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How to Fix and Prevent Common Bike Problems

Photo: Denver Post/Getty Images

Right now, riding a bike through busy city streets and across bridges sounds a whole lot safer than riding the subway. Heck, it almost sounds idyllic. The more time you spend on your bike, though, the more opportunities there are for things to go wrong — a flat tire, a rusty chain — and the more important it is to know how to fix them yourself. We asked cycling experts Melvin Onyia, John Watson, founder of The Radavist, a blog about biking, and Chris Dixon of Dixon’s Bike Shop in Park Slope Brooklyn to walk us through the steps and tools necessary to handle five common bike problems.

How to fix a flat tire

To fix a flat, you have to remove the tire, remove and replace the inner tube, and put the tire back on. If it doesn’t come naturally at first, don’t panic. Watson says there are lots of variables, like the kind of gears, axles, tires, and rims you have. Onyia recommends looking up a tutorial video until it becomes second nature. He says GCN (Global Cycling Network) tutorials on Youtube are the best and easiest to follow.

Durable Tires

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If you can prevent a flat, that’s obviously easier than repairing one. That’s why Onyia says you should never get too close to the curb, where all the dirt, nails, and broken glass end up. He suggests leaving about a foot between you and the curb (or the edge of the trail) to avoid running over something that will puncture your tire. Also, he recommends outfitting your bike with these Gatorskin tires, which have super reinforced walls and are very difficult to puncture. He relies on them himself, as do a lot of other cyclists he knows. “I’ve changed them once over the past ten years,” Onyia says.

A floor pump with pressure gauge

Another step to take before you head out on a ride, Onyia says, is checking your tire pressure, since tires with low pressure are more likely to get a flat or get punctured. “I usually keep my road bike tires at about 90 to 100 psi,” he says. He recommends getting a pump with a pressure gauge so you can make sure you’re filling the tires to the optimal PSI. (That number should be on the wall of your tires.) This standing floor pump with pressure gauge topped our list of best bike pumps on Amazon, and it comes with a patch kit.

A mini pump

In addition to the floor pump you keep at home, you should ideally carry a mini pump with you on your bike. You’ll need it to inflate tires that get low over time or to pump up a new inner tube after you change out a flat. Watson likes Lezyne mini pumps because they fit in most pockets or bags, they’re easy to use, and because they look really nice. This one comes with a bike mount which is Watson’s preferred way to carry it and a good way to ensure it’s always with you.