As a bike rider you will eventually have to deal with a flat tire. You can take your bicycle to a bike shop and have the repair done, or you can learn to do it yourself and save time and money. Patching a bike tire is really not that hard, and works well when you do it right. Don't let people tell you that you can't get a good patch on a bike tire. It just takes a little knowledge and patience and you too can do a good patch job.

Patching a Bike Tire – Wheel Removal

It is possible to patch a bicycle tire with the tire still installed on the bike. However, it is much less frustrating to remove the wheel completely. Removing the wheel is a matter of loosening two bolts and pulling the wheel off. If you have quick-release skewers it is even easier. Just release the tensioning lever and the wheel is ready to pull off.

You will need to release the brakes before the wheel will come off. So, before you pull your brakes out of their position, look at the mechanics of it and figure out how to release the cable. Most of them you need to squeeze the two sides together and the cable will slip right off one side. If you need a bit more room to pull the cable off, you might be able to find some tensioning screws up near the brake levers.

The only time that pulling the whole wheel assembly off is not easier is if you have a lot of accessories attached to the axles. Fenders, baskets and racks can attach to the axle bolt causing a simple repair to take much more time. By not removing the wheel you are limiting your ability to completely check the tube for holes. If at all possible, remove the wheel.

Patching a Bike Tire – Tire and Tube Removal

Some tires are easier to remove and repair than others. Road cycling tires are difficult, mountain bike tires are usually easier and touring bikes are a mix between the two.

Remove all the air from the tire by removing the valve core, or by pressing the little stem inside the valve. If you have Presta valves, unscrew the safety lock and press the stem in.

To facilitate removing the tire (the rubber part that touches the road), use a pair of tire levers. These are plastic or metal levers that you can get at the same place you bought your patch kit. Use one to slide between the rim and the tire. You are trying to catch the bead of the tire and pull it over the rim. Levers have little hooks on them so you can hook them to a spoke to hold it in place. Use the other lever a few inches away from the first and pull more of the tire over the rim.

Never use screwdrivers to do the work of tire levers. Screwdrivers, or other similar objects, can pinch and puncture the tube. This will cause you to have to repair the tube in at least two places. Flat rounded objects can be used in place of tire levers, e.g., spoons.

Pull the tire off completely on one side. Pull the tube out of the tire and wheel assembly. Note that your tube's valve stem may have a nut on it to hold it in place. Unscrew the nut and finish removing the tire.

Patching a Bike Tire – Find the Hole

It may be immediately obvious where the hole is, but most of the time it is not. Pump air into the tube until it starts to look about the size, or a bit larger, than the tire normally looks. Turn the tube around your ear to see if you can hear the leak. If not, then try running the surface of the tire near your lips with your mouth slightly open. When air blows in, even if you don't feel it, it will make a noise. If either of these methods don't work, you can dip the tire in a tub of water to look for where the bubbles come out. Be sure you continue to check the whole tube and make sure you don't have more than one hole.

Mark the hole with a pen if it is not obvious. You are trying to keep track of the hole throughout the process by marking it every time the mark gets rubbed away.

Patching a Bike Tire – Scrape the Hole

Using a piece of sandpaper or a metal scraper, scrape the area of the hole several times to clean it of any oils or grease. Your skin contains oils that can cause the glue to not make a good bond. Try not to touch the area once you start cleaning it. If you dipped the tube in water to find the hole, you also need to make sure it is dry by this point.

Scraping a larger area than you think you need to is better than not scraping enough. Mark the hole again with your pen.

Patching a Bike Tire – Apply Glue

Apply a thin cap of glue to the area on the tire where the patch will go. While this should be a thin cap, it should be sufficient to cover the area. A little too much is better than not enough.

Pull the silver cover off of the patch. Be careful to not touch the patch with your fingers so that you don't get any skin oil on the patch. Spread another thin layer of glue on the patch.

Wait several minutes for the glue to dry. This may be the hardest part of applying a patch. You need to wait until the glue is dry to the touch. Because you don't want to touch the patch area, you can spread enough glue to give you a test area for seeing when the glue is ready. This step could take two to five minutes. Waiting longer is better than not waiting long enough.

Patching a Bike Tire – Apply the Patch

With the clear cover still on the patch, apply the patch to the patch area.

Using pressure, you want to rub the patch in an attempt to remove any air bubbles. You can use a spoon, or any smooth round surface to apply pressure and rub the patch. Apply as much pressure as possible to insure that all the air is removed from the center of the patch.

If this part is done right the clear cover on the patch should begin to release. If it is a good repair, the cover will release without pulling up any of the patch fringe. Be careful to keep the fringe from coming off with the cover. In fact, you don't even need to remove this cover if you don't want.

Patching a Bike Tire – Check Tire

Carefully run your fingers inside the tire to check for any sharp objects. Carefully! If the tube was punctured because of a thorn, then the thorn will probably still be in the tire. Remove any sharp object you find.

Patching a Bike Tire – Reassembly and Finish

Once the tire has checked out and been cleared of anything that can damage the tube, begin to reassemble the wheel. Placing half the tire into the rim before putting the tube in the tire is easier than placing the tube in the tire and then trying to fit it all onto the rim. You may need to use the tire levers to get the tire back on the rim.

Everything else goes back on in the opposite way that it came off.

Hopefully this has take some of the fear out of patching a bike tire. Some holes can't be patched, but most will work just fine with a patch. Stop throwing away money by buying a new tube every time you have a flat.