How to change a bike tire

Last night, I attended a free class at a local bike shop on how to change a tire. I remember patching tubes and changing bike tires with my dad as a kid, but hadn’t had to do it in years. I recently bought a mountain bike, which I *adore* riding, and I figured it’d be good to be prepared. In the process, I got to learn about various new bits of bike gear I’d never heard of!

The class was attended by me, a young woman with a hybrid bike, another woman with a road bike, and an older man with no bike (he borrowed a store one to practice on). The bike shop guy walked us through the following steps:

  • Release the V-brakes (on my bike; others have calipers or disk brakes)
  • Undo the quick-release handle and remove the tire. For back tires, don’t loosen the nut on the quick-release; and if needed, you can pivot the gear cartridge out of the way to extract the tire from the chain.
  • Use “tire levers” to pry one bead of the tire off of the rim. You stick them in between the tire and the rim, then pivot them outward and clip them to a spoke.
  • Remove the rest of the tire and the tube. Pull the tube out from the tire.
  • Inflate tube (if needed) to reveal the hole(s).
  • Check the tire in same location for glass, hole, etc.; examine the rest of the tire as well (since you have the chance). Recommended practice: examine both tires carefully for embedded bits prior to each ride. It’s not usually the first contact with a piece of glass that punctures the tire, it’s riding on that glass that over time causes a problem.
  • Patch or replace the tube as needed. Also repair/replace the tire if needed. There’s something called a “tire boot” that can serve as a temporary patch between tube and tire (for large holes). Apparently you can even improvise one with a folded dollar bill (our bike shop guy had personal experience with it), though it’s recommended that you minimize such use.
  • Insert the tube into the tire. Align the valve stem with the tire graphic or other distinguishing feature for easy position reference later. If you always have it in the same place, tracking down the matching tire position for a tube hole is easier.
  • Align one bead of the tire inside the rim, ensuring that the valve stem is aligned with the hole in the rim. Note: some tires are directional; make sure this matches.
  • Squish the tube into the rim; start near the valve stem where the rubber is most thick and difficult. You can pull the tire to the side to make this easier.
  • Push the second bead into the rim. Start near the valve stem, using your palms to leverage the tire into the rim. Work down both sides rather than in a circle. Near the end, you may need extra force/stretching to get the final bit done.
  • Close the quick-release and reattach the brakes.
  • Inflate the tire to its recommended pressure (usually written on the side of the tire). You can use a hand pump, a CO2 canister (easy to use but apparently CO2 leaks out through the tube faster than the regular mixture of our atmosphere, etc.
  • Done!

Somehow this seems more detailed and complex than when my dad did it. Still, it’s not that difficult, and it was good to walk through the whole process. The bike shop guy also added some baby powder inside my tire to help the tube not stick to the sides. I haven’t had a problem with such sticking, but he said it can help for tube longevity.

I came away from the class with ideas for what I might want to carry on my bike for possible repairs: tire levers, a pump, a spare tube, and possibly a small tool kit. And a dollar bill? :)