author, technical writer, videographer, actor, and naval historian John D Reinhart is a very busy guy. You can find his novels as Smashwords.com.

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