If you’ve got a bike with a flat tire and you’re wondering how much it’s going to cost you to get it fixed, then you’ve come to the right place.
The good news is that it isn’t very much.
For most bikes, a flat is due to a punctured inner tube.
This can be caused by lots of things such as thorns, sharp stones, or broken glass.
Replacement tubes are cheap to buy and a simple job to fit the new one on to your bicycle wheel.
That translates into a repair bill that will only set you back a few bucks.
I’ve done some research into the latest pricing for repairing a bike tire and I’ll talk through this in a moment.
But, there’s a bigger and more pressing issue that we need to look at as well:
Punctures never happen at ‘good’ times.
They never happen when you’re at home and have another bike on standby that you can hop onto instead.
Or, when you’re out on a bike ride and just happen to be cruising past a handy bike repair shop.
And, even when flats DO happen at supposedly ‘good’ times, you’ll likely find that the repair shop has a two- or three-day turnaround time.
So, it’s useful to know how to fix a flat tire yourself.
That way you can dodge the waiting times, save yourself some cash, and get you and your bike back on the road fast.
Fixing a puncture is one of the easiest repair jobs you can do on a bike and, with a spare tube and a few low-cost tools, you can get the job done in 30-45 minutes.
In this article, I’m going to show you:
- How to find out what replacement inner tube and tire size you need for your bike (this is easy)
- What repair tools you need (you don’t need many and none of them are expensive)
- How to carry out the repair (this is super-simple)
But first, let’s see how much a bike repair shop will charge to do the job.
Quick answer: How much does it cost to fix a bike tire?
A bike repair shop, whether it’s a local bike shop or a national chain (such as REI or Trek), will charge around:
$10 for labor, plus
$10 for a new inner tube
Total repair price = $20
Normally this will be all you need to replace, however sometimes you may also need to have a new tire fitted.
This can happen if the existing one was damaged at the same time as the tube (for example by broken glass slashing the sidewall) or if the current tire is old and worn.
If that’s the case then a new tire can be fitted.
The good news is that the labor is likely to be free (it’s no more effort than replacing the tube).
The bad news is that tires are more expensive than inner tubes (think: $40 for a basic tire, up to $80 for a premium brand).
In summary, the cost to repair a flat bike tire will generally be around $20.
The problem, like we’ve already seen, is that flat tires will often happen when you’re nowhere near a handy repair shop. And, if they do, the repair shop will likely not be able to carry out the repair while-you-wait.
It’s useful then to know how to fix a flat and carry tools and a spare tube with you on bike rides, so that you can get the repair done yourself.
Let’s take a look at what you need and how to do the repair.
How to determine what inner tube and tire you need
Whilst those black rubber circles at each end of your bike can look very similar, there’s actually a huge variation between tires and inner tubes.
Road bike tires, for example, are skinny with little or no grip.
Mountain bike tires, on the other hand, tend to be much wider with big knobbles all around them.
How do you know which tube and tire is right for your bike?
Well, thankfully, there’s a really easy way to find this out.
Squat down next to your bike and look at the sidewall of your tire – this is the circular strip of rubber that sits adjacent to the metal wheel rim.
Look around this sidewall and you’ll find numbers marked along it. These will look like “700 x 32” or “27.5 x 2.1”.
The first number shown is the wheel diameter (700mm or 27.5” in the above examples).
The second number is the tire width (32mm or 2.1” in the above examples).
Pick a replacement bike tire that has those numbers on it – i.e. if your existing tire says “27.5 x 2.1”, then choose a replacement tire that also says “27.5 x 2.1”.
Note: if your tire has a “c” in the numbers (e.g. “700x32c”) then you can ignore it. “700x32c” is the same size tire as “700×32”.
Choosing a replacement tube is slightly more complicated.
Inner tubes are like balloons – the more you inflate them the wider they get (The diameter stays the same no matter how much you inflate the tube).
So, to pick a replacement inner tube you should look for one that has the same diameter number as is printed on your tire, with a width range that includes the width number printed on your tire.
Tire sidewall says “700 x 32” = Replacement tube will be listed as “700 x 28-32”
Tire sidewall says “27.5 x 2.1” = Replacement tube will be listed as “27.5 x 2.10-2.35”
One complication is that bike tires normally have one of two types of valve – Schrader or Presta.
Schrader is the type that you see on car tires. They are short and quite wide.
Presta valves are often used on road bike tires. They are slimmer and longer than Schrader and have a small nut at the tip which needs to be loosened to inflate the tube.
It’s easiest to get a new tube with the same valve as your existing damaged tube.
How to repair a flat bike tire
Ok, we’ve found out how to determine what size replacement tube and tire you need. Let’s look at how to fit them on your bike and what tools you need to do it.
- New inner tube (and tire, if necessary)
- Pair of tire levers – plastic ones are great as they are small and light
- Bike pump – I keep a floor pump for use at home and a smaller CO2 tire inflator for use ‘on the road’
How to do it:
- Loosen the quick-release bolt holding the wheel and lift the wheel out of the forks
- Use the tire levers to remove the tire by carefully prising it over one side of the wheel rim
- Take off the old inner tube and discard (you can also patch this at a later date as a useful spare)
- Check inside the wheel rim for any sharp objects, such as glass or thorns, which could have popped the original tube
- Fit the new deflated tube onto the wheel rim and slot the valve through the hole in the wheel rim
- Loosely fit the new tire over the wheel rim
- Partially inflate the inner tube (25%-30% volume)
- Fit the tire inside both wheel rims and check that it is not pinching the inner tube
- Fully inflate the tube and check for a few minutes that it is holding its pressure
- Re-attach the wheel in the forks with the quick-release bolt, ensuring that the wheel axle is correctly sitting in the forks and the bolt is firm
Twenty bucks or thereabouts is approximately how much it costs to get a repair shop to fix a flat bike tire.
Trouble is that, even if you’ve got the money handy, there might not be a handy repair shop when you get a puncture!
With a little knowledge and a few tools, however, you can carry out the repair for yourself whether you’re at home or deep in the backcountry.
The alternative? A long walk home pushing a bike with a flat tire.
Get a spare tube, grab a couple of tools, maybe print out these instructions. Then keep the lot in a jersey pocket or a saddle bag and you’ll be ready for action.