Tuesday 5 April 2011

Tips on Dealing With a Puncture When Cycling

I have had the misfortune of being visited by the puncture fairy a few times recently. Yes it was my fault really, as the rear tyre was starting to look like Edward Scissorhands had been doing my bike maintenance. The tyre has been duly swapped.

However, it has meant I've been getting plenty of practice in dealing with punctures and, knowing how much angst some suffer when the fairy strikes, I thought I'd share my thoughts on how best to deal with them.

The scout movement had it right ages ago of course.....Be Prepared! If you are prepared then it saves having to walk 6 miles home (I had to do this recently when I had a rim failure). The fairy has a strange sense of humour.

So what does be prepared mean? It means carrying 4 or 5 things...

Carry a spare tube or two and/or a puncture repair kit.

I must admit, I'm a big fan of carrying tubes. I find puncture repair in the pouring rain, and yes it always is, is at best fiddly, and at worst impossible. That doesn't mean you shouldn't carry repair kits. Fairy's have been known to inflict multiple punctures when they are in a mischievous mood....

Have the right tools - A piece of string and the right lever!

As with many cyclists, over the years I have bought various tyre levers and gizmos that are supposed to help get tyres on and off. I've spent many frustrated mornings/afternoons/evenings cursing the tools as I manage to take them beyond their design limits (design, what design!?). I've also ended up with very sore fingers. However, late last year I had two revelations. My puncture epiphanies.

The first was when came across this video

Marathon plus tyres are probably some of the hardest to fit (I know I used to have them), so this video was a true coming of age moment for me. I tried it, and it worked. I tried it again, and it worked again! In fact ever since watching this video I have never had a problem fitting a tyre by hand.

So, as long as you are willing to wiggle it a bit and have a piece of string handy, your sorted!

Getting the tyre off in the first place, though, can't be accomplished with a piece of string unfortunately (unless you know better!). You need a tool or tools to accomplish this. This was my second epiphany. I came across the Crank Brothers Speed Lever on Wiggle (at the moment it is cheaper here). Out of sheer desperation, I decided to buy it, as it only cost a few quid (about £5).

So there I was commuting to work (in the rain of course) when the fairy paid a visit. Pooh! I prepared myself for the battle to get the tyre off with the new gizmo. So I followed the instructions, inserted the lever and clipped it into the wheels axle. I started trying to pull the lever around the tyre (as instructed).

At that moment the rain stopped, the clouds parted and there was the most angelic of sounds, like a thousand angels singing ........ok, that might be overplaying it a bit. None the less, I was amazed as the lever literally zipped the tyre off! This video demonstrates...
Now, I'd be lying if every tyre came off as easily as the first. It doesn't. Sometimes it can be a little hard to get going due to resistance, however, I've never had to go beyond a few tugs to get the tyre off. You could always try lubricating the lever with some oil, as that might help. However, it has been, by far, the best £6 I have spent on my bike.

So just be sure to carry one or two spare tubes, a puncture repair kit, a piece of string and a Crank Brother Tyre Lever, and your sorted.

Right that's punctures sorted. So where exactly is the head set on a bike then.......


  1. It's also worth mentioning that it's easier to get the rear wheel off and on if you've changed the gears down so the chain's on the smallest rear ring. Consider carrying a CO2 Inflator & a few spare cartridges too in case you need to get the tyre reinflated in a hurry (or your pump fails!).

  2. I like the Speed Lever too, although I have snapped the tips on a couple through being a bit ham-fisted.

    I also recommend carrying a tyre boot, which is basically a thick bit of sticky-backed plastic. Park Tools make them, and I'm sure other manufacturers must do as well. It will stop your shiny, new inner tube from poking through your tyre if you happen to get a particularly nasty cut.

  3. Good points about the gears and the tyre boot. I must admit I don't have a tyre boot at the moment, but I could have done with it on my last puncture (it survived).

    CO2 is an option, certainly, although I'm not a big girls blouse and so I use a pump! ;-)

    I might develop this if I get comments to the real ultimate repair a puncture page! :-)

  4. My best tip is always have someone on hand to do it for you, problem solved...