Changing an Inner Tube

Changing an Inner Tube


Things had gotten bad. I took my bike to the photography studio Friday to pick up a CD. I took a tire pump in my side bag because in the past few weeks, my tire had been going flat between each bicycle trip. This day, it was seriously flat, after only pumping it up the day before.


The tire needed inflating one mile from home, then twice more before reaching the photographer’s. On the way home, it only needed pumping up twice.


So it was time to replace the inner tube.


I thought how the last time I had a flat bike tire, I put the bike in the back of my pickup, dropped it off at the bicycle shop for part of the day, and picked it up after the technicians performed the task.


This time I thought, “How hard can it be? I’ll do this myself.” I had done this a few times in adolescence, then even repairing holes with rubber patches and glue.


I am adroit at many skills, but bicycle repairs leave me feeling mystified; they challenge my mechanical confidence.


I strode out to the garage where the bicycled slumped sadly forward on its limp tire. The first task was clearly to remove the wheel from the fork. Clearly. I know this first step. I had noticed a clasp lever that looked suspiciously like the member that would instantly release the wheel, and like it would easily yield to the strength of my hand. Now I noticed another impediment: brakes. How should I relieve the brakes so the wheel and tire could escape their clutch? I thought of loosening nuts but my bicycle toolbox was woefully non-existent. Then I thought of YouTube. Surely it would be of help.


I found several videos to choose from. Some were seven minutes in length. Seven minutes to teach me how to remove the front wheel? Yikes! I found one that was under three minutes and watched it. The technician showed undoing the simple catch that when freed releases the brakes. As I walked back to the garage, I thought how elementary this would be to the enlightened bike owner and how I should feel silly even having to consult YouTube, (YourTube?). Then I relaxed, having seen that 22,000 other people had viewed that video. It’s not just me.


The technique was a snap; the brake pads spread. I flipped the quick-release lever. The wheel axle did not immediately come out of the slot on the fork. I went back to the video; I had stopped it at the two minute mark. The technician showed releasing the axle nut a few turns, (counterclockwise, duh!) Of course I had tried that but stopped after half a turn, feeling unsure. The video was all I needed to get past this mystery.


Now the wheel was off, brandished in my capable hands.


I headed for the bike shop carrying the wheel, tire and tube. I did not trust myself to pick the right inner tube just from notes of some cryptic numbers stamped into the rubber. The store clerk could not ask me any confusing questions about what kind of bike I have, what kind of tire, only to tell me that I would have to call my wife to look for a different set of numbers; what was called for would be plainly evident.


I showed the wheel and tire. The clerk drew a boxed tube from the shelf and we went to the point of sale. He asked if I wanted him to install the tube. I had already made this decision. I told him that I was trying to be more self-reliant and would do it myself. “Cheap” is probably what he thought. The tube was $5.49 and he wanted $12.50 to install it, including the cost of the tube!


He would probably do it in 2 minutes. That’s 60 minutes/2 minutes x $7.01, or $210.30 an hour. Why pay that when I can go home and earn $.35 an hour doing it myself?


At home, I stuffed the tube inside its compartment, snapped the tire back over the wheel edge with just a little difficulty, and pumped up the tire. The wheel reinstalled easily on the fork and I returned the brakes to their ready position. Now I feel a pride of accomplishment and a sense of community with 22,000 YouTube viewers just like me.