This weekend, I did a small clinic at Princeton Sports on what to do when you are out riding and you get a flat tire. Given the number of people who showed up at the ride who admitted to not being able to fix a flat, I had hoped more would stay for the clinic, but I think that those who did learned a lot and hopefully feel more comfortable about dealing with a flat tire.
First off, flat tires aren’t terribly common. I’ve gotten exactly one flat tire since I started riding. Of course, that one flat tire was during my first olympic distance triathlon. Thankfully, I knew what to do. I wasn’t particularly skilled at handling a flat tire, but I had practiced at home. I wasn’t going to let one pesky issue destroy my entire race.
I have heard a number of cyclists say that if they get a flat tire, their race is over. And if you’re racing to land on the podium, maybe that’s true. But for the vast majority of us, there’s no need to stop if our tire goes flat. And besides, what are you going to do if you get a flat during a training ride?
And what’s the best way to learn? Practice. Lots and lots of practice. If you have a clinic or a class available to you, go. If there is a hands-on option, participate. Learn to take your wheel off, get the tire off and change the tube.
If you don’t have a class available, you can learn thanks to the internet. The internet is an amazing place. I actually learned to change a tire by watching a video on YouTube. I no longer remember which video I used, but I’ve included a good one at the bottom of this post.
Don’t just practice once. Repeat the process over and over again. Remove the tire, pull out the tube, replace the tube, replace the tire, inflate your tire. You don’t have to use a CO2 inflator every time, use your regular bike pump. Sit in front of the tv and have something entertaining playing in the background as you repeat the process over and over. It will get easier. And if you’re struggling, walk away for a few minutes, calm yourself, and come back. You can do this, and then if you do get a flat on a training ride or during a race, you’ll know what to do.