How to fix your punctures

The P Word

Article by James Lilley February 2017

The first rule of P Club is you never say the full word. The minute you mutter it, you will get one. It’s the rules. It’s the way it works, so never fully say the P word. Just by writing this post alone, I’ve give myself about five years of non-stop punctures (DOH)!

Some of us have been fixing Ps since we were kids, so have a wealth of experience and naughty words to call on when fixing them. Others have come to cycling later in life and, having upped the miles rapidly, realised they don’t have much experience; hopefully this post will help fill the void.

Some Ps are really easy to fix, you can get the tyre off without even using a lever (let alone breathing the F word). New tube in, tyre back on and the job is jobbed. Whereas as others will be a complete PITA. I’m talking about the ones you get in December. It’s getting dark, raining and you can’t get the tyre back on. Then your last tyre lever snaps … we’ve all been there.

The way to fix your P

  1. Watch and learn the technique in this video:
  2. Loosen off the brake (see Golden P Rule 2 below) and undo the QR lever for the wheel.
  3. Remove wheel.
  4. Take off tyre, use levers if needed.
  5. Run your fingers inside the tyre and inspect the outside, too. Find what caused the P and remove debris.
  6. Get a new tube and put a couple of pumps of air in it. (I’m wary of using patches due to the high pressure.)
  7. Fit the new tube, make sure it’s fully seated in the rim of tyre.
  8. Refit the tyre and follow the technique video (Point 1). At the “hard bit”, release the air you pumped in.
  9. Work the tyre with the palm of your hand (or push with fingers) to get the tyre back on the rim. If the tyre is still difficult, keep trying and working the tyre; the heat of your manipulations should make it more supple. (Try not to use levers!)
  10. Pump up the tyre, refit the wheel to your bike and don’t forget to reconnect brakes!

5 Golden P Rules

Rule 1: Take the correct kit

Even if you aren’t confident in repairing a puncture, make sure you have the correct kit to repair your bike. That way, another club member (or even stranger!!) can help. The basics are:

  • Inner tube that fits the bike (ensure valve and size are correct)
  • 3x good quality strong tyre levers (only use to get the tyre off)
  • Pump and/or CO2 Canisters (pump is the best default option IMO)

A hot tip from Dr Lilley! A pair of latex gloves are handy for keeping hands clean and adding extra grip!

Rule 2: Learn how to uncouple your brakes and take the wheel off

After 30 years of P repairing, I was caught out by this a few months back. I had a P, got the kit out, went to get the wheel off and, “Blimey, how do I loosen the brakes!”

It was a Campag bike and I was used to the little calliper release on the Shimano type callipers. On Campag brakes, the release is integrated into the shifters.

On the majority of bikes, however, you will need to slacken off the brakes via a little release lever on the callipers. Check your bike now.

Third Rule: Put the tyre levers down!

Remember I told you to pack levers … well don’t use them! OK you can, but only to remove the tyre, never to refit the tyre when the new tube is in.

The trouble with levers is that they risk pinching the new venerable tube. Too many times have I and many others given up and resorted to levers to get the tyre back on, only to discover that your new and only spare tube won’t inflate: the lever caught and pinched it.

The techniques shown in the earlier video have never proved me wrong, no matter how hard the tyre is to get on. You can also use your fingers to push the tyre back on by taking it in turns with club mates if you are on a Wheelers’ ride.

If you are at home you can also lubricate the rim and tyre edge with a smear of washing-up liquid to help you. Or if on the road, water should help lubricate the rim. But remember, if you use washing-up liquid as a last resort, you need to fully degrease the wheel after. Tyre levers are fine for getting the tyre off, just try and avoid them for getting the tyre on.

Rule 4: Try and avoid Ps in the first place

This might sound obvious, but it’s the way to go:

  • Check the psi and inflate tyres for every long ride. An underinflated tyre is a huge P risk. Likewise, overinflating can cause the tyre to blowout should you hit a pothole/road crack. Find the sweet spot of PSI that works for you.
  • Try not to ride in the gutter of the road where hazardous debris lies in wait!
  • Avoid potholes, patches of gravel and glass.
  • Replace worn tyres sooner rather than later.

When is your tyre worn?

It can be daunting to gauge when a tyre is worn. Generally, you will start seeing the inner layers of the tyre, lots of little nicks and experiences multiple Ps. Some tyres also have specific wear indicators. Look out for bulges and other imperfections. Here are some examples.


Worn Tyre

Rule 5: Look after your valves

So you’ve fixed the puncture, got the wheel on, pumped the tyre up, gone to remove the bike pump and whhooosssh, the valve blows off and that’s your last tube! Presta valves can be delicate at the best of times, so be very careful when removing the pump or unscrewing the top nozzle. Some riders swear by using Loctite to secure the valves in place.

Also be careful not to bend the valve when fitting and removing the pump. (I’ve been there and got the tee shirt!)

A decent track pump can help resolve these issues at home. And you can also buy a Schrader to Presta car-valve adapter that enables you to use a Schrader pump-end for extra valve protection. Your call.