Fixing bikes for beginners

This week's blogger Max (student Molecular Life Sciences) explains the basics of fixing your own bike.

If you’ve been in the Netherlands for any period of time you’ll know one thing: The Dutchies LOVE their bikes. Almost every single person in the Netherlands owns at least one bicycle and is taught how to ride on from a very early age. What not all of us are taught however, is how to maintain one. When I was young my dad used to teach me how to fix tires, change out brake pads or how to adjust the gears of my bike. Whenever something broke, we fixed it together and over time it became something we really bonded over and it is something that I still really enjoy doing. To this day we discuss technical things together and we both like to tinker, so when I recently bought a retro Koga-Miyata racing bike of course I immediately sent him a message and asked for his advice.

This bike was built in 1980, and left in a shed without seeing use for the last 10 or so years, so of course there were some repairs that needed to be made. The brake pads had completely dried up and turned brittle, and the back tire was worn down to its very last threads. The back derailer had also taken a hit at some point, meaning it needed to be readjusted, and there was a lot of cleaning to be done. After locating the required parts, it was time to get to work. 

After a few hours of blood, sweat and tears this golden bike was finally ready for the road again, despite being almost twice my age! It’s one of the best feelings in the world to get on a bike that was barely rolling around just a few days ago and to feel it riding smoothly again.
For some of us, bike maintenance may seem like an impossible task, and even to change a tire you might end up at a bicycle repair shop.

In reality however, many of the repair jobs involved in bike maintenance can be done at home using a few basic tools. I will explain to you how to change out an inner tube, so that next time your tire bursts, you can save yourself some costs and enjoy the fruits of your own labour. If you have any trouble following this tutorial there are many videos on youtube that should be able to help. Good luck!

How to change a tire in 5 steps


  • A new inner tube of the right size (measurements can often be found on the outer tire)
  • 2 tire levers
  • A monkey wrench
  • A bike multitool (optional)

Step 1: removing the wheel of your bike.

In order to be able to take the inner tube off of the wheel, you have to take the wheel off of the bicycle. If you are changing your front tire this should be as simple as turning the bike upside down, and then loosening the nuts securing the front axis. Your bike may have a small lever that allows you to loosen this axis, otherwise use the monkey wrench (see picture).
 You may also have to take off the brakes by unscrewing the nut securing the brake cable. You might want to mark the location on the cable where it was secured, so that you can easily reattach it in the right location later. If your bike has a quick release lever on the brakes, you can use this instead (see picture).

Step 2:  taking off the outer tire.

If your inner tire has not fully deflated yet. allow it to deflate enough that you can easily press into the outer tire, do this by screwing off the valve.
Now stick a tire lever between the rim and the edge of the tire (see picture). Flip it over the edge of the rim. Stick another tire lever between the rim a little further ahead, and flip it over too. This will pull a part of the outer tire over the edge, and will allow you to open it further by hand.

Step 3: Replacing the inner tube

Once you can access the inner tube,you need to make sure your valve is screwed off. There might be a small ring at the bottom of the valve that locks it into place, you also need to unscrew this. Then you can simply pull the inner tube out through the gap between the rim and the outer tire, pulling the valve through the rim last.
If you want to also replace the outer tire, you can now also fully remove that and put on a new one.
If you are replacing the inner tube because of a leak, it is important to check the inside of the outer tire for small objects, like thorns or pieces of glass. It is very possible that whatever caused the leak is still in the tire. Once you have checked the entire tire, you can insert the new inner tube, starting with pushing the valve through the hole in the rim. Then carefully insert the inner tube through the gap between the outer tire and the rim. Make sure it does not get twisted somewhere. Screw on the valve and slightly inflate the inner tube, so that it lightly pushes into the outer tire. This is to prevent the inner tube getting pinched between the outer tire and the rim when pulling the outer tire back over the edge.

Step 4

Once your inner tube is inside the outer tire, and slightly inflated it is time to put the tire back on the right side of the rim again. You can start this process by hand, simply pushing it over the edge. Once you start to near the end of the process though, it will most likely require the help of the tire levers again. Place them in between the outer tire and the rim, and flip them over to push the final bit of the outer tire back into the rim. Make sure at this point that the inner tube is not caught between the outer tire and the rim of the bike. Also check that the outer tire is evenly placed around the rim. Once you have ensured this, you can pump it up fully.

Step 5

Reseat the wheel into the fork, and tighten the nuts securing the axis tightly. Reattach any cables you have removed at the marked position, and you should be ready to go!

Do you have a unique, fun or exciting hobby you would like to share with us and the rest of the WUR community? Send an e-mail to with a short story and some photos and maybe you will be featured on this page!