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How to Get Home When You Can’t Fix a Flat

By Sarah Bonner

Fixing a flat tire on the roadTriple puncture? Flat spare tube? And no one is picking up their phone?! Forget being a damsel in distress. If you have no spare tubes left, there are a few emergency maneuvers you can perform to get you home.

1. The Pump and Ride: If you can’t fix a slow leak, before you head on to extreme measures, do the pump and ride. Pump up your wheel. Ride until it’s flat again. Repeat. Try adjusting your weight to accommodate your flat too. If it’s your back tire, try standing to keep your weight forward. If it’s the front, stay seated. It’s a frustrating procedure but it’s better than real emergency fixes below.

2. The Knot: Find the hole in your tube by pumping it up a little and listening/feeling where the air is escaping. Once you have found the hole, tie a knot in your tube at the hole. Make it as small and as tight as possible. Put your tube back under your tire (they are stretchy enough) and continue as if you were fixing a normal puncture but keep the tire pressure a little lower (~60psi) .

3. The Double Knot: If the single knot doesn’t work or you can’t isolate the hole enough to hold air, cut the inner tube in half where the hole is. Very carefully, you can use your chainring or a sharp pointy end of something in your multi-tool. Once the tube is one long piece, tie a knot like you did before at each end to seal the tube. Make the knots small and tight. Thread your tube back under your tire and, again, pump it up to a low pressure.

4. Last resort: If the knots haven’t worked, stuff grass under your tire where the tube goes. The more the better. Keep the flat tube in for an extra layer. You’ll be basically riding on a flat tire but the grass will help protect the rim of the wheel. This fix won’t get you far but it should get you moving, albeit slowly.

Don’t forget these are emergency, temporary fixes just to get you home. You will need to ride with extreme caution, especially when descending or cornering, because the ability of your wheel will be compromised. You’ll feel the knots but that’s okay. Ride slowly, easily and head directly home. Once you are home, you will need to replace the tube properly before you ride on it again.


Sarah Bonner the author of two e-articles, How To Use A Foam Roller: An Illustrated Guide for Cyclists and The Clean Girl’s Guide to Cycling: How to Clean Everything from Bar Tape to Sports Bras, has lived and cycled in Canada, Africa, and Europe. Currently, she splits her time between the Netherlands and South Africa where she trains and competes at an amateur level. With a Masters in English and a Diploma in Sports Management, Sarah combines her love of writing and passion for cycling to share honest advice and inspiring stories. Follow her at sarahkimbonner.wordpress.com

1 comment to How to Get Home When You Can’t Fix a Flat

  • Rach

    I never wouldve considered a knot! Thats good to know, as is the pump & ride.

    I was told another way is to use a dollar bill over the puncture(s)if you have cash on you, like you would use a patch. I havent tried this myself but my father said it got him home a few times back in the day.

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