As we get ready for winter training indoors, it’s time to switch up the rear tire from the outdoor tire to the slick trainer tire. That sounds like it should be an easy thing. But it can be tricky, especially for those who are used to passing off tire changes onto the nearest willing helper.
Quite some time ago I wrote that bike maintenance is a feminist issue. A lot of independence comes from being able to maintain your own bike in at least the basic ways — top up the air, fix a flat, change a tube, replace your regular tire with a trainer tire, keep the bike clean and the chain properly lubricated, adjust the seat, hook up your bike computer and set up the speed and cadence sensors.
These are all things that even I, possibly the least enthusiastic cyclist with three bicycles in the whole world, can do without having to pay for it or call a friend. This is where YouTube is brilliantly helpful.
A simple YouTube search for “how to change a bike tire” yielded several instructional videos. The most helpful and my favourite because it’s the only one that features a woman doing the demo, is this one:
A trainer tire is tricky because it involves the rear wheel. But not one to be discouraged by mere trickiness, I wheeled the bike out of the closet, grabbed my bike repair kit, and got out my trainer tire. I watched the beginning of the video a few times until I felt comfortable take off the rear wheel.
As instructed, I loosened the brakes, put the bike into the smallest chain ring in the rear, undid the quick release and popped off the rear wheel. I lay the bike down and got to work on the tire.
I knew from past experience that it’s never as easy to get the tire off the rim than it looks like it will be from the videos. But I managed to get the first tire tool under the tire edge to get it started. And then I squeezed the second tool under and worked my way around the rim until that whole side was off. From there, it was easy to get the other side off and in short order I had the tire totally off the wheel and was left with just the tube.
I let out quite a bit of air, in fact, most of the air, to make it easier to work with. Then I grabbed the trainer tire, which last year really intimidated me because it looks totally flat, not at all like it might be capable of fitting into a rim and around a tube. It’s hard to explain, but it looks like the most shapeless, untire-like thing when it’s not on the wheel. Here’s a picture of what it looked like before I got it on the rim:
But since I knew this from last year, I fired up the video again and watched the part about putting the tire on. It’s pretty easy to get one side started. From my Bike Maintenance 101 course a couple of years ago I remembered that the most dreaded thing that can happen when you change a tire is a pinched tube. Here’s what it looked like when I got the one side on the rim:
You have to be careful trying to get the tube into the slot so that it doesn’t get pinched. I struggled most to get the second edge of the tire tucked into the rim. When you get to the last few inches, it’s pretty tight. It feels like it’s impossible, actually. But the trusty video instructor said if you’re having trouble you can very carefully use that rim tool to pop the tire on. She demo-ed it. I tried what she said. As always, it wasn’t quite as easy as she made it look, but there you go: I did it.
Putting the wheel back on the bike is not as easy as taking it off. To get it right, I had to watch the video a few times. I even had to watch another video because there was one part (the part about popping the wheel back into the frame) where I just couldn’t quite follow. But that’s the beauty of YouTube. When one fails you, get a second opinion.
The whole deal, from taking the wheel off the bike, removing the road tire, replacing it with the trainer tire, filling the tire with air, and replacing the wheel probably took me over half an hour. That’s fine when you’re at home and have all kinds of time. It wouldn’t be quite as fine in a race situation, fixing a flat (mind you, in that case you’d just have to change the tube and not the tire, so it might be a bit quicker). But I could do it. And I like the practice.
I just realized I forgot to tighten up the brake again. But all in all, I feel pretty confident about my ability to change a tire and/or a tube when I have to. I don’t need someone else to do it. I like that sense of independence because you never know when you’re going to get a flat. And I may be lots of things, but a damsel in distress is not one of them.
How about you? Are you comfortable changing your bike tube or tire? If not, I highly recommend that you commit to practicing it a few times through the winter. It’s easy to do but not so simple that you’ll want the first time to be when you’re on your own, far from home, or in a race situation.