How to Change a Bicycle Tube

February 5, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014

Changing a bicycle inner tube is an essential skill every cyclist should master, and this article aims at making the process as quick and easy as possible. 

Punctures can happen anywhere, which is why you should always carry a pump, a pair of spare tubes, 2 tyre-levers and a puncture-repair kit if you go beyond walking distance of home. Nails, screws, bits of wire and even thorns and splinters of glass can lurk anywhere, on or off our roads. Cycling across a broken bottle, for example, can puncture both tyres at once. Being able to change the tube quickly means you will be back in the saddle before you get cold.

First, start on a clean, dry pavement, and not on grass or near storm-drain covers: If you lose any tiny pieces like locking rings, the pavement shows them up straight away. Remove the brake calipers from their holders, and undo the quick-release to remove the wheel (the quick-release may need to be unscrewed a couple of turns). To remove the back wheel, run the chain onto the smallest sprocket (highest gear), and pull back the derailleur to remove the wheel.

To pop the tyre over the wheel rim, start opposite the valve. Insert the tyre levers under the bead of the tyre, about 10 to 15 cm apart. Then lever the bead of the tyre over the rim – it should pop off. Pull it off the rest of the way with the heel of your hand. The tyre is now half-on and half-off the wheel, exposing the tube. 

Unscrew the valve locking nut, and pull the tube out, valve first. Pump up the old tube to see if you can find the location of the puncture, and carefully inspect the inside of the tyre for thorns, glass etc. Do this very carefully, as thorns or splinters of glass can slash your fingertips in a second.

Remove the dust cap and locking ring, and partially inflate the new inner tube, just enough so that it holds its shape. Then insert the valve into the valve hole (don’t forget the locking nut!), and tuck the rest of the tube into the tyre, making sure it’s sitting properly. Then re-fit the tyre with your thumbs, starting at the valve and working your way around the wheel. Use the tyre levers to pop the last few cm of tyre bead over the rim. Be very careful putting in the tyre levers, and ensure that they are not touching the tube, so that the new tube is not pinched and damaged by the high leverage forces.

Making sure the tyre is seated properly on the rim and that no sections of tube are caught between tyre and rim, pump the tyre hard and re-fit the wheel to your bike, pulling back the derailleur to put in a back wheel. Replace the dust cap and ensure the wheel is positioned straight and true, then snap the quick-release levers closed before reattaching the brake caliper. Double-check that everything is tight before packing up your tools and pump. 

A quick test ride, and you’re off! Happy cycling!