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Lance: How To Fix A Flat… And I Actually Learned Something Worthwhile.


April 2014

Once in a while I run out of good stuff to write about.  Hey, you put out a minimum of one post a day for more than a couple of years and it can happen (1,418 posts and counting).  When I run into this wall I like to check out the cycling magazine websites for a topic – and if I’m lucky, I find a good one.  Like today.

When I change a tire, I’ve always completely removed the tire from the rim to check for pebbles, glass or metal stuck in the tire.  It never dawned on my that I don’t actually have to – so leave it up to Lance to show how it’s done (and Bicycling Magazine to write bring it to light – thanks Bicycling Magazine):

Another trick I liked was blowing into the presta valve to get the initial bit of air in the tube rather than hooking it up to the pump and then rolling the tire onto the rim (it’s that last foot that’s always a bear).

Finally, he shows proper disdain toward the black plastic twist-on cap…  “Don’t put this back on”.  Now, for those who don’t know the difference, I’ll get a little deeper into tubes than is probably necessary but you never know, this could be new.  First, the old Schrader valve (the same valve on your car tire) is notorious for leaking air – especially when you’re talking about the high pressures involved in road cycling.  This is why they came up with the Presta valve.  It has that tiny little nut on the stem that locks the post and seals the valve so it won’t leak air.  Now, when that nut is screwed down, the valve post presents a sharp point on which the tube can rub during shipping and while it’s sitting in your saddle bag/back pocket/cage keg waiting for you to get a flat.  This is why they put that plastic cap on it – so it won’t wear a hole in the tube before it’s installed.

Once the tire is on the bike, the cap no longer serves a purpose. Therefore, if you put that cap back on, you are not seen as an anti-cool/anti-establishment hippie. To put this gently, it’s as bad as showing up to a club ride with your tighty-whities sticking out of your cycling shorts.

One other piece to the tube packing that, usually, isn’t necessary is the little steel nut on the valve stem:
Many people use that little nut to secure the valve to the rim.  In the vast majority of cases, if you have the right length of valve stem, you can throw that right in the recycling bin – it’s absolutely useless unless you want to wear the paint off of your rim.  On purpose.  There is one scenario in which it could be useful:  When your valve stem is too short for the rim.  See, when you put the new tube in the tire (if you didn’t blow air into it in the first place), if the stem is too short for your rim, you won’t be able to get the pump nozzle to grab the valve stem.  That little nut will hold the stem up so you can get the pump nozzle to grab the stem.  Next time just make sure to get a tube with the proper length valve stem.



  1. saltyvelo says:

    I also like to line up some markings on my tire with my valve stem. When I locate the hole, I know the area to really look for the culprit.

    Also, breaking the bead does wonders for those tough tires to get on or off.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Ah yes, lining up the logo with the valve stem is an absolute must, I agree wholeheartedly.

      I’ll have to try breaking the bead on my wife’s tires – her tires were a bear to get on. Conti’s are pretty tough too.

      • saltyvelo says:

        Yeah, when taking off, run your lever all the way around on the inside of the rim. When putting on (assume the trouble spot is on the 12 o’clock position), push the bead in anywhere from the 3-9 o’clock position. You’ll find it slowly give you a bit of “breathing room” for those all too tight tires. A leather strap helps sometimes to hold the bead in the “drop center.” Same applies to car tires, there is a “drop center” where the bead must be held below while installing. Otherwise, you’ll never get the tire on with the bead in tact.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Cool, thank you.

  2. fastk9dad says:

    Like you I also learned about blowing the tire up with your mouth when I first saw the video. I ditch the plastic dust cap (in a proper receptacle, not on the side of the road) but do use the retaining nut – it just makes it a tiny bit easier to use the pumps with push on air chucks.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Right – if you use a longer valve stem, you won’t need the retaining nut – that one’s a matter of choice though.

      I can’t agree more with where to dispose of ride debris – of any kind. I HATE litter (banana peels and apple cores excluded as long as they go in a field – not on someone’s lawn).

  3. PedalWORKS says:

    LOL. Didn’t realize Lance got a new job. Thanks to you, I no longer put the valve caps & nuts back on. I did for years. Never thought about it before but there is no need.

  4. Yes, I always take the tire all the way off as well. I’ll try it Lance’s way next ime. Thanks for posting.

  5. PedalWORKS says:

    Reblogged this on PedalWORKS and commented:
    Interesting post. Does Lance have a new job? Caps aren’t cool.

  6. biking2work says:

    You’re right, all this is new to me. My new bike has tunes with presta valves so this was really helpful. Thanks for the post

  7. pedros makes the best tire levers, they slide the best and I’ve never broken one!

  8. Not sure why, but as a kid, I do not remember pumping up my tires as often as I do now. Was it the psi in the tires or was it the weight of the bike and person at that time. Also, how old it the Lance video?

    • bgddyjim says:

      Don’t know how old the video is. We rode mountain bikes as kids, not a thousand dollar (+) road bike. Mountain bike tires, because 40 psi will leak less than road tires inflated to three times that, don’t need to be inflated as often. Also, we weren’t worrying about rolling resistance as kids – we were looking at getting out the stinkin’ door before mom gave us another chore to do!

  9. Ryan King says:

    I have never fixed a flat before and i have found this so helpful. Thanks

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