How to Replace a Bicycle Tire

If you ride a bicycle, sooner or later you will need to fix a flat or change (replace) a tire. Before beginning this process, turn your bike upside down, distributing its weight on the seat and handlebars.

Steps

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    Loosen the nuts that hold the axle to the frame. If they are extremely tight, spray some lubricant on the nuts - a silicone lubricant or even vegetable oil will do the trick very well. (Many modern bikes will not have nuts. They have a quick-release which you can easily loosen and remove the wheel).
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    Release the brakes if your bike is equipped with them and they interfere with wheel removal. Every brake setup is a little different but you should likely be able to slip the brake cable out of a socket on the brake arms to release them. Some brakes may require that you loosen the cable from a clamped position.
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    Take the wheel out of the frame. If it's the rear wheel, you will need to lift the chain clear of the gear cluster. To ease the removal of a rear wheel, shift the chain to the smallest gear on the wheel before loosening the skewer or nuts. If it's the front wheel, it will be easier.
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    Deflate the tube completely by pressing down on the inner part of the valve. With a presta valve you need to unscrew the top part of the stem to release the air in the tube. During this step you'll also want to remove the lock ring that screws onto the stem and sits flush on the rim if your bike has one.
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    Loosen the tire beads from the rim by squeezing the tire together all the way around the rim. With all the air out of the tube squeeze the tire together and you'll see the tire release from the inside of the rim, this will help when removing the tire.
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    Take a couple of tire levers (you can purchase these at your local bike/outdoor store). You can use the handle of a spoon or similar object if you don't have tire levers but be very careful, as you risk scratching or damaging the rims of the wheel and/or puncturing the inner tube. Ease one lever in under the wheel rim and lever out the edge of the tire (taking great care not to puncture the inner tube) and pry it up over the wheel rim. Move around the rim about an eighth of the circumference and repeat the process again, leaving the first tool in place. Now zip the second lever around the wheel and the tire should come right off on one side.
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    Remove the tube completely.
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    Fill the punctured tube with a few pumps of air and inspect the punctured tube for leaking air to find a hole and determine where the problem may have occurred. Best way to find an air leak is by inserting the tube with air in water. Where air bubbles come out , there is a hole in your tube.
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    Thoroughly inspect the inside wall of the tire by rubbing along the entire surface area and inspect the rim for glass, nails, thorns, or any object that may have punctured the tube. Use caution when feeling inside the tire as a nail, or glass can cut you. Be sure to remove any thorns, glass, or nails with pliers if you find them. Adjust rim tape to cover protruding spoke.
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    Either patch or replace the inner tube; or replace your tube and tire. Unwrap your new tube and remove the plastic dust cap and the lock ring.
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    Place the new tube into the tire ensuring the tub is not twisted at all and fill the tube with a few pumps of air. Putting a few pumps of air in the tube before will help to avoid pinching the tube when putting the tire on the rim.
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    Work the tire onto the rim one side at a time. This process is difficult but try not to use tire levers, a screwdriver, or other similar object as you vastly increase your chance of puncturing your new tube. Check the tire wall for an arrow or similar to indicate the direction of rotation - some tires have a "direction specific" tread pattern. Put one side in first, then ease the partially inflated tube into the tire and put the other side on.
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    Make sure that no part of the tube is sticking out, screw on the lock ring and inflate the tube slowly and carefully at first, all the time checking to make sure the tire is on evenly and there is no "pinching".
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    Remove the pump and hand tighten the presta screw and lock ring.
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    You're now ready to put the wheel back on the bike.
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    Re-tension the brakes and/or chain if doing back wheel.
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    Happy bike riding!

Tips

  • Make sure to keep the inner tube away from hot objects. Heat increases the pressure in the tube, and can actually make the tube explode!
  • Before adding any air to your inner tube or placing it in the tire, you might want to dust it with talcum powder.

Warnings

  • Make sure that if your rims are drilled for Presta valves, you use those tubes instead of Schrader, they will not fit!
  • Do not over-inflate as you will blow out your inner tube. See the recommended pressure listed on your tire wall.
  • Tires and tubes deteriorate after about 10-15 years, (7 years if exposed to the UV light) so if your tubes and tires are older than 10 years, consider replacing them.
  • Don't get any sort of oil on the brakes or brake surfaces. Avoid getting oil on the tires or tubes, too, since oil can cause rubber to decay.
  • If your bike has a quick release on the back wheel be very careful with the axle. Handle it carefully and put it where it will not get stood upon while you're changing the tire. A slight bend will mean buying a whole new axle.
  • If you are refitting your tire after a puncture, carefully check inside the tire (under the tread) with your fingers - the thorn, nail or whatever may still be in the tire and will puncture your new tube as soon as you inflate it! If it is, carefully remove it.
  • If your tires show cracks to the fabric piles, you should replace both the tire and the inner tube (if it's still the original tube that came with that tire). If the two tires on the bicycle are the same age, replace both even though only one may look bad. Otherwise you risk a blowout.
  • Be careful not to puncture the inner tube while taking off or putting tire back on.
  • Before reassembling the patched tube into the tire, put a little air into the tube to check whether there is a second puncture that needs fixing.
  • Make sure to keep the inner tube away from hot objects. Heat increases the pressure in the tube, and can actually make the tube explode!

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