Dealing With Flats Pt 1: What to Bring

One of the most annoying things to deal with on a ride can be a flat tire. In the time it takes to assess the situation and fix it, you can completely disrupt the rhythm of your workout and throw you off for the remainder of the ride. Many cyclists though, especially those newer to the sport, don’t know how to fix a flat tire, or even know what all you need in order to fix it. When you flat mid ride, you can’t always count on a shop being nearby like you can commuting around a city. Often times, the closest bike shop can be 20 miles away, leaving you stranded and having to call for a ride home. These next couple posts will go over what all you need to fix a flat tire, and how to go about the repair.

Let’s first talk about what happens when you get a flat tire. There are two basic kinds of flats, a puncture and a pinch. A puncture is pretty much what it sounds like: an object pierces or slashes though the tire itself and then puts a hole in the inner tube. This can be a piece of glass, sharp rock, staple, pretty much anything sharp enough to cut through the rubber. The other type of flat is a pinch. These usually don’t involve any damage to the tire itself and are usually caused by either under inflating the tires or some kind of impact (think hopping off a curb). If there is too little air in the tube, some kind of impact can cause the tire to compress around the impact and put too much pressure in the other areas of the tire, causing a pop.

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Now that we know what happens when a tire suddenly goes flat, let’s talk about the tools we will need to take care of it and get you back on the road. Pictured above, I have played out what I usually carry in my flat kid. The first and most important thing you’ll need are your spare tubes (1). Make sure you know the size of your wheel and tire so you can make sure you aren’t carrying a 24″ tube for a 700c wheel. I like to carry two just in case I get two flats in the same ride (it does happen.) The next most important thing yo’ll need is a tire lever (3). This is the tool that is used to get the tire off the rim in order to replace the tube. Once you replace the bad tube, you’ll need some way to inflate it. The smallest and most efficient way to do this is with a CO2 inflation system (2&4). You can also carry a mini pump, but those can be cumbersome, slow and annoying to use. Most people carry CO2. If you have damage to your tire, such as a gash from a piece of metal or rock, you’ll need a patch or a boot (5). This is used to cover the hole so that the tube doesn’t get pinched when you inflate it. Most bike shops sell patches, but to be honest, a folded up piece of paper or a dollar bill works perfectly fine until you get home, at which point you’ll definitely want to replace the tire. Lastly, you’ll probably want something to carry all of this in. Most people stuff all of these things into a saddle bag (6) which goes underneath your seat. Sometimes these can be a tight fit for everything, but if you really stuff, it usually all fits (see picture bellow). If you ride in a jersey with back pockets, you can always through all this in there as well.

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With these few small items, you should be all set to repair your next flat on the road. If your not sure how to actually go about changing a flat, be sure to check out my other post with instructions!