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How to Fix a Road Bike Tire That Won’t Inflate (6 Steps)

As the name suggests, a road bike is designed for high-speed riding on paved terrain. Some cyclists refer to road bikes as “racing bikes,” which makes sense given that road bikes are used in a variety of cycling competitions. But how do we fix a road bike tire that won’t inflate? 

A road bike tire might not be inflating because of several reasons:

  • You may be using the incorrect pump head for your valve stem style
  • You may have improperly installed the pump
  • Your valve stem may be damaged
  • Your tire may have a puncture
  • Your pump may be damaged
  • Your bead may not be correctly adjusted (Only for tubeless tires)

To determine which of these causes is happening to you, follow these steps to diagnose and fix the problem. 

6 Steps For Fixing Road Bike Tires That Won’t Inflate

inflating a bike tire

Inflating your tires can require more involvement than simply hitting the pump’s button. While it might be a straightforward procedure, it is easy to neglect certain details. Let’s get into it:

Step 1: Remove The Bike’s Wheel

The first step in replacing a flat tire may seem obvious, but it is worth repeating: remove the wheel from the bike. If you have tubeless tires and a tubeless repair kit, you may be able to skip this step.

If the tire damage is only a puncture, you may plug it without removing the wheels. But, if the damage to the tire is significant enough that sealing it will not fix the problem, the wheel must be removed. 

Begin by flipping the wheel upright to detach it from the bike. Working on your bike upside down may be simpler for you. Unplug the electronics from the handlebars before inverting your bike to avoid any damage.

Replacing the rear wheel can look daunting initially, mainly because the chain and derailleur are placed in the back. However, replacing the rear tire wouldn’t be more complex than removing the front, especially if you take your time.

To continue, move the bike onto the lowest sprocket, providing slack in the chain for simpler wheel removal and installation. Lift the bike by the saddle and swap gears using your right hand while pedaling with your left. Repeat with the left shift lever until the chain is located on the shortest chain ring in the front.

Although regular wheel extraction necessitates removing the brake, since you’re dealing with a flat tire, the tire has most likely lost enough air to glide off effortlessly. If your bike has disc brakes, you’re fortunate since the wheels can be detached without affecting the brakes.

Quick adjustments that secure the wheel are very prevalent. To release the wheel using a rapid release, pull the lever out and away from the frame until it is open. You should be able to easily remove the wheel by cautiously raising the bike by the saddle and allowing the wheel to fall out.

removing a wheel from a bicycle

If it doesn’t fall on its own, lightly tapping it with the surface of your hand ought to do the trick. If it still doesn’t come out, ensure the chain and derailleur aren’t interfering. If they are, hoist your bike by the saddle and reach around with your other hand to draw back the derailleur and, as a result, the chain.

Some derailleurs include a clutch, which must be released before the axle may be removed. Allow the wheel to descend by pushing the derailleur cage towards the crank. At no time should you try to coerce anything into moving?

Step 2: Remove And Plug The tire

After the wheel has been detached, the tires must be dealt with. Conventional tires are constructed with tubing filled with air, while tubes are generally inexpensive to replace.  

Making them an appealing alternative that can be readily punctured or squeezed flat. Tubeless tires do not have an inner tube and instead feature an airtight rim where the tire sits snugly.

If you have tube tires, you must replace them; if you have tubeless tires, you must repair them with a tire plug. Tire plug kits are available at most bike stores and consist of rubber strips and an insertion mechanism, with no further equipment or hardware required. The majority of tubed tires may be changed to tubeless.

You’ll be required to remove the tire. Insert the flat end of the lever under the bead to do this. Place a second lever beneath the bead and slide it around the rim until the tire comes off. 

In most cases, you may reinstall the replacement or patched tube without entirely removing the tire. By breaking the bead on only one side, you will save significant time and substantially simplify the operation.

Step 3: Identify The Cause Of The Flat

Although most people advocate running your finger over the tire to find the source of your flat, doing so may result in some patchwork on your finger. If whatever punctured your tire is still present and capable of piercing a bike tire, your finger has no chance. 

Visually check the tire inside and out before performing a hands-on investigation of the problem. It will take longer, but you will prevent a finger cut and maybe a tetanus injection. 

One may also use cotton pads to establish a barrier between their fingers and any sharp objects they may come into contact with because there is a risk of injury.

If all examinations fail, reinflate the tire and listen for air seeping from the puncture location. If you just locate one puncture hole, you’re probably looking at road debris as the cause. A sharp instrument, such as a screwdriver, can be used based on where and how your tire was ruptured.

A pointed instrument, such as a screwdriver, can force out the object at issue before it makes its way within and produces other punctures. 

If you notice two holes next to each other, you’re probably dealing with a pinch flat, which implies your flat was not really caused by road or trail debris but rather by the tube becoming trapped between the tire and rim.

Step 4: Try To Patch The Punctured Area

patched innertube bike

Trying to patch tubes is an alternative for those who like to save money, go green by reusing, or be inventive when spares are few. The patch kits are made for this reason and include everything you need to complete the procedure. 

They are quite small, making them an excellent backup even if you entirely replace the tube.

Start by washing the damaged area and going over the surface with only an emery cloth or sandpaper. Kits include two types of patches: with glue and without glue. If your kit includes glueless patches, peel off the backing, lay it over the hole, and press firmly.

If your patches require adhesive, apply a coating to both the tube and the patch. Once the glue has acquired a sticky consistency, apply the patch and push hard until it is secure. If this doesn’t work, then install a new tube.

Step 5: Replace The Tube With A New One

First, use the pump to inflate it sufficiently to give it shape, making insertion simpler and lowering the possibility of a pinch-flat. Place the tube on the rim and slide the valve stem straight into the valve hole.

Put the tire back onto the rim carefully, sliding the bead away from yourself with your hands rather than a lever. Push the edges of the tire bead down into the rim and push up on the valve stem to insert the tube into the tire.

bike innertube removed

Step 6: Fill The Tire With Air

Your efforts have all been put to good use; it’s time to pump your tires. You may accomplish this with a CO2 cartridge or a mini pump. CO2 cartridges are effective, particularly in inflating to greater pressures, but they’re one-time use only.

It’s a good idea to practice tire inflation at home with a CO2 cartridge so that when the inevitable happens, you don’t blow up your tube or waste the cartridge, leaving you stranded. The key to successfully utilizing a CO2 cartridge is to ensure that the inflator is securely attached to the valve stem.

It is strongly suggested that you always keep a mini pump in your tool kit to have a backup option for tire inflation, although it isn’t as simple as a CO2 cartridge. It is also strongly advised to have a pump with a hose.

Here’s a video if you need a visual aid help to get through the process:

Reasons Why Your Bicycle Tire May Not Inflate 

Utilizing The Wrong Valve Stem On The Pump

These are the two types of valve stems typically used on bicycles. First is the standard Schrader valve, which most people are familiar with, and then there is the less common but sometimes superior Presta valve.

This discrepancy means most bicycle tire pumps have two different valve stem openings! If your tire does not receive air or if something feels off, it is likely that you are using the wrong port and simply need to adjust it. 

If you are experiencing this issue, it is the simplest to identify and certainly the simplest to resolve.

Pump Fitted Incorrectly

If you hear a hissing sound coming from that port when it is in use, it is probably that the pump or compressor is improperly attached to the valve stem, preventing air from entering the tire. 

If you hear this hissing from this area, remove the pump from the valve stem for a moment and then reattach it. 

You will need to ensure that the chairs are level and positioned low enough to prevent air from continuing to escape. The issue that arises when a tire is entirely deflated is a regular difficulty encountered by visitors. 

When this occurs, the valve resists staying in place and pushes itself down into the tire, making it impossible to properly seat the pump on the stem. Place your hand on the other side of the tire to keep the valve stem in place as you pump.

The Valve Stem Is Damaged

schrader and presta valve

If you are satisfied that the pump has been properly installed, and you still hear a hissing sound from the valve stem area, the valve stem may be damaged. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of when funds will be required to remedy the situation.

If you have an older tire, the rubber at the bottom of the valve stem will have degraded over time, and it is only a matter of time before it fails. This is a standard component of bicycle maintenance!

So, how do you resolve valve stem damage? If your tire has a tube, the best course of action would be to replace the tube entirely, as new tubes have a new valve stem to replace the damaged one. To ensure a proper fit, you must purchase tires with the same valve stem design and size as your previous tires.

Puncture In The Tire

This is the one that most people recognize. You either ran over a sharp object or pinched the tire between the ground and your wheel, resulting in a slit or puncture in the tube or tire. This is an undesirable aspect of cycling.

The quickest technique to determine if a tire or tube is damaged is to spray a soapy water solution along the tire with a spray bottle. If you observe bubbles flowing from any location, that is where the harm is.

The Pump Is Damaged

This is another common problem that has nothing to do with the bicycle but with the pump or compressor. Even if you’ve done everything correctly, it’s possible that this has malfunctioned and is no longer pumping air into the tire.

The quickest approach to determining if this is the problem is to remove the pump tube from the valve stem, turn on the compressor, and press down on the pump to determine if the air is escaping.

If your electric compressor is significantly louder than usual, this is a common indicator that the compressor has failed. If this is the case, you’re in the market for a new one.

The Tubeless Bead Is Not Seated Correctly

This is a highly prevalent issue, but it affects only a subset of riders, so it is not as widespread as other issues (which is why it is last on this list). Mountain bikers occasionally prefer to ride their bikes tubeless, which implies that the air fills the tires directly as opposed to a tube.

In this instance, the tires (with the aid of tape) produce a bead along the wheel. However, air will escape if this bead fails with insufficient air to press the tire against the walls of the wheel.


The most common cause of a bicycle not retaining air is a pump that does not fit properly, for whatever reason. Others are a punctured tire or a damaged valve stem.

Maintaining your bike will help with several of these concerns and hopefully allow you to identify problems before you encounter them when you need the bike the most.