I am ashamed to admit that up until now, I have not known how to change a flat on my bike. I would head off on rides hoping that either I did not flat, could call someone to come get me if I did, or rely on the other people I am riding with to know how to change it for me. Fortunately, I have yet to experience a flat when riding (knock on wood), but I know it's inevitable. Therefore, I should know how to change a flat tire by myself.
As luck would have it, I received an email from Studio Velo Women saying they were hosting a women's evening on basic bike maintenance. We would learn to not only change a flat, but about everyday maintenance tips for before and after your ride. I jumped at this chance to learn hands on from some local cycling professionals and in an less testosterone fueled environment that sometimes the world of cycling can promote.
To start us off, Josh, together with his canine sidekick Charlie, took us through his pre-ride checklist. The following are some pointers I picked up from our lesson, though I am sure there are plenty of cyclists out there with their own preferred checklist (I would love to hear about them in the comments!).
1. When resting your bike up against something or placing it in a bike rack, always use the rear wheel and face the handlebars so that the center of gravity is pulling away from the drivetrain side. You never want your bike to fall over on the drivetrain.
2. Starting with the front wheel, check the air pressure by hand. If it feels low, add air. You generally want your tire inflated to around 100 psi – 10 psi lower if it is rainy out or the road is bad, or you can even go 10 psi higher on a hot and dry day. Wiggle the front wheel to make sure there is no play in the front hub.
3. Open the quick release and close it again to ensure the front wheel is centered properly.
4. Spin the wheel to see that it spins freely through the brake, with no sand, dirt, etc.
5. Pull the front brake, then to ensure everything is ok with the stem and the front fork, give a little push on the hoods and bottom bars, with a little side hip check to the handlebars.
6. Wiggle the saddle to make sure it is on tight.
7. Repeat steps 2-4 on the rear wheel.
You should pretty much always lube your chain before heading out on your ride. Put your bike in a low gear first. Always lube over the top of the back cassette so you don't spill on the braking surface of your wheel. The lube should go between the links- it is absolutely useless on the outside of the chain. While spinning your pedals, lube in between the links of your chain, running through the length of the chain about twice. This time with a rag, go through again to wipe off all the excess lube.
You should ideally lube your chain when you return home from your ride as well in order to clean off all the gunk that has accumulated. When storing your bike, put it in the lowest gear to prevent the rear derailleur from stretching.
As there are about as many How To Change A Flat Tire videos on YouTube as there are cat videos, mine probably isn't going to offer anything you can't already find. Again, everyone has their own little tricks and techniques. The video is more to show you what I learned from my night at Studio Velo Women, and that I am now able to change my own flat. I am by no means Speedy Gonzales, but at least I am becoming a more self reliant cyclist.
This means there is absolutely no reason that you too can't learn how to change your own flat. I recommend practicing in the garage a few times, so you become familiar and more comfortable with all the steps, rather than waiting until you are stuck on the side of the road somewhere. Go give it a shot!