Selle Anatomica
Close-up of flat bicycle tire with air pump and pressure gauge attached

What to Do if You Get a Flat on a Group Ride

Nobody wants to be the cyclist who slows the whole group down with a flat tire. But flats are inevitable, and chances are, someone in the group will get one now and then. Help avoid the uncertainty; read this article to learn what to do if you get a flat on a group ride.

When it happens to you, a predictable scene will usually unfold. A few riders stop farther up the road, looking back at you, checking their watches and complaining about lost time. A few others linger near you for conversation while you labor away at getting your flat changed as quickly as possible. The pressure is real.

All the while, no one considers that there is a way to get this done faster and get back on the road. You just need someone to grab the reins and help the group change its mentality. Our friend and veteran cycling coach Darryl MacKenzie explains how.

Choose Your Cycling Group Wisely

First things first. Before you can quickly change a flat on a group ride, you have to make sure you’re riding with the right group. 

Coach Darryl’s approach requires all hands on deck. That means if you’re riding with a group that will just keep going when you get a flat, they are not demonstrating proper group ride etiquette; ultimately, you’re riding with the wrong group. If you’re left behind with a worse mechanical issue than a flat tire, you could be in a tough situation.

“Everyone has to think, ‘Lets do this together so we can all get back on the road as quickly as possible,’" he says. Make sure you’re with a group that can embrace this mindset.

Steps for Quickly Changing a Flat on a Group Ride

If you have the right group, a flat doesn’t have to throw off the whole ride. When you approach the process as steps that can happen simultaneously rather than sequentially, you’ll get it done in no time. 

Still wondering what to do if you get a flat on a group ride? Here are the steps for getting everyone involved and quickly changing a flat on your group ride:

  1. Someone has to take charge. This part is essential, especially when you’re cycling in groups. Whether it’s you (the person with a flat) or someone else, you need one rider directing this process so it goes smoothly.
  2. Choose a scout. Make sure this person is savvy and attentive. You need one person to head back upstream about 50 feet to watch for traffic and alert drivers that there’s a crowd ahead. They should position the bike across the direction of traffic, slightly in the road, so drivers notice them first and pull around the group.
  3. Assign a tube prepper. One person should work on preparing the new tube — taking it out of the box, removing the elastic straps and hand-pumping it up to about 10 psi so it has a form and can be easily inserted into the tire.
  4. Put someone in charge of CO2. Another rider should set up the CO2 tank and regulator so you can quickly inflate the tube when the time comes. (Don’t go on a group ride without these tools — it’s a worthwhile investment to speed up the inflation process.)
  5. Have someone hold your bike. Remove the wheel from the bike and hand the bike to someone who will hold it up so it’s not lying on the ground and risking the chain coming off.
  6. Partially remove the flat tube. You (or someone adept at this) should then remove the tire from the rim and pull the tube off about 80% of the way, leaving it attached at the nozzle so you can more easily do the next step.
  7. Get the sharp object out. Use your hand pump to pump some air into the flat tube, listening for the leak as you do it. When you find it, line up that spot with the tire to find the offending sharp object and get it out of there. If you skip this step, you may end up with another flat right after you get back on the road!
  8. Swap your tubes. Now you can fully remove the old tube and swap in the new one. Seat the tube and tire back in place on the rim.
  9. Pump your tire with CO2. You or the person who prepped the CO2 assembly should now connect it to the valve and pump up the tire. It only takes a few seconds to do this, so if you haven’t practiced at home, let someone with experience do it to avoid exploding your new tube. 
  10. Reset your wheel while others prepare to ride. Finally, as you put the wheel back on the bike, the other riders can call back the scout and return to their positions so everyone is ready to go as soon as you’re set.

Teamwork Saves Time

Ultimately, Darryl says this probably cuts off a quarter to a third of the time from the process of changing a flat bike tire on a group ride. Not only that, but it fosters a teamwork mindset in the group. That’s a lot better than everyone standing around anxiously waiting for one person to change a flat.

“People feel like they’ve been useful,” explains Darryl. “They feel like they’ve accomplished something as part of a team. It’s sort of a team-building exercise. Everybody wins.”

Now that you know what to do if you get a flat on a group ride, the next thing to learn is how to get your bikes tires out of a crack in the road.

For more cycling group etiquette tips, get in touch with our cycling experts at Selle Anatomica. We are always happy to help you enjoy your ride. The first step is making sure you have a comfortable road bike saddle. Explore our website to find out more!


Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.

Image by TheDigitalWay from Pixabay