Fixing the dreaded rear wheel puncture on a Brompton

It’s a notion that started as a kid growing up with bikes: punctures are a pain, but taking off the rear tyre is a real pain in the you-know-where because of the very-useful-but-very-intimidating-when-you’ve-got-a-flat … gears.

Naturally, everything I’d seen on Twitter to date had only reinforced this idea…

Brompton rear wheel puncture and-or change complaints

All of which meant that when I pulled my bike from under my desk one night last week, and noticed something was not right, then realised I had a flat, I was pretty stoked. (That’s putting it mildly. Yes, sarcasm intended).

But at least I didn’t swear. Even if it did mean carrying my bike and catching public transport for the whole length of my journey home.

Feeling deflated - waiting for a tram, to catch a train, to catch a tram, to get home

Feeling deflated – waiting for a tram, to catch a train, to catch a tram, to get home

When I posted the above photo on the Melbourne Brompton Club’s (“MBC”) Facebook page with the caption “Learning how to fix a flat rear tyre suddenly got a lot higher on the To Do list…” it didn’t take long for some helpful tips to come my way. The best one to get me started was a link to Brompton Bicycle’s Technical Guide on how to remove and refit your rear wheel.

You can scroll through more like this at Brompton.com > Support > Technical Instruction Videos

While I was browsing the list I noticed there was a video on changing an inner tube. Although I’d done this before (when I’d had a puncture on my front tyre) I thought it was worth checking it out anyway for any tips and tricks they might have.

Hmmm. No need for levers to refit the tyre? Ok… we’ll see how that goes.

Getting home late that night meant I had 24 hours to re-watch and mull over the technical video guides – which was plenty of time to feel frustrated by commuting entirely by public transport the following day. (Oh, how times have changed…)

The next night, ready to tackle the monster, I got down to business in our spacious hallway.

Upside down, and ready to get the rear wheel off

Upside down, and ready to get the rear wheel off

I kept my phone handy for two reasons: first and foremost so I could play and pause the Technical Guides as I followed each step and, secondly, to take photos for this blog! I was concentrating more on the first, so apologies for gaps in the second.

With the Technical Guide to walk me through each step it felt like I had the rear wheel off in no time. Actually, it would have been even faster had I not taken the opportunity to clean some of these hard to reach places as they presented themselves.

Note: I did not release the brake as demonstrated in the Technical Guide – there’s no point if you have a flat – it’s easy to get the wheel out with no air in the tyre – and when putting it back on, just remember not to inflate it too much before it’s secured on the frame again.

Protecting the chain from the grit that I'm cleaning from usually hard to reach places

Protecting the chain from the grit that I’m cleaning from usually hard to reach places

Keeping the parts in order. (The wipes are for my hands afterwards.) The Brompton toolkit had everything I needed for this job.

Keeping the parts in order. (The wipes are for my hands afterwards.) The Brompton toolkit had everything I needed for this job.

The rear wheel is off!

The rear wheel is off!

This isn’t the first time that I’ve been impressed by the practicality of the Brompton toolkit. I’d go so far as to say if you’re a Brompton owner and don’t have one, what the hell are you doing? It’s almost worth buying a Brompton (which it is anyway) just to have the perfect place to keep your Brompton toolkit!

Ok, maybe a little over the top there. But it has had everything I’ve needed so far.

With the rear wheel off it was time change YouTube videos (see Tyre Change above), take out the tube and find the puncture. Once again, following the tips offered on the Technical Guide made the process a lot easier. The slow part was finding the hole in the tyre! It can be the smallest thing, but something sharp enough to penetrate the kevlar tyre cannot be left in the tyre to make another hole in the tube.

Eventually I found the hole, made sure there wasn’t any glass left in the tyre and sealed the hole from the outside with superglue.

Finding the hole in the tube was much easier. Inflating the tube with one pump of air (using a floor pump – and definitely not too much air) I listen and feel for the hiss of air rushing out of the hole. You can put it in a bucket of water if you can’t find the hole.

Tube now patched up, it was time to put the tyre back on the wheel and see how realistic the Technical Guide really is for the average person.

I carefully watched each step. I massaged the bead and got one side in very easily (phew!). I massaged the other side around some more and – it went in! Just like that! Amazingly it worked without needing to use the tyre levers!

Tube patched and Brompton kevlar tyre back on the wheel

Tube patched and Brompton kevlar tyre back on the wheel

Now to put it all back on the bike, so time to swap back to the Technical Guide on removing and refitting a rear wheel.

All went well until…

Now, how does this go again?

Now, how does this go again?

The tensioner did not look the way I remembered.

Never mind, that’s what the other Brompton is for in times like this; as a reference tool. Here’s one that was prepared earlier.

There's something wrong with this picture

There’s something wrong with this picture

Disclaimer: It was now about 10pm-ish (getting late for me) and yes, I’d had a glass or two of wine with dinner (it was a rather good drop). Thinking straight wasn’t happening fast.

The good news is I figured it out. The top arm pivots! Phew! They don’t divulge that little pearl of wisdom in explicit detail in the Technical Guide, seeing as how it should be kinda obvious and all. *Coughs*

Moving on…

With the tensioner now figured out, I put the chain tensioner washer and nut back on – being careful not to over-tighten it, as they say in the video – only to find my indicator chain was too short!

The indicator chain's too short! - Brompton rear wheel

The indicator chain’s too short! What have I done wrong?!

What had I done to get it so badly wrong? I couldn’t get the thread at the end of the indicator chain that goes into the hub to engage AND have even a glimpse of it sticking out into the peep-hole in the tensioner nut as per the Technical Guide.

From Brompton's Technical Guide on adjusting a 3 speed gear hub

From Brompton’s Technical Guide on adjusting a 3 speed gear hub

Clearly this conundrum was going to have to wait for the following night to be solved. I was disappointed to have been thwarted right at the very end, but thankfully Stephen wasn’t using his Brompton the next day so I didn’t have to endure another day without riding to work. It didn’t bear thinking about.

Borrowing Stephen's Brompton. Oh, yeah - and *his* game bag

Borrowing Stephen’s Brompton. Oh, yeah – and *his* game bag 😉

Once more I found myself calling upon the collective wisdom of the MBC members to help me with my indicator chain problem. Once more they had the answers, even if my comprehension wasn’t immediate.

To reconnect the indicator chain:
1. Screw the chain all the way into the hub, through the hole in the tensioner holding nut. Then loosen slightly, no more than about 1 full turn.

Before the chain tensioner is on, this is where the indicator chain threads into the Sturmey Archer hub on my 3 speed Brompton

Before the chain tensioner is on, this is where the indicator chain threads into the Sturmey Archer hub on my 3 speed Brompton

This is what it looks like with the chain tensioner and nut on - now ready to thread in the indicator chain

This is what it looks like with the chain tensioner and nut on – now ready to thread in the indicator chain

2. Ensure your Brompton is in the highest gear. Counter-intuitively (I think), the highest gear means the slackest indicator chain.
3. Connect the ends of the indicator chain (which will reach in 3rd gear), but don’t tighten the lock nut (the little round wheelie bit) just yet. Don’t take it off or lose it, either.

Connect the ends of the indicator chain, but don't lock the lock nut just yet - Brompton

Indicator chain connected while in 3rd gear. Lock nut not yet tightened.

4. Now change down to 2nd gear and follow the Technical Guide for adjusting your gears. I’ve got a 3 speed so I referred to this one:

Gear adjustment was the part I found the trickiest. I think I got too hung up on the 1mm poking out businesses.

It was kinda hard to tell... is that 1mm?

It was kinda hard to tell… is that 1mm?

Although the indicator chain was reconnected, the gear change wasn’t smooth. And since I was picking up a Mini O Bag from Velo this morning anyway, I decided to leave it and ask an expert for assistance.

Off to Velo Electric & Folding for some expert tutelage on Brompton gear adjustment from Cory

Off to Velo Electric & Folding Bicycles for some expert tutelage on Brompton gear adjustment from Cory

A bit easier here than in my hallway

A bit easier here than in my hallway

Being one of the core members of MBC, Cory knew what I’d been trying to do with my Brompton – and indeed had provided a good chunk of the advice – so I didn’t have to explain the whole sad story on arrival. When I mentioned my gears were hard to change though, well it seems the problem there is that I should have been oiling the gear shifter on my handle bar! Amazing the difference a drop of oil can make!

Right-side Brompton Gear shift - don't forget to oil this cable even now and then

Right-side Brompton Gear shift – don’t forget to oil this cable every now and then

And then, under Cory’s instruction, I took the rear wheel off and put it back on again, and got the gears adjusted so they’re as good as new again. Along the way I was shown a few tricks on how not to get grease all over my hands (as usually happens – remember the BBQ wipes?). When it comes to negotiating a greased chain, it does help if you have a stand like his though.

Tips and Hints to share from this experience

  1. The above is applicable for 3-speed Bromptons with Sturmey Archer hubs. If your Brompton is different, check your relevant Brompton Technical Guide.
  2. Brompton make really good Technical Guides, but…
  3. …You don’t need to undo the brakes to remove a tyre – just deflate it a bit.
  4. Pump the tyre as soon as it’s back on the frame – the patch doesn’t always hold (it didn’t happen to me this time; this is advice passed on from Cory)
  5. Massaging the “bead” of the tyre as demonstrated in the Technical Guide really does make it easier to get the tyres on and off.
  6. Oil the gear shifter if it starts getting stiff.
  7. Don’t try to solve puzzles when you’re tired.
  8. Belonging to a club is about more than enjoying a monthly social ride.
  9. Know and appreciate your local dealer. They’re awesome.

Special thanks to Red and Cory for their advice via the MBC Facebook page, and Cory for his tutorial today. My bike hasn’t felt this good in months!

One happy Brompton with a new Mini O Bag

One happy Brompton with a new Mini O Bag

Happy riding everyone! 🙂

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About Dayna

I'm interested in nature, hiking and photography - but these have been somewhat overwhelmed by a new passion... my Brompton folding bikes! You can follow me on Twitter: @daynaa2000 or @Brompton_MEL Or find me hanging out most Saturdays at Velo Electric & Folding (http://velocycles.com.au/folding-bikes/) or on a Melbourne Brompton Club ride! (https://melbournebromptonclub.wordpress.com)
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7 Responses to Fixing the dreaded rear wheel puncture on a Brompton

  1. Gail Rehbein says:

    Now that’s a very handy post for Brompton owners.
    Congratulations on solving it Dayna and happy riding! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. baudmania says:

    Love that 3spd gear adjustment video 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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