How Long Does It Take To Change Bike Tires? Hacks For A Quick Tire Fix


When it comes to success in triathlons, swimming, cycling, and running are all as important as each other, but the bike, in particular, is a complex discipline for several reasons. 

Mechanical problems are not an “if” but a “when,” the question is, though, when a mechanical problem occurs can you fix it?

So How Long Does It Normally Take to Change A Bike Tire? An experienced professional rider can change a tire in as little as 2 minutes, while a less experienced rider may take between 15 and 20 minutes. The world record for a tire change is 45 seconds performed in 2012. 

Today we look at the dreaded tire change. There’s not one cyclist or triathlete in the world who hasn’t had to change a tire; if you haven’t, you’re the luckiest athlete on earth. This post shall provide helpful information on the fastest way to change a tire, whether or not you can ride with a flat, and answer other relevant questions regarding tire change.

What Factors Impact How long It Takes To Change A Bike Tire?

How fast you can change a tire depends on several factors such as a person’s knowledge, the type of tire, is it front or rear, and even the weather can play a part.  One of the most significant factors in determining how long a tire change takes is whether you’re running tubeless or clinchers. Another factor to consider is which tire is flat; A flat on the rear is much more difficult to change quickly because of the gear mechanism, while the front will be much more straightforward.

The weather plays a role too, freezing weather; ever tried to change a tire and you can’t feel your fingers? It’s brutal. The tire is also much more difficult to change due to the stiffness of the rubber in the cold. 

You’re 15 miles into your ride; your legs are strong, your heart rate is steady, your looking and feeling like a winner; then BOOM, the inevitable flat tire.

Your odds of winning or performing a PB are gone, or are they? Believe it or not, you’ve still got a chance.

The video below is to the fastest tire change recorded,

Can You Ride A Bike With A Flat Tire?

It is possible to ride a bike with a flat tire and would be acceptable in only a couple of situations mentioned below,

  • The puncture is not critical, and the leak seems to be slow, meaning you can probably make it home or to the next transition, which would be the run.
  • The other circumstance will be if you’ve found yourself in a situation where your safety is threatened, and you’re left with no choice but to ride your bike.

If you’re in a race and get a flat regardless of the severity, the best option is to make the change. If you keep riding with a flat, it’ll become tougher to pedal, destroying your legs and any chances you had of putting in a good finishing run. 

Lastly, continuing to ride with a flat can cause critical damage to your bike, which will be costly and incredibly dangerous. The wheels are not the only place that can be damaged. The bike frame itself will shift and bend under the strain of a deflated tire and, in extreme cases, can cause catastrophic failure.  For more on this, check out our post “Should Your Bike Tires Look Flat When Riding?! Tire Pressure Guide For Any Ride

Also, it would be helpful for you to check out our analysis in our post on How Common Are Flat Tires In Triathlons? Causes And How To Avoid Them

What Is The Fastest Way To Change A Bike Tire

For simplicity, let’s look at the fastest way to change a clincher tire which is still the most commonly used tire for racing.

Take The Wheel Out

Taking the front out wheel out is very straightforward and only a matter of undoing the quick release. The rear is slightly more difficult due to the rear mechanism but shouldn’t take longer than 60 seconds. Just be sure to shift down to the smallest cog and smallest chainring. 

Time For Inspection

Inspecting the tire shouldn’t take any longer than 30 seconds, especially if you’re in a race situation.

The first task is to find the source of the puncture; In most cases, the leak’s origin is obvious, but the last thing you want to do is leave it in there, especially if it’s something sharp like a nail. 

Here’s the good news, you can still ride on a flat as long as you’ve replaced the tube, but at the end of the day, you’ll have to replace the tire at some stage.

Time To Make The Change

Most riders, especially newcomers to cycling or triathlon, are intimidated by this part of the process, but it’s just like anything else in life; practice makes perfect.

Ah, the part everybody dreads, taking the tire off, but once practiced enough and the correct tools used, this part of the process should take no longer than 2-3 minutes. 

All that’s required is a couple of tire levers that you can pick up from any bike shop; these should always be carried with you on any ride regardless of the duration. 

Simply place the tire lever between the tire, referred to as the bead, and pull up and away. Now take your second lever and wedge into the gap you’ve just made; proceed to circle around the tire until it comes loose, its really that simple

And if you do not have a lever on you then check the video below on how to get the job done without them,

New Tube Time

Now start by putting one side of the tire on and slowly add some air so you can see some shape take place. Place the new tube underneath and begin to circle the wheel until the tube is seated. This shouldn’t take any longer than 5 minutes.

Time For Inflation

There is some debate here when it comes to pumps or using CO2 cartridges. Regardless of which method you use, this process’s final part shouldn’t take any longer than 1-2 minutes.

I would highly recommend CO2 cartridges, especially if you’re racing, as they’re easy to carry and allow for a super quick inflation time. Once inflated, place the tire back on the bike, and you should be good to go.

Note: When you make it back home, recheck the tire thoroughly and ensure you reinflate with a good tire pump, preferably one with a gauge.

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Can You Change A Bike Tire Without Taking The Wheel Off?

This is an interesting question with an answer some beginners to triathlon or cycling might find surprising.

While it is not possible to change the bike tire without taking the wheel off, it is actually possible to fix a flat without taking the tire entirely off the wheel. Here is how,

  • Start by turning your bike upside down and inserting your tire lever into the tire; take your second lever and wedge it into the tire 15-20cm away from the first. You should now be able to pop the tire. Once you’ve got the tire off, take out the punctured tube, being sure to keep the valve area in place.
  • The simplest way to find the source of the puncture is to inflate the tire and listen to the sound of the air coming out. If you’re performing the change at home, you can simply use a bucket of water and look for the bubbles to find the exact position of the hole. 
  • Once you’ve identified the position of the puncture, take your repair patch and place it directly over the hole. Before doing so, scruff up the tube lightly with sandpaper to ensure the patch sticks and seals correctly. Hold the patch in place for a couple of minutes before you start the process of putting the tire back on.

(Source)

Why Do Bike Tires Go Flat When Not In Use?

Those of you who are experienced riders will have encountered this phenomenon before of tires going flat when not in use. 

There are several reasons for this, and varying factors also play a role, including weather and tire type, clincher or tubeless. Basically, air particles escape the area around the valve, causing your tire to slowly leak and deflate over time (Source). Also, check out if Leaving The Bike In The Sun Bad & Can Bike Tires Blow Up Because Of It!

It’s always an excellent safety precaution to check the pressure of your tires by investing in a good quality pump that has a gauge. 

When it comes to running tubeless tires, a slow leak is to be expected; the keyword here is “slow”; if you do notice a dramatic loss in tire pressure, it could be the fault of the leaking sealant.

Tubeless OR Tube Tires Are Less Likely To Puncture ?

Tubeless tires are considered safer as it allows gradual air loss when punctured. No tube tires have an airtight valve and rim to hold the air and prevent the rim to separate from the tires. The tubeless tire and rim are different in shape. These tires have thick walls to prevent punctures. Liquid sealant is applied to coat any tire hole and while putting the tire inside the rim.

Here are the major reasons why people opt for tubeless tires.

  • Tubeless Tyres are less likely to puncture
  • Because they don’t lose air suddenly in case of a puncture they are considered a safer option
  • They will likely provide Less rolling resistance
  • Better traction helps in corners and climbs

Also, the video below provides a good brief explanation of the difference between tube and tubeless tires you might need to install tubeless tires.

Brenton Barker

Brenton is an Australian with 20 years of experience working with professional athletes. These athletes have combined to win more than ten international events. He holds a Degree in Sports Coaching and was the former Head Advisor to the Japanese Government Sports Institute. He was the former Manager & Head Coach to Tennis Australia and was a Dunlop International Advisory Board member for eight years. His expertise is in Goal Setting, Health & Nutrition, Internal and External Motivation, Technical Analysis, and Program Design and Delivery. Brenton currently consults with several professional athletes and clients from varying backgrounds and sports.

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