How to remove and install a bike tube and tire

Bikewagon - BWCC

Once you learn this skill, flat tires won't be such a daunting task. It is very simple as long as you have the right tools and the proper technique.

Tools you'll need for the job:

  • Tire levers
  • Bike pump or CO2 inflator
  • New inner tube and/or tire

Removing the old tire and inner tube

Firstly, remove the wheel from your bike. Then, nature usually does the second step for you, which is to deflate the tire completely. Once you have done these two steps, it's time to get down to business.

Use your lever to start removing half of the tire's bead (the part that touches the inside of the rim on both sides is the bead). To do this, you need to use the end of the lever that is hooked to get under the edge of the bead. Use the lever to peel the bead over the edge of the rim. Once you have it over the rim, slide the lever along the rim to continue peeling the bead off one side of the rim. Always start peeling the bead off at the valve stem!

Now that you have half of the tire off the rim, you can easily pull the tube out. You can either chuck the tube, or find the hole and patch it. Next, check the inside of the tire for the object that punctured your tube. It is very common that you will find a thorn or piece of glass still embedded in your tire. To do this, take a rag, or carefully run your thumb along the inside of the tire where your tube touches it. While you're doing this, you can also inspect the outside tread of the tire to check for cuts. If you feel anything but smoothness, take a razor blade, awl or fingernail and remove the obtrusion.

Installing the new tube and tire

So, we got a flat, figured out what caused the flat, now we need to replace the tube and be on our way. The best way to do this is to blow a tiny bit of air into the tube to give it shape before putting back into your tire. Start by putting the valve through the valve hole and work your way around, stuffing the lightly inflated tube back into the tire and rim. Once it's all the way in there, start at the OPPOSITE SIDE from the valve and begin putting the bead back onto the rim with your hands. By starting at the opposite side of the valve, it will give you a tiny bit more room to get the last part of the bead over the rim, making life a little easier. So, work your way around the rim setting the bead back onto it. I like to use both hands working in opposite directions from each other. When it gets hard to put the bead on, deflate the rest of the air from your lightly inflated tube.

Now, the hardest part is the last bit. Some tire and rim combinations are worse than others, but most of the time you can do this with your hands. You will find that the last part of the tire's bead is the tightest. It is best if you can do this with your hands, but if necessity presents itself, carefully use the tire lever. The reason it is bad to use the tire lever is because you run the risk of pinching, and puncturing your new tube… So, grab the tire and tube and use your thumbs to lift the bead over the last bit of the rim. It might take a little bit of grunting, but 90% of the time this can be done with your hands.

Re-inflating your tire

You've done a great job so far, but you're not quite done! The next couple of steps are important so that you don’t cause your tube to explode in your face!

Once your tire is completely back on your rim it is time to pump it up. If you are using a CO2 inflator to do this, pay close attention! First, you want to push the stem into the tire to prevent the tube from being pinched under the bead of the tire. Then, add a little bit of air to your tube to give the tire shape. I usually put about 20-30 psi in the tire. Now, pick the tire up and spin it in your hand while holding the hub. Inspect the edge of the tire to make sure that the bead is "seated" against the rim evenly around the whole wheel. If it isn't, you will either see a bulge or a depression of the tire against the rim. Use your hands to either pull these depressions out, or push the bead down into the rim. This should be easily done with 20-30 psi in the tube. This is also another good time to look for any big cuts in the tire as the tube will be bulging if there is a cut. Once you're done inspecting, and everything looks good, it is safe to continue pumping your tire up to the specified psi, install the wheel on your bike, and continue on your way!

With a little bit of practice, this whole process can be done in about 10 minutes. With a lot of practice, you can do it in the rain in 5 minutes!

by Nathan Moulton

Nathan is the content manager at Bikewagon. He has written or edited product descriptions for thousands (probably tens of thousands!) of bike parts and accessories. Nathan joined the BWCC faculty in 2008.