You’re freewheeling along happily, when suddenly you’re very much aware of the bumpy road beneath your wheels – and your bum. As the sound of rubber dragging on asphalt gets louder, reality hits: you’ve got a flat tyre.
Whether punctures happen on the way to work or mid-Strava segment on your Sunday training ride, flats are a frustrating part of life on two wheels. Investing in decent tyres such as the near puncture-proof Schwalbe Marathon Plus, which come with a 5mm-thick puncture guard, can massively limit your risk. But even the toughest treads can’t protect against all of the pesky sharps that might make you spring a leak.
The good news: even if you do get a flat, with the right preparation and only a little patience, they’re easy to fix. We enlisted the help of one of Schwalbe’s experts, Tim Ward, to bring you this simple step-by-step guide for a speedy swap. Here’s how to get back on the road – and fast – after a puncture.
Step 1: Tool up
You’ll need a set of tyre levers and a pump – track pumps are best for home use, while lightweight portable pumps or a portable CO2 inflator are great for speedy roadside re-inflations. Plus a spanner, or 5mm or 6mm hex key if your wheels aren’t quick release.
Step 2: Release the beast
If the tyre isn’t already fully deflated, use the valve to release any remaining air. This creates extra wiggle room for removing the inner tube and tyre. With the wheel on the ground and the valve opposite you, use your thumbs to push the sidewalls of the tyre, forcing the bead into the middle of the rim on one side. Then use the heels of your hands to unseat the bead all the way round, forcing all the slack into one place.
Step 3: Leverage some advantage
Insert a lever between the rim and the tyre on one side of the valve and hook it into a spoke to keep it in place. Top tip: Schwalbe’s levers have a handy clip for this. Insert a second lever on the other side of the valve, followed by a third lever a little farther away, until a section of the tyre pops over the rim. Now use your palms to release one side of the tyre all the way round.
Step 4: Take the tube
Once one side of the tyre is off, you can reach in, grab the inner tube and remove it, freeing the valve section last. Check your tyre carefully for glass or nails, inside and out, and inflate the inner tube to feel for holes. Keeping the tube in the orientation it came off the wheel helps match pin-prick puncture holes with the offending items in the tyre. If you can’t find the culprit and you spring another leak, now might be the time to invest in a new tyre to prevent repeat punctures.
Step 5: In with the new
Have a quick whizz round and make sure your rim tape fits edge to edge, isn’t damaged or kinked, and that there are no sharp edges and no spoke holes showing. Before you insert the new inner tube, inflate it slightly as the shape will help seat it correctly in the centre of the rim bed. Replace it valve first, tucking the tube under the tyre, avoiding any pinch points. Then deflate the inner tube again. If you’re replacing your tyre too, check for directional arrows as these show which way the tyre is designed to sit on the wheel to ensure optimal cornering and braking traction.
Step 6: Get into the groove
Now return the tyre beading back inside the rim, section by section, starting opposite the valve. When the last bit inevitably becomes too taut, go back and squeeze the beading of the tyre together to help it find the deeper grooves inside the rim. Then use the heels of your palms to work the slack round. This should create the clearance you need to ease on the final bit. If you need to use a lever, take special care not to pinch the inner tube.
Step 7: Pump it up
Before you grab the pump, go around the tyre and check there’s no inner tube poking out of the side underneath the beading. Do this on both sides. Prior to fitting the rim nut on the valve stem, push the valve up into the tyre a few times to clear the tube in case it’s trapped under the bead. Finally, pop the wheel back on, then inflate the tyre to appropriate riding pressure – not exceeding the max PSI, which is stated on the tyre or rim. Keeping them at the right pressure will help them last longer.
To find your flat-less tyre, visit schwalbe.com