Road Bike Inner Tube Replacement

Last weekend while I was out enjoying Seattle’s beautiful weather, speeding down hills on my road bike, I had the inevitable misfortune of getting a flat tire. So, this week, for the first time in my life (at age 30!), I set out to learn how to change my bike tire.

There is certainly an abundance of tutorials for how to change your bike tire and inner tube, so I do not intend to reiterate existing material. Rather, I wanted to highlight some of the questions I had and share the answers I discovered in the hopes that, if you’re doing this for the first time, too, I may just save you a little bit of time.

I referred to the following two tutorials while changing my inner tube:

  1. Replacing bike tire and tube at Instructables.com
  2. Replacing bicycle tire at WikiHow.com

What tube should I buy?

The following factors are important in choosing a tube:

  1. Size (more on that later)
  2. Valve type – presta vs. schrader. I assume if you own a bike pump, you’ve already figured out the difference. Schrader is the type on my car, Presta was engineered to facilitate pumping tires to higher pressures and is the one I have on my bike.
  3. Valve length – based on the depth of your wheel. Unless you’ve got crazy deep rims, I expect 42mm is sufficient.

Tube Size

Bike Tire

The size of the tube you need depends on the size of your tire. You can find the tire size listed somewhere on the sidewall, just as you would on your car. As is depicted above, my tires indicate 700x25c, so I found a tube that fits tires size 20-25. According to customer input on Amazon, it’s preferable to buy a tube whose range is smaller rather than larger (i.e. 20-25 would be preferable to 25-32).

Of course, as with anything I buy from Amazon, I take a look at the customer reviews to make a final decision between competing options. There wasn’t an obvious choice, so I just ended up purchasing the Continental 42mm Presta Valve Tube, size 700 x 20-25.

Do I need to replace the tire too?

The general guidance as to whether your tire must be replaced seems to be based on the wear on your current tire. If you can see the threads in the tire, or if there are a lot of nicks in the rubber, it seems it would be time to change it. I decided not to change my tire; I had only about 600-700 miles on it, and it didn’t seem to be worn significantly, nor was there much damage to it. After removing it, I inspected it from the inside and concluded that I made the right decision. Once I need new tires, I intend to take a closer look at the Continental GatorSkin DuraSkin Tire, which appears to last a long time and protect the tube quite well.

Removing the tire

I found removing the tire to be the most difficult part of the job. One of the tutorials suggests using a screwdriver; I prefer to avoid using tools that have the opportunity to inflict permanent damage. (Same goes for removing those panels in the car interior). Plus, I already had two types of bike tire levers on hand.

The method I used was the two lever approach. I inserted the first lever and used its “hook” to attach it to one of the spokes and hold it in place.

The "other end" of the lever has a hook you can use to attach to one of your spokes.

I tried using another of these same levers, but I either had too much difficulty getting it underneath the tire, or else I could not slide it along the rim. I found the lever on the Topeak Alien II to have a slightly slimmer edge that was more effective at prying the tire from the rim.

Compare the two levers; the second is the Topeak.

Bike Tire Lever

Topeak Alien II Bike Tire Lever

Best wishes on your repair, and happy riding!

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