How to Fix a Bike Tire Tube

Getting a flat while out on a ride can ruin your day. But learning how to fix a bike tire tube is a useful cycling skill that will get you rolling again in no time. This guide covers finding and repairing tube punctures, plus replacing old tubes on mountain, road and hybrid bikes.

Table of Contents

  • Prep: Gather Patch Kit Supplies
  • Locate the Puncture
  • Remove Tire & Tube
  • Patch the Tube Hole
  • Replace the Bike Tube
  • Reinstall Tube & Tire
  • Reinflate the Tire
  • Tips to Prevent Flats

Prep: Gather Patch Kit Supplies

Before getting started, assemble a complete patch kit with:

  • Bike levers to pop the tire beads off the rim
  • Sandpaper to rough up tube around puncture
  • Vulcanizing glue to prep puncture site
  • Assorted tube patches for holes
  • A bike pump (with pressure gauge)
  • Tweezers and a rag or paper towels

These basic supplies allow you to repair flats easy.

Locate the Puncture

First, find where the hole is on the tube:

  • Inflate the flat tire just enough to give it some shape.
  • Turn the wheel and listen for air escaping the puncture.
  • Alternatively, submerge the wheel and look for bubbles.
  • Use chalk or a marker to note the puncture location once found.

Locating the flat right away prevents it from getting covered in sealant if you use tubeless tires.

Remove Tire & Tube

With the puncture marked, fully deflate the tire and:

  • Use tire levers to hook under the tire bead on both sides of the rim.
  • Work the levers around to lift the first side of the tire off.
  • Flip the wheel and do the same on the opposite side.
  • With both sides loosened, pull the tube out through the valve stem hole.

Taking the tire completely off provides the best access to the tube for repairs.

Patch the Tube Hole

Once removed, repair small punctures by:

  • Lightly sanding the puncture area to roughness.
  • Applying a thin layer of vulcanizing glue.
  • Letting the glue fully dry.
  • Cutting a rubber patch slightly larger than the hole.
  • Removing the patch backing before sticking it on.

Use high quality glues and patches for reliable repairs.

Replace the Bike Tube

For larger holes or worn tubes, install a new replacement tube:

  • Select a tube that matches the tire diameter and valve type.
  • Inflate the tube slightly to give it shape.
  • Insert tube valve through rim hole into tire space.
  • Avoid twisting the tube and ensure it’s evenly aligned.

Carry spare tubes on rides for faster trailside swaps.

Reinstall Tube & Tire

With the tube patched or replaced, remount the outer tire:

  • Slip one side of the tire onto the rim using hands or a lever.
  • Insert lever on the opposite side to lift the bead over.
  • Work the second side onto the rim fully.
  • Inflate partially and check that tire beads seat evenly.

Go slowly ensuring the tube doesn’t get pinched between tire and rim.

Reinflate the Tire

Lastly, inflate to proper air pressure:

  • Use your pump and gauge to reinflate tire to PSI listed on the sidewall.
  • Do not exceed the tire’s maximum air pressure rating.
  • Remove pump and check for any leaks around the rim.
  • Give the wheel a spin to ensure it’s rolling smoothly.

Correct inflation prevents future flats and ensures good bike handling.

Repairing punctures is a fundamental cycling skill. Follow these steps to get back rolling after flats. Let us know your own tube patching tips in the comments!

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