The Way of the Innertube - aka - How to fix a flat tire with your shoelace

When it comes to fixing a flat tire I suggest first contemplating your philosophy towards life. The theory of the flat tire is simple, the reality can be maddening to the unprepared. Yet, there are many paths to your goal.  In this article I hope to guide your journey and help you to learn The Way.

This article is a complete guide to flat tire repair for anyone from the beginners to experts.  There is no 'one size fits all' method here, instead I have brought together a wide range of best practices and some ideas to help you decide what is best for you.  Even if you already know how to fix a flat, there is much here for you:
  • How to fix a flat tire - the standard method - videos
  • How to fix a flat tire - with only a smile
  • Understanding how flats happen on real bikes, not brand new $3,000 bikes.
  • How to remove a tire without levers
  • How to patch a tire without patches
  • How to inflate a tire without a pump
  • How to check tire pressure without a gauge
  • How to fix a rim without rim tape

This article is sponsored by Momentum Magazine and MonkeyLectric.  An edited version of the article appears in Momentum Issue 49

Step 1: The Responsible Rider

The Responsible Rider – this upstanding member of society believes in full preparedness at all times. They know how to fix a flat tire and always carry their Trusty Toolkit. For the budding Responsible Rider – follow the 3 handy steps below. For the rest of you, I suggest learning about the Responsible Rider and their Trusty Toolkit, then later we’ll see how other life philosophies might approach this challenge.

Becoming a Responsible Rider:

1. Around the web there are hundreds of videos and instructions about fixing flat tires written by Experts.  I spent about 5 hours weeding through the endless fuzzy, grainy, mumbling amateur videos so that you don't have to.  Here's the 5 best ones.

2. Always carry your Trusty Toolkit when biking. I recommend the following: 2 plastic tire levers, innertube patches, a mini-size pump and a bike multi-tool. Your bike shop can hook you up with all this stuff and it will fit easily into any backpack or handbag.

2b. You may prefer a spare innertube instead of patches – its bigger but you don’t have to spend any time finding holes in a popped tube. Carry patches even if you have a spare tube.

2c.  If you have an old or beat up bike, i'd also recommend a roll of fabric sports tape.  This can be used to repair flat-causing problems in the rim and the tire - both of which commonly cause flats on a junker bike. 

3. PRACTICE!!!  Practice changing your innertube and using patches a couple times at home before venturing out into the world beyond.  Use the videos above for help. Try both front and rear wheels. There is nuance to this process.  You don’t want to be figuring out what does and doesn’t work in a rainy bus stop late at night.

One good hint: if you use a bike with Presta valves (aka Roadbike valves aka French valves), be sure to always keep a Presta-Schr&auml;der (can be seen as a little brass hollow screw in the instruction) adapter on one of your valves during rides.<br>It will add just 1-3 frams to your wheel, but it will save you a lot of time trying to find a Presta-specific pump. You can just ask any nearby driver to lend you a tire cimpressor or a foot pump to refill your tire.
that quick release trick is pretty clever. I'll have to try the string patch before I'm sold. Have you ever heard of cutting the tube in half and tying it into knots on both ends... give it a try
NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!! Never, Ever use Fix a flat in your Bicycle Tire. The tube in the tire flexs way to much and will never let the gel/glue set. All you end up with is a Real mess, as a 10+ year bicycle mechanic I have had to repair more than a few flats where people thought they would try fix-a-flat. It smells very bad, hardens all over the rim and has to be sanded off (could cost more in labor time at bike shop). A better way to go would be ; http://www.notubes.com/ Check them out on u tube.
Your zen-like writing was very entertaining. One question, master: If a tire goes flat in an empty road and the pipes are too loud, does it make a sound?
Hey, is that zooey deschanel?
Gorilla high end duct tape makes a very good rim tape as it is adhesive, and can be easily torn lengthwise in long strips which are identical in width, and can be tweaked for any particular rim size.
and theres also a product made by vittoria called &quot;pit-stop&quot; which is like fix-a-flat but for bikes
pump challenge: do you consider c02 a pump?, and putting fix-a-flat in my brand new tubulars.... :eek:
if you can capture the co2 from a new soda bottle that sounds great. perhaps drop a mentos into it to get the co2 to come out fast. need to connect the nozzle to the innertube well, that seems to be the trick.<br><br> if you just want to buy a co2 inflator at a bike store, that isn't going to get us pumped up any easier than buying a regular inflator at a bike store.<br><br>
drill a hole inthe lid and expoxy some aquarium tubing in there and slide the other end of the tubing onto the valve (pray for presta), that might work
tieing a knot at the hole will get you home. its a bad ride but it beats walking. <br>
There is also some kind of repair milk, which seals small holes.
yes, there are a couple of products out there for reducing flats like &quot;slime&quot; which seals small holes, and tires like the Armadillo that are much more resistant in the first place.<br>
please dont use &quot;slime&quot; it makes bike mechanics sticky and angry, well more angry than usual
That is the second longest thumbnail that I've ever seen. I've tried to grow mine out like that but it drives me crazy when they start to get even close to that long and I always end up trimming them.
cover the filled innertube with duct tape. that way, it will be nearly impervious to begin with.
that will not work. i recommend trying your ideas first!
You can't really fill an innertube when it's out of the tire.
Deflate it before you put it in the wheel.
No man, I mean it will put a bulge in it. Innertubes kind of lack structural integrity. When you inflate it inside the tire it won't just inflate into a round donut, but will expand to fill in every nook and cranny. That's another reason you're idea wouldn't work. The duct tape would keep it from expanding properly.
i'm not sure if this is sexist or not...
helplessness and competence are sexless
Didn't expect an article on fixing a flat tyre to be so interesting! Great write up! <br><br>
good job <br>http://thetastroy.ru/
well just use two plastic bearings or any round sphere and make two gravity valves using a plastic pipe bout the size of the spere place one on each end of the soda bottle one on the input and one on the output or you could just use one valve one the output and close the other end of the tube with your finger when pumping
if your in desperate need of rim tape. a few loops around the rim with electrical tape works, very informative, abit more info on patches requiring rubber cement would be great and round out your ible very well, a great trick for old tires or tubes that kep getting mystery punchers from friction between the tune and tire call is to line the inside of the tire with baby powder. i've patched tubes with ducttape as well, works for a short time (long enough to get you home). yet i'm now running tubless so flats are a thing of the past! tubless isnt the best setup for most riders though i will admit.
the videos in the first step cover the basic glue-on method.<br><br>yes, i recommend putting baby powder in the tire if you are doing it at home, but this article was more focused on what to do when you are on the street. <br><br>

About This Instructable




Bio: Dan Goldwater is a co-founder of Instructables. Currently he operates MonkeyLectric where he develops revolutionary bike lighting products.
More by dan:Giant Xylophone made from Bed Slats Easy Mothers Day Fudge (with small child) Mosaic Tile Pixel Art Car 
Add instructable to: