How to Change Tires on a Mountain Bike

There will come a time when mountain biking that you need to fix a flat as the wheel gets a puncture. It can take one nail or other sharp objects for the tire to damage. So, it helps to know how to change a bike tire and have the necessary equipment tucked away during your cycle.

Or, you can wait alongside the road or the trail waiting for someone to help know how to change a mountain bike tire. Still, other cyclists might not have a spare, and you might end up stranded for hours until someone comes along to help.

So, the best is to learn to do it yourself, and we’re here to help. But before we get to change a flat, let’s first look at the type of flat tires you can expect along your way.

Types of Flats

While the steps for changing a tire are the same, it helps to know what type of flats you can face.

  • Puncture is a common problem caused by sharp objects puncturing the outer rubber through the tube completely. You find it mostly in the tire tread looking like a single hole in the tire and tube.
  • Pinch flat tire happens when there is a low pressure resulting in the tube being pinched between an object and the edge like a rock. Hence, you have two holes in the tube, looking like a snake has bitten it. To prevent this from happening, it helps to run tubeless.

Now that you know what types of flats you can expect, you need the right tools and supplies with you to change a mountain bike tire.


A Spare Tube

Whether your bike tire has tubes or is tubeless, you always need to have a replacement tube on hand to fix that flat.

Valve Stem Compatible CO2 Cartridge/Handpump

With a CO2 cartridge, you can quickly reinflate the tire. Still, make sure that when you buy a CO2 adapter or a handpump, the valve needs to be compatible with the tube’s valve stem. The majority you find these days is the Presta valve which has a universal design.

Tire Lever

While the tire lever is not a must if your bike has forearms, it helps to remove and place the wheel onto the rim.

Other Essentials to Change a Bike Tire

  • A tire boot helps if the tire bead is severely damaged to help inflate a new tube without it pushing off the side of the tire.
  • The patch kit you can use to patch up your tube, but it is a slow process and not recommended for trailside fixes.
  • Tire plugs you use with a tubeless tire to help plug holes that a sealant cannot fix. These work well for small punctures.

change flat tire on mountain bike

Changing a Flat

Here are some simple steps you can follow that work for a front or rear wheel.

  1. Start with loosening and removing the axle, then remove the wheel. It helps to open them up for rim brakes to give you room to remove it. Suppose you have disc brakes. Never squeeze the brake lever once the wheel is off. The brake pads will extend, making reinstalling difficult. For the back wheel, it helps to shift the drivetrain into a small cog.
  2. Next, release the air in the tire and pinch it on one side of the rim to remove the tire edge. But leave the other side of the tire edge. You should have room on the one side to use the tire lever to help pull it over the rim, providing access to the old tube or the sealant for tubeless tires.
  3. Once one side is off the rim, you can remove the inner tube or the valve stem if tubeless.
  4. If you have a puncture, look inside your tire for any sharp things that punctured the wheel. You do not want it to cause another flat in the new tube.
  5. Next, put on the new tube and pump air into the tube slightly to give it shape, making it easier to align. Now, pull the tire back over your rim so that both sides are on the inside. Very important to try not to pinch the tube between the bead, tire, and rim. This is where the lever comes in handy but be careful not to puncture the tape or the rim strip.
  6. Use your handpump or CO2 to reinflate the tire pressure and place the wheel back on.

What if you don’t have a Quick Release Lever?

Okay, how do you change your tire if you do not have quick-release levers? You might not have realized it, but you have two quick-release skewers that work with your cleats.

While we are not saying that you should use them as tire levers, they are handy when you need them instead of walking home in your cleats when you are stranded. Great, but how do you use them?

By following the above steps and assuming you have removed the wheels, unscrew and remove the skewer. Use the inner curve and insert it under the edge of the tire, similar to using the tire lever.

Now, run it all the way around until the one wall is off and continue fixing your flat. You will find that the skewer can also help to pop that tire back on. You have two of them but be extra careful not to mess up those rims.


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