We’ve all been out for a ride that’s borderline heavenly; the weather’s pristine and everything seems to be perfect until BAM! You’re riding around on a deflated tire. The frustration is real, but you can learn quickly enough how to fix a flat e-bike tire.
While a serious flat may be the end of your ride that day, it doesn’t have to keep you off the trails for long. With proper preparation and a few simple steps, it’s only a matter of time before you can resume riding like nothing ever happened. The Electric Bike Report team has outlined simple step-by-step instructions for fixing a flat and getting back on the road.
Before you get started you’ll need
1. A replacement tube
2. Tire levers
3. A way to inflate the tube
4. A wrench (possibly)
Step One: Identify your tire/tube size.
First thing is first when it comes to fixing a flat e-bike tire: identify and buy the right tube size. Similar to humans, tires come in all shapes and sizes and have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to the way they perform. However, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters, and in this instance, it’s the tube.
By identifying the width and diameter on the outside of your tire it won’t take much time before you realize what tube you need for fixing your flat e-bike tire.
Tires typically will have a number on the outside that will say “26 x 3.0” or “700 x 32.” This is the size of tube you’ll want to search for, and it should be stated on the packaging of the tube itself.
You’ll also want to identify if you need a Presta, or Schrader valve on your new tube (also stated on tube packaging).
Presta valves are the tall, skinny valves typically found on road bikes and modern mountain bikes. These valves require the core to be unscrewed before letting air in or out and come with a locking nut.
Schrader valves are shorter, and thicker than Presta valves and are nearly identical to the ones you’d find on a car. These valves are typically more common than Presta valves are in the e-bike space.
Once you’ve purchased the appropriate replacement tube(s) you’re ready to move onto the next step.
Step Two: Remove the wheel
You’re going to need to remove the wheel in order to replace the old tube with the new one. There are a couple of different axle designs when it comes to the way your wheel is connected to the fork, or frame.
It’s more than likely you have one of the following: A quick release axle, a thru-axle, or a bolt on axle. All of these are easy to work with, and it doesn’t take a bike mechanic to figure out how to remove the wheel.
In our how-to video, I’m working with a bolt on axle where I loosen the nuts that are holding the wheel into place with a wrench. Conventionally speaking, quick release axles and thru axles are even easier to work with than bolt on axles.
With quick release axles all you have to do is undo the lever to loosen the connection between the fork, frame and axle before you can drop out the wheel. When dealing with a thru-axle all you’ll need is to turn it “lefty loosey” with its lever or an allen wrench that fits into the axle and then pull out the axle to drop the wheel.
If your wheel isn’t connected to your bike anymore, you’re off to a great start.
Step Three: Remove the tire and tube
If you have your trusty tire levers handy, removing the tire from the wheel shouldn’t be very hard at all.
Set the wheel up in a way where you can push the tire lever up underneath the tire bead; then push the lever around the edge of the rim until the tire bead is no longer on the inside of the rim.
Repeat the process on the other side of the wheel, the tire will likely be even easier to remove from the rim.
*For beginners this step may be hard to grasp if you aren’t familiar with tire levers, rims and tire beads. Reference our video at 3:00 to see what I’m talking about if you don’t fully understand.
At this point your tube will still be attached to the rim because of the valve dropping through the valve hole in the rim. Unscrew the valve cap (if you have one) and press the valve back up through the hole until the tube is disconnected from the wheel completely.
Again, if this seems forgein or confusing, reference the video for a visual demonstration of what I’m talking about.
Step Four: Check the inside of the tire for thorns
Your old tube popped for a reason, so it’s important to check the inside of your tire to make sure there isn’t still a thorn or nail poking through. You don’t want to have to fix a flat e-bike tire twice. Carefully run your hand along the inside of the tire to remove any debris that may still be in there, and watch out that you don’t poke yourself!
You can also reinflate the old tube to see where the puncture is, through some simple bike-detective work it will be easy to see if something punctured the tube, if it was a pinch flat, or if the tube split at the seam. By understanding what happened to the old tube you can better understand how to prevent the same thing happening with the new tube.
Puncture: Debris or terrain is sharp enough to pierce through the tire and stab the tube, releasing the tube’s air pressure.
Pinch Flat: The tube is not inflated enough, and it gets pinched between the tire and rim when riding.
Seam Split: Typically a manufacturing defect where the tube seam isn’t glued or stitched together properly, resulting in a blowout when riding or adding air to the tube
Blow Out: This one speaks for itself, and boy can it be loud!
Step Five: Put the tire back on the wheel (the right direction)
Once you’re done checking the inside of your tire is thorn free, it’s time to throw it back on the wheel. You’ll want to make sure that the tire is on in the correct direction too, if it’s on backwards it’s going to work but youre going to be rolling a lot slower than if it were on the right direction.
I find it’s easy to set the tire and wheel up on a workbench, so that you can easily work around the tire and wheel without much in the way.
Hold the tire upright and drop the rim into the bottom of the tire, once the rim is fully inside the tire you can start to press the bead of the tire onto the inside of the rim. This is basically the opposite of what you were doing in Step 3, and tire levers still may be useful if you struggle to press the tire all the way onto the inside of the wheel.
You’re only going to want one side of the tire mounted because you’re still going to need to put the tube inside the tire. Which leads me onto our next step.
Step Six: Putting the tube inside the tire
If you’ve made it this far, you’re getting close to being able to ride again. Take the tube out of its package and inflate it enough that it has a tubular shape to it, but not so much that it’s hard to the touch.
At this point you’ll put the tube inside the side of the tire you left off of the rim in Step 5, and press the valve down through the rims valve hole. Once the tube is inserted correctly inside the tire you can start to put the other side of the tire onto the rim.
It’s more than likely you’ll be able to push most of the tire onto the rim without tire levers, and I’d recommend doing as much of the tire as you can with your hands to avoid pinching the tube with the lever. Even when using your hands, be aware that pinching the tube between the rim and tire can happen.
Once both sides of the tire are on the rim, check both sides to make sure that they are mounted properly and there isn’t any tube sticking out. If everything is looking good it’s time to move onto the final step.
Step Seven: PSI, Inflating the tire, and putting the wheel back on
First off, great job making it this far. Before you know it you’ll be repairing flats quickly, and without having to reference the steps i’ve listed for you.
On the side of the tire it will most likely say the PSI range the tire will use. For example, in my video tutorial the side of the tire says 5-30 PSI. In short, that’s the pressure range for how much air that tire will hold.
You should base your tire pressure off of a couple of variables.
Rider weight is the main variant that changes from rider to rider, and the heavier the rider the more pressure you’ll want to have in the tire to avoid pinch flats.
The more pressure a tire has the more likely it is to hold its form under stress too. Keep in mind that 20PSI won’t perform the same for a 100lb rider as a 200lb rider.
Your tire pressure will vary depending on the terrain you prefer. If you are strictly an on road rider, you’ll want to have a higher tire pressure for maximum rolling speeds and more puncture resistance to roadside debris.
If you like to ride on gravel and dirt roads you’ll want to inflate your tires to a pressure that allows the tire to mold to the surface it’s riding over for maximum traction. Keep in mind, the lower pressure you have the more prone your tubes become to pinch flats.
I’ve found starting at a higher pressure and slowly letting air out of the tube mid ride is a great way to dial in the right tire pressure for me.
You can learn alot from your past experiences getting flat tires. I like to think about if there are any consistent variables between the flat tires I’ve received.
If I were to consistently notice a slow leak in my rear tire after a road ride, chances are the tube was punctured by something minor on the road. By knowing this, I know to run a higher pressure in the rear tire next time I ride.
Now that you’ve inflated your tire to the appropriate pressure, it’s time to put the wheel back onto the bike and get riding again. Make sure that your axle is tight, and that the wheel is spinning smoothly before riding.
If everything looks, and feels like it did prior to your flat, it’s a good sign that you’ve successfully repaired your flat e-bike tire. Congratulations! And here’s to no flats in the future.
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