You are only 10 kilometers from home at the end of a long ride and already dreaming of pancakes with maple syrup when it starts to rain.
The group tries to pick up the pace, but everyone is feeling the fatigue of being in the saddle for so long. At the bottom of the last hill you hear it: the sudden hiss of escaping air. Your speed immediately drops off. As you come to a complete stop, you dismally look down at your now (probably rear) flat tire.
If you ride a bike, at some point you will get a flat. If you haven’t yet, count yourself lucky and hopefully I haven’t jinxed you.
If you have never changed a flat, you probably complete every ride with your fingers crossed and carry a credit card in your back pocket. But there is no need to cut your ride short for such a small inconvenience.
Changing a clincher tire is quick and simple to do, but for some reason most new riders have a mental block about actually taking the time to learn how to do it.
If you are unsure what type of tire you have, it’s probably a clincher, which includes a tire and tube. By contrast, tubular tires are glued on the rim and do not require a tube.
There are pros and cons to both types of tires, but if you are training long distances and aren’t planning on racing for a gold medal, I recommend riding clinchers.
If you still haven’t changed a flat on your own, now is the time to add learning and practising this skill to your workout schedule.
There are three ways you can learn how to change a flat. You can watch several “how to” videos on YouTube. You can sign up for a course at most bike shops. Or you can take your best bike buddy out for dinner and have her teach you.
Whichever way you choose, I recommend practising on your own until you’re confident you can remember how to do it when the rest of your cycling group is breathing down your neck, standing in the pouring rain and waiting for your new-found skills to present themselves.
Before you get started, you’ll need a few inexpensive tools that you should carry with you on every ride.
You will need: two tire levers to help lift the tire off of the rim and then put it back on again; a new tube or a patch kit; and lastly, a small hand pump and/or a CO2 cartridge with an adaptor to re-inflate the new tube.
A CO2 cartridge is a small cylinder about the size of your thumb that holds compressed carbon dioxide gas. The upside to the cylinders is that they take only seconds to inflate your tire to high pressure. The downside, is that they are not environmentally friendly and are only used once, meaning most cyclists also carry a small hand pump -- just in case.
Depending on the quality of your hand pump, you may find it difficult to inflate a tire to your desired pressure, which should be between 100 to 110 PSI (pressure per square inch) for your road bike.
When you practise changing your tire, also practise using your hand pump or CO2 cartridge at least once because neither is of any benefit to you if you don’t know how it works.
Now that you have practised in your living room a few times, here are few pointers you’ll need to know the next time you’re changing a flat out on the road.
1. After removing the tube, check the inside and outside of the tire for the glass, tack, nail or other sharp shard that caused your flat. These need to removed so they don’t puncture your new tube.
2. Once you have placed the tire back on the rim, check between the rim and the tire to make sure you haven’t pinched the tube between them.
3. Pack up your old tube. Recycle it or patch it so you can use it again.
Kristina Bangma is a coach, personal trainer and writer with a love of riding and racing. Email her at email@example.com.