Q: If I get a flat tire during a race, what should I do? What’s the quickest way to change it?
Amy Marsh answers:
A: Ah, the dreaded flat during a race. No need to panic. It happens, but knowing how to change a tire can make the difference between finishing a race or not. First, you will need a flat kit that includes: a new tube, tire levers and a CO₂cartridge or handheld pump. With the right tools and these step-by-step instructions, you’ll be back on the road in no time “flat.”
- Detach the wheel. First, open the brake lever to release the brake pads. Next, loosen the quick release, located in the middle of the wheel. The wheel should now slide right out between the open brake pads. If it’s still too tight, loosen the bolt on the quick release to free the wheel.
- Remove the tire. Get out your tire levers and place one at the opposite end of the valve. Using your hands, or the other lever, gently pry the tire off the rim, working your way around towards the valve. Pull the tube out of the tire, fold it up and stuff it in your pocket or bike bag – please, don’t leave litter on the side of the road. Also, be sure to check the tire to see what caused the flat in the first place – glass, a nail, rocks or the like.
- Replace the tube. Start at the valve and place the new tube in the tire. It may be easier to blow some air in the tube to help guide it into the tire (yes, you can use your mouth to blow air in).
- Put the tire back on. Start at the opposite end of the valve to help prevent “pinching” the tube and work the tire back onto the rim. You may need to use the tire levers as you get closer to the valve. Once the tire is completely on the rim, make sure the tube is not “peeking” out from under the tire. If it is, be careful re-working the tube so it is completely in the tire.
- Pump up the tire. Either use a CO₂cartridge or hand pump to inflate the new tube. Cartridges are very convenient, but they release air quickly. Try not to open it prematurely and waste your saving grace.
- Reattach the wheel. Slide the wheel back on the bike, making sure the quick release is firmly closed. Push the brake lever back down and spin the wheel to check its alignment. If the brake pads are rubbing the tire, gently shift the brakes right or left to center the wheel between the pads – you don’t want any extra friction slowing you down.
During a race, you can “hope” for the race support to show up. But, your best option is to not count on any assistance, especially when you’re among competitors. The next time you get a flat while training, tell your buddies to step aside so you can have a go at it. If you’re a visual learner like me, watch Brandon’s video for a detailed version of the six points above. The more you practice, the faster you can get back on the road and back in the race!
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.