How to fix a bicycle puncture

This is an essential skill for any cyclist. If you've got a punctured tube, don't bin it, fix it

Clock10:00, Wednesday 6th September 2023

If you've got a bicycle inner tube that's not holding air, here's how to fix it. You can always replace an inner tube with a new one, but repairing your own is quick and easy, and it'll save you buying a new one. Better for the planet and better for your pocket.

Read more: How to change a tyre

This tutorial uses a puncture repair kit, which you can pick up for very little in any bike shop. When you go riding, we'd suggest taking a new tube with you as well. Fixing punctures is easy, but it takes a few minutes. Replace your tube with a new one while you're by the side of the road, and fix the old one once you're in the comfort of your own home.

Tools Needed

When removing the rear wheel, pull the derailleur out of the way

Step 1

Remove the wheel

The first thing you need to do is remove the wheel from your bike and ensure the tyre is fully deflated. If you struggle with removing the rear wheel, shift into the smallest sprocket at the back and pivot the rear derailleur backwards to aid removal.

Learn more: How to remove and replace your bike wheel [link]

Push the bead off the rim bed and into the central channel

Step 2

Unseat the tyre bead

Using your hands, push the entire bead of one side of the tyre off the rim into the central wheel well. This may require some force, especially with modern tyres.

Lever the bead off the rim with a tyre lever

Step 3

Take off the tyre bead on one side

Take one tyre lever and place it underneath the loose bead of the tyre. Lever the tyre up and over the edge of the wheel rim. Slide the tyre lever to one side to remove the rest of the tyre bead from the rim. If the tyre is tight, use a second tyre lever in the same manner to release the tyre bead completely.

Remove the tube, finishing at the valve

Step 4

Remove the inner tube

Pull out the old tube and remove the valve. If your valve has a nut holding it in place, you'll have to remove that first.

Run your fingers around the tyre with care

Step 5

Inspect the tyre

Carefully inspect the tyre to ensure that the object that caused the puncture is not still inside. Slide your hand gently around the inner surface of the tyre. If you find any large cuts or holes in the tyre, it will likely need replacing. Small thorn holes or tiny cuts from small stones are usually okay. If you're unsure about a small hole, you can put a little bit of tape over the inside or patch the inside of the tyre using the same process you'll use on the inner tube.

Top Tip

Be careful with this step – a thorn or sharp object lodged in the tyre can easily cut your finger if you're rushing.

Listen carefully to find the hole

Step 6

Locate the puncture and prepare the inner tube

With the inner tube removed, pump it up to locate the puncture. Listen carefully for the hiss of air escaping. Once you've found the hole, either keep your finger on it or mark it, then deflate the tube.

Top Tip

If you've got a slow puncture and you can't hear the air escaping, submerge the tube in water and see where the bubbles are coming from.

Make sure you wait long enough for the glue to dry

Step 7

Roughen the tube and apply the glue

Scuff up an area larger than the size of the patch with the included abrasive paper. Apply a thin layer of vulcanising solution to an area larger than the patch size and allow it to dry for a minute or so.

Apply the patch and press down firmly

Step 8

Apply the patch

Peel off the foil backing from the patch. Once the vulcanising solution has become dry and sticky, press the patch centrally over the puncture. Press down firmly to ensure full contact with the inner tube, and continue to apply pressure for a minute. Carefully peel off the top protective cover, ensuring the patch remains in place.

Top Tip

The most common mistake people make when repairing an inner tube is applying the patch too soon. Be patient – the vulcanising solution has to be dry and sticky to work.

Push the tube into the tyre and rim

Step 9

Refit the inner tube

With the patch in place, it's time to reinstall the inner tube into the tyre. Start by inserting the valve through the valve hole in the rim. Work your way around, starting and finishing at the valve.

Top Tip

Before inserting the tube, pump it up just enough to give it a bit of shape. It'll make it easier to install and reduce the chances of pinching the tube between the rim and tyre.

Check the tube isn't trapped under the tyre bead

Step 10

Check and inflate

Ensure the inner tube is properly fitted inside the tyre, and not caught between the tyre bead or rim. Inflate the tyre to your normal pressure using a pump. Remember that front and rear tyres may have different pressures.

Install the wheel back onto your bike, and give it a quick spin to check that the tyre is seated correctly. If there are bulges or irregularities in the tyre, it's not seated correctly. To resolve this, add in more pressure until it pops into place, then let the air out and bring the tyre back to the correct pressure.

Getting the last bit over the rim can be tough

Step 11

Refit the tyre

With just your thumbs, push the tyre bead back onto the rim. Getting the final bit over can be tricky, so to make it easier, work the bead around the rim to give yourself as much excess as possible.

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