Bike Shorts: What Is a Tire Boot, and How Do I Use One?
When you’re out cycling, there are plenty of potential problems that could bring your ride to a halt. Ninety percent of the time, though, a flat tire will be the culprit.
All cyclists experience them. In reality, they’re not aptly named, because it’s usually the tube inside the tire that’s the problem — not the tire itself. Every now and then, though, the tire is to blame. In that case, you’d better be prepared with a simple solution.
It’s called a tire boot, and longtime cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie always has a few with him for the ride. Read on to learn more about the always-handy tire boot and how to use one.
The Flat-Fixing Process
Ultimately, a boot is just one tool in your tire-repair tool belt that should be stored along with various replacement parts that keep your bike on the road. And, as a cyclist, you’re going to encounter flats regularly, so it’s important to know all the tools and be prepared for the entire process.
We’ve covered this in depth in our article, “What To Do About Fixing a Flat Bike Tire While out on a Ride,” so you can dig into the details there. In summary, though, every cyclist should know the eight-step process for fixing a flat tube. Note that the following steps don’t apply to tubeless tires:
- Take the wheel off.
- Carefully separate the tire from the wheel.
- Pull the tube partially out.
- Find the hole and remove the culprit that caused it.*
- Remove and replace the tube.
- Put the tire back in your wheel.
- Make sure the tire is seated properly.
- Inflate and check again.
You’ll notice the asterisk on step four. That’s where you’ll discover whether you also have a problem with your tire. If you do, you’ll need to address it before you finish the rest of the process.
What’s Wrong With a Bad Tire?
At this point, it may be tempting to rush so you can get back on the road. Don’t do it! Even a small hole, no bigger than a BB or the diameter of a pencil, is enough to cause you trouble. If you don’t fix it, you might be right back in this position another mile down the road.
“If you put a new tube in there and pump it up full of air, it’s just going to explode out of that hole,” says Coach Darryl.
Remember, tubes are flimsy and flexible. They don’t have much structural integrity of their own — they rely on the support your tire provides. But a small hole in your tire compromises that integrity. If you find a hole, you need a temporary fix that will allow you to finish the ride.
The Fix: You Need a Boot
The good news is that this temporary fix is cheap and easy. You just need a tire boot, which is a simple, effective tool you can buy at your local bike shop or online. You can even make your own.
Really, a boot is any durable piece of material that you can slide in between your new tube and the hole on your old tire. It just has to be sturdy enough to keep the tube from bulging through the hole while you ride home.
If you buy a boot, it’s usually an inexpensive pack of simple vinyl patches with adhesive. Darryl simply makes his own by cutting up pieces of old tires and tossing a few in his cycling bag for every ride. He once even used a folded dollar bill.
Whatever type you have, simply slide the boot in place between the tube and hole, then finish the process outlined above. When you re-inflate, though, only pump your new tube to about 80% of its normal capacity. This will help ensure the boot holds up for the rest of the ride.
“This will be enough to get you home, and that’s the critical thing,” says Darryl.
Once you’re home, be sure to swap out your tire or note it for your next maintenance session so your bike will be fully road ready for the next ride.