Flat tires can and do happen on bicycle rides. Before you leave on your self-guided bike tour, you should be aware of how to remedy this situation by yourself without help. Don’t worry – it's easy! If you don't know how, we encourage you to stop by your local bike shop and ask for a quick lesson (making sure to buy some great gear for your tour while you're there!). Try your hand at it a few times before you leave.
When you receive your rental bike at the start of your tour, make sure the tires are pumped up and holding air and that the bike has come with a repair kit, spare tire and pump. If your tour has an orientation, ask the tour representative to go over your bike and equipment.
And, if you feel you'll never be comfortable fixing a flat, ride with someone who is, or sign up for a guided tour (since the guide is responsible for all fixes!).
These step-by-step instructions (courtesy of our colleagues at Discover France) will give you an overview (or print them to take on the trip with you).
- If you have a low tire, pump it up. For example, if in the morning you notice a small loss of air, pump up the tire. If you keep the recommended pressure in the tire during your ride, it is probably nothing to worry about.
- If you puncture while on a ride, your tube will go flat very quickly. (Note: all rental bike tires have tubes and come with repair kits and essential tools.) In this case you will need to fix the puncture or replace the tube.
- Drop the wheel out of its “dropouts” by opening the quick release. (Some bikes may have a nut to be loosened.) Before opening the quick release, make sure you open the brakes by lifting off the cable, or pushing up the lever. For rear wheels you may turn the bike over, but do keep the chain and derailleur out of the dirt.
- Let the balance of air out of the tube at the stem valve. Then go to the opposite side of the tire and use your levers to lift off the tire from inside the rim. You only need lift off one side (bead). Once started, you can get the rest by hand. You can then pull the tube out of the tire.
- TIP: On the road, put in a new tube and keep going. You can find and fix the puncture at leisure when you arrive at your hotel.
- If the puncture point is obvious, you may want to scan the tire for the “offender” if it is still in the tire.
- To repair a puncture: clean the area well, and then using the sand paper from the kit, “rough up the surface around the puncture”. Spread an even layer of glue over the puncture area and allow it to dry. You may want to apply a second layer – its up to you. Make sure it is dry. Then apply a patch of sufficient size to cover the puncture and make full contact with the glue. Smooth it down with your thumb or tire lever.
- Apply a little air to the tube and ensure its holding, and reinsert the tube into the tire, ensuring that it is flat, straight, and subject to be pinched between tire and rim. Once in, deflate and then work the tire bead back onto the rim starting at the valve. Try to use hands only to get the tire back on to avoid damage to the tube.
- Once on, go around the rim a few times pinching and squeezing the tire to ensure the tube is well seated and all is in place. Pump the tube about 30% and then check again that all is in order, valve straight, and then finish pumping. Take note of the recommended pressure on the side of the tire. NOTE: Wider tires take less pressure than thinner tires because they have more surface area.
- Reinstall the wheel in the dropouts. Make sure that before you tighten down the quick release that your wheel is not rubbing against one of the brake pads, but is straight in the middle of the breaks – after you apply them for a test. Note: A well-patched tube is just as good as new. However, wet tubes, wet glue, and poorly applied patches will not hold. For you visual learners, here's a good video overview created by Intown Bicycles of Atlanta.
In the event of major breakdowns during a self-guided bike tour, call the tour operator for instructions on getting to the next town or bike repair shop.