Bike tires go flat is something you are bound to see quite a lot when you are cyclists – but it does not make it less irritating when that thing happens in the middle of nowhere. Under circumstances, when the tires are severely damaged, your bike may need its tubes changed.
However, not everyone knows how to change bike tubes properly, and there are even mistakes occurring in the process of doing so. It’s nothing complicated and is a basic skill that all bike riders should know, so lets us tip you a bit on how to do it the right way.
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The Structure Of Bike Tube
Bike tubes are the internal part of bike wheels, and each of the tires has one of them. There are many sizes and types of bike tubes, and the materials for these components may also vary. However, regarding the anatomy of inner tubes, there are a lot of similarities in all categories.
As you know, bike wheels include tires, inner tubes, wheels, and rim strips. While the tires are the outer casing part of the wheels, often attached to the rim, bike tubes are covered in that case.
Bike tires are often made from hard rubber, but inner tubes’ materials are much softer and pliable, allowing expansion to store air inside them. Through the air valve, you can pump air into the bike tube and deflate it through that channel too.
The inner tubes may look much bigger than their case, the tires themselves, but actually, even when expanded, they can not be blown larger than the tires. So the inner tubes will always fit in the bike tires.
The Roles Of Bike Tube
The bike tube is an indispensable part of a bike, though its role is quite simple: to contain air and thus give shape to the bike tire. As you pump more air into the inner tube or the air pressure is higher, your bikes will have a better capacity.
Therefore, if you have a heavy total load, including bike parts, rider’s weight, and belongings, the air pressure in the bike tubes has to be high enough to withstand that.
The bike tires are not completely airtight, so the function of the inner tubes is to seal all the air inside. It’s natural for the air to leak a bit over time, but if your bike tires get deflated too much, it’s time for a new pair of bike tubes.
Tools Needed For Bike Tube Replacement
You can not single-handedly change a bike tube without the assistance of tools, since it’s impossible to get the inner tube out of the tires with no tool in the first place. There is a wide range of bike fixing tools, but for bike tube replacement, these are the things to prepare:
In case of a minor fault or small crack, replacing a whole new inner tube may not be necessary. If the inner tubes are still good to go for quite a few miles, you just need to do some patchwork.
A small puncture can be fixed with the patch kit. You just need to get the inner tube out of the rim, do some air check to find out where the puncture is, and patch it up. It’s cheaper and easier compared to changing the whole bike tube. It even can be done without removing the wheel.
Spare Bike Tube
New bike tubes are not exactly tools for the replacement, but it is needed to install in. There are various models and sizes to bike tubes, so it’s better that you check out all the figures needed before purchasing the replacement. It’s also recommended that you keep one or two spare ones in your garage.
Tire levers are the basic tools to repair a tube, whether you want to patch it up or change it into a new one. They help you to take the bike tire away from the rim and give access to the inner tubes.
Normally, the tires fit tight and hard on the rim, so without tire levers and with bare hands only, you can not pry it off completely. Tire levers help you to do it quicker and effortless.
It is common knowledge that you have to deflate your bike tubes when to remove and install them in the bike tires. It’s obvious that tires without air can not run on the road, so you need a bike pump to inject the air back into the tubes.
Bike pumps can be small hand pumps, normal size pumps, and automatic pumps. Depending on the frequency of inflation, you can choose the type that suits you most.
Multi-tools can come in handy in a lot of situations, not only in changing bicycle tubes. They have a compact form and size, quite suitable for carrying along the ride. They can consist of wrenches, a chain tool, and screwdrivers.
Steps For Bike Tube Replacement
For the process of changing inner tubes, it seems to be complicated, but when breaking down, it’s easier to follow than you may think. These are the steps that you need to do to replace bike tubes, and may without removing the wheel:
First thing first, you must have all the air in your bike tires out. For bicycle tubes with Presta, you can loosen the cap of the valves slightly, then push it down to release the air. For bike tires with Schrader valves, you just simply press the center part of the valve to deflate all the air out.
Loosen The Tires
Thoroughly squeeze the tires to unseat them. This will make slack that helps the tires to fall off quicker from the rim. You must push it inward from both sides and throughout the wheels.
Remove The Tires
Next, things can go into two directions: if the tires are loose-fitted types, you can take it off with bare hands, but if it is tight-fitted, you may need the help of tire levers.
If the tires go off from the rim at ease, you need to separate and collect them. You just need to push them off the rim with your thumbs and as much force as possible. Take your time, this stage can be quite slow and laborious.
On the other hand, if the tires seem too hard to be pushed off by hands, use tire levers. Place the lever along the rim, and use it to pry the tire off. Be careful not to let the lever touch the inner tubes or it may create a hole you will have to patch up later.
The movement should be pressing down and hooking up the tires so that you will create slack to push the tires away from the bike rim. One lever may not be enough, when the bike tires are too hard to unseat, you can use a second one to assist.
Inner Tube Removal
Now all the tires are wide open, you can take off the inner tube easily. Collect the tubes carefully from inside the tires, and when it comes to the valves, give them a push so they would fall out from the hole. Now you have a full view of the bike tubes.
Check And Repair Tube
Inspect the bike tube carefully to see any damage or puncture that may exist. In many cases, you can find sharp rocks, nails, or thorns clinging onto the tube, causing deflation. Remove them and mark the place so you can do the patchwork later.
You can learn how to patch up the tubes here:
Some of the cracks and flaws are too small or unnoticeable, so you can do a simple trick to check it out. Inflate the inner tubes through valves and bike pumps, and prepare a bucket of water.
Gently push the inner tube, part by part into the bucket, wait a bit for the water to calm down. If you see air bubbles floating from one area of the inner tubes, that’s where the cracks are.
If you just need to repair the tube, you don’t need to take off the wheel – just slide the tube back and repeat the process vice versa. However, if you intend to change to a new bike tube, you will have to take the wheels off.
To do this, you need to screw off the bolts on both sides of the wheels, pull off the chain and gear. This may be easier to do if you flip on the bike.
Insert New Bike Tube
Collect the old tubes from the wheel, and put them away. insert the new one into the bike tire bit by bit, and remember to fit the valves into the hole where they should be.
Giving the inner tubes a bit of air will make the step a piece of cake since it takes a soft shape and can be manipulated better. You should be extra careful not to twist or jam the tubes back into the tires to avoid damage.
Re-Fit The Bike Tires
Now you just need to push the tires back into the rim. The movement should be similar to what you have done to take off the bike tires. If the bike tires are tight-fitted, use the tire levers to do this. Sliding the tires back should be fast and effortless with the tire levers.
Screw The Wheels Back
In case you have already taken off the wheel, you need to put them back. Remember to place the gears and chains properly before tightening the bolts.
Inflation And Last Inspection
Now use your bike pump and inflate the bike tires till they reach the right pressure. You can go for a drive to see if the bike tubes are working well, and there is any problem with the wheels. If nothing seems strange, they are good to go.
If you need some illustration for the steps, let’s check this video out:
Important Tips For An Easy Bike Tube Change
To make the bike tube changing efficient and time-saving, you need to understand the tubes well. There are three things that you need to know: tube valves, tube sizes, and materials.
To replace your inner tubes correctly, you must have the new one in the same size or compatible with the old one. Differences in size may cause a problem for the wheels and the bikes in general.
The two most popular types of bike tube valves are Presta and Schrader. Presta valves are the screw-in one, small and narrow. Schrader valves are much larger and resemble the car tire valves.
The valve holes for these two types are different in diameter, so they can not be inter-replaceable. Therefore, you must purchase the new tubes with the same valve type as the old ones.
The cost of the inner tubes is decided largely based on their materials. The cheapest one will be the butyl rubber tubes. Next is the lightweight version of this rubber, which reduces the total weight on the bike but increases the chances of getting punctured.
The most expensive, lightweight, and fastest inner tubes will be the latex ones. However, they can not hold the air too well, so you will see deflation frequently.
For inner tubes selection, this will be helpful for you:
How do you install a Presta valve on a bike tube?
You can screw off the cap, the lock ring, and the valve tip, then insert the valve into the hole and screw it back tightly.
In short, how can I put a bike tube into a bike?
You need to deflate the tires, pry them off, loosen the wheels off and put the inner tube into the tires. Then put back everything on.
How many sizes of bike tubes?
There are numerous sizes of bike tubes
Is a 28-inch bike tube similar to a 700C bike tube?
No, they are not the same size.