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How to Change a Bicycle Tire

Updated on May 19, 2012
CyclingFitness profile image

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

A Step By Step Guide: How To Change A Bicycle Tire And Inner Tube

Whether you have children whose bicycles you have to look after and maintain, you commute to work each day, or ride a bike for sport or fitness- it’s a fact of life that at some point you are going to suffer a puncture and sunsequently need to change a bicycle tyre or replace an inner tube.

Changing a bicycle tyre is a relatively simple process and can be done by almost anyone young or old. Whether you need to sort a flat tire by replacing an inner tube or simply want to change your old bicycle tire you'll find out how to do so below in a simple step by step guide.

Punctures are a cyclists worst nightmare but changing a bicycle tire and inner tube is simple.
Punctures are a cyclists worst nightmare but changing a bicycle tire and inner tube is simple.
Equipment You'll need to fit a bicycle tire or inner tube
Bicycle Tire
Inner Tube
Tire Levers
Bicycle Pump (Hand or Floor/Track)
Cleaning materials (for your hands and bike)

Do you need a bicycle pump?

Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster Bike Pump
Topeak Pocket Rocket Master Blaster Bike Pump

A great portable pump for replacing inner tubes on the move.

 

Equipment you'll need to change a bicycle tire or inner tube

There are just a few basic items that you need for changing a bicycle tire or inner tube at home or on the move

  • Tire levers

Ideally you should have 3 tire levers as these take the strain of removing the bead of the bicycle tire from the hooked rims (also known as clincher rims) found on most low to mid range mountain bikes and on the majority of road bicycles.

  • A New Inner Tube

Always have a few inner tubes at home in case of emergency

  • A new tyre (if replacing your tire)

Replace your tire old tire if it has become damaged,n overly worn, has cuts in the tread or simply if you have the need to use a different tire on your bicycle.

  • Bicycle Pump

On the move you can carry a portable pump to re-inflate your bicycle tires however it's recommended to have a floor pump at home as this will make the task of re-inflating your tires a lot quicker. They can also be used at home for footballs and car tires too.

Step 1- Clean your bike and wheels

There's nothing worse than doing maintenance on an already dirty bicycle. The dirt seems to get everywhere so before you start to change your bicycle tire aim to have a clean bike. Plus why would you want to fit a new bicycle tire to a dirty bike?

A clean bike leads to a lot less mess when fitting a new bicycle tyre.

Step 2- Release your brakes

Before you remove your wheel from the frame or forks to change your bicycle tire you must release your brakes. This involves releasing the brake cable from it's housing in the brake itself. Examples of which are featured in the below photographs.

  • Many mountain bikes now have disk brakes- these do not usually require release and one a quick release mechanism is opened fully the wheel should slide outwards.

A circular cam on a (dirty) road bike caliper lifts up to increase clearance between the tyre/ rim and brake pads
A circular cam on a (dirty) road bike caliper lifts up to increase clearance between the tyre/ rim and brake pads
The cable stop on the rear of a set of Panet X CNC brakes
The cable stop on the rear of a set of Panet X CNC brakes
The cable end stop on a set of caliper brakes
The cable end stop on a set of caliper brakes

Step 3- Remove the wheel from the forks or frame

Front wheel removal

If you are removing your front wheel you need to fully open your quick release lever or loosen off the bolts using a sprocket set. Once the bolts are loose beyond a certain point the wheel will simply slide out of the dropouts.

Rear wheel removal

As you need to remove the wheel from the working drivechain you need to shift your chain onto the outside (smallest) sprocket at the rear and your largest chainring at the front. You can then release the quick release or unscrew the nuts holding the wheel in place. Then slide the wheel forwards in the dropouts and away from the chain.

A quick release lever allows easy removal of the front wheel while changing a bicycle tyre
A quick release lever allows easy removal of the front wheel while changing a bicycle tyre

Step 4- Release any remaining air from the inner tube

Physics helps to keep your bicycle tire in place while you're riding your bike. Your inner tube inflates and the aire pressure inside the inner tube holds your tire in place due to the hooked rims. Therefore you need to remove the air pressure from your inner tube to allow for removing your bicycle tire.

Simply remove any valve cap and press in the inside of the valve to release the air pressure from the inner tube.

Step 5- Removing a bicycle tire in photo's

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Your tyre lever should be inserted between the tire and hooked rim and point directly outwardsPull the tire lever down to unhook the tire bead and if possible hook the tire lever around a spokeRepeat the previous steps around 8-10cm further round the tireSlide the remaining tire lever between tire and rim to prize the bead away from the tire
Your tyre lever should be inserted between the tire and hooked rim and point directly outwards
Your tyre lever should be inserted between the tire and hooked rim and point directly outwards
Pull the tire lever down to unhook the tire bead and if possible hook the tire lever around a spoke
Pull the tire lever down to unhook the tire bead and if possible hook the tire lever around a spoke
Repeat the previous steps around 8-10cm further round the tire
Repeat the previous steps around 8-10cm further round the tire
Slide the remaining tire lever between tire and rim to prize the bead away from the tire
Slide the remaining tire lever between tire and rim to prize the bead away from the tire

Need some tire levers?

Sunlite Steel Tire Levers, 3-piece Set
Sunlite Steel Tire Levers, 3-piece Set

Simple low price steel tire levers to get those tyres removed with a minimum of fuss and effort

 

Step 5- Remove the tire from the rims with tire levers

Your bicycle tyre is hooked to your rims and you now effectively need to lift the wire or kevlar bead of the bicycle tire over the hooked lip of the rim.

Removing a bicycle tire

  1. Slide a tire lever between the rim and tyre so that the tire lever effectively protrudes vertically upwards from the rim.
  2. Pull the tire lever towards you in a downward circular motion (a bit like pulling a pint of ale in a bar).
  3. This will prise the bead away from the hooked section of the rim
  4. Most modern tire levers now allow you to 'hook' the tire lever around a spoke to hold it in place so you can keep your hands free.
  5. Follow steps 1 to 4 with another tyre lever around 5-10 cm further round the tire.
  6. The tire should now start to come free from the rim
  7. Slide the remaining tire lever around between rim and tire to unhook
  8. You should now be able to unhook the opposite side of the rim by sliding a tire lever between the tyre bead and rim
  9. You've now removed your bicycle tyre from the wheel rim and con proceed with the next phases to fit your new bicycle tire.

What to do once you've removed your old bicycle tyre and inner tube?

Check your rim and bicycle tire for signs of damage

Before you commence fitting a new bicycle tire and/ or inner tube it's always best to have a good thorough check of the state of your bicycle tire and rim.

Visibly and physically check your rim for any cracks large scratches to the rim surface and damage as additional braking pressure could further damage the rim and lead to a severe problems while you're riding- particular through rim blowout!

Check your bicycle cycle for visible signs of excess wear and cuts. Also run your hand around the inside of the tyre and feel for sharp objects which my have become stuck into the tyre carcass over time as these can cause further punctures.

A new set of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX road racing tires ready to fit to the bike.
A new set of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX road racing tires ready to fit to the bike. | Source

Step 7- Install a New Bicycle Tire or Inner Tube

1. Fit one bead of your bicycle tire to the rim with your hands. It's usually best to fit the opposite bead to the direction you're facing. If you're using direction specific tyres pay attention to any arrows on the tire sidewalls which direct the recommended tread flow.

2. This should allow you to ease a slightly inflated inner tube around the internal chamber of the tire and slide the valve extender of the inner tube down into position where there is a cut out section of the rim.

3. Using your hands work the loose end of the tire bead over the rim and into place secured by the hooked section of the rim. It's usually best to start close to the point of the inner tube valve. If you can complete this section of the task with your hands only you can use a tire lever. Levering it between the tyre bead and rim you can lift the bead over the rim and into place.

4. Your tire should now be fitted in place on the rim

5. Check between the edges of the tire and rim that no sections of inner tube are handing outside. These will lift the bicycle tyre off the rim if you inflate the tyre and must be addressed prior to inflation.

6. Using the guide tire pressure on the tire sidewalls inflate your inner tube using a hand or track pump.

7. Now you can slide your wheel back in place within the forks or rear dropouts and ensure you tighten the wheel nuts or quick release lever adequately to hold the bicycle wheel in place while riding.

Changing a bicycle tire; Schwalbe Durano tire fitted and ready to ride

Schwalbe Durano bicycle tire fitted to FSA Vision Trimax Road Wheelset
Schwalbe Durano bicycle tire fitted to FSA Vision Trimax Road Wheelset | Source

Considerations: When should you change a bicycle tyre?

  • For road cycling you should consider changing a bicycle tire once it has been ridden for around 2500 miles (4000 kilometres).
  • Usually you can tell that a road cycling tire is ready to be replaced when the tread begins to wear out and starts to flatten.
  • It is also ideal to replace a road tire if you get any large cuts to the carcass. Small cuts of a few milimetresshould not usually cause any problems, however any larger cuts to the tire can get forced open over time while riding at high tire pressures.

Comments

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    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Brenda12lynette- i've never heard of such clinic's however they must be definitely a good idea for the majority of cyclists to attend as it's amazing how little knowledge on basic bicycle maintenamce many people have. Thanks for your feedback. CF

    • brenda12lynette profile image

      brenda12lynette 

      6 years ago from Utah

      I was lucky enough to get to attend a clinic that taught me how to change flats a few year ago. This is definitely the next best thing!

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thank you rebecca for you feedback. Glad you think it will help people

    • Injured lamb profile image

      Injured lamb 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the sharing CyclingFitness, this reminds me those old days, well...twenty over years back when my father was still owning the bicycle shop, I was having all those chances to see my father and brother kept changing the new tyres and inner tubes for those customers everyday...time really flies, this could only stay in my memory after we moved into town...

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      6 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      What a great Do It Your Selfer! I'll bet lots of people will use this guide.Changing a bike tire requires direction and you do a great job providing it!

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks tirelesstraveller. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I'm sure most riders have flatted only to not remove the offending item- I know I have! Worst I had was my pump breaking on me on a cold wet December day 30 km from home and having to roll home on the rim!

      Sagan is an awesome rider and there must have been such a buzz as well for your town

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      6 years ago from California

      Good hub. Reminder to check the tire and rim after a flat would have been helpful a few weeks back. On a 65 mile ride flated. Freezing cold and raining changed the back tire only to have missed a shard of glass and flatted again. Delighted with your use of "prise" Excellent word not heard much in US.

      The AMGEN stage 3 ended in our town Tuesday.

      Bike racing is always exciting. Peter Sagan winning 4 stages was pretty impressive.

      I have had 7 flats this year so you would think I was a pro, but I still learned from your hub.

      Nice work.

    • CyclingFitness profile imageAUTHOR

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Thanks Dan. A long tour is always a good excuse to purchase some new tires and tubes. I'm was just about to fit some new tires this morning only to find that my track pump has died a death and I need a new one- It has given me ten years service and despite it's non human properties will be sorely missed as i've relied upon it for so long!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Useful Hub, I usually end of changing or patching my tubes alongside of the road as cars whiz by. I'm getting ready for a long tour, so I just switched out the tubes and tires.

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