Insert jokes about rim jobs, forcing it to fit, and tight black rubber here. I’m changing the ancient tires on my 1970s Columbia Roadster in this post.

Bicycles for a lot of us were a stepping stone into the world of machine repair. Before you had a car, if you weren’t lucky enough to have a moped or go-kart, your bike was your initiation into the world mechanized transport. I still love working on bikes, and it’s a welcome change of pace from working on heavier, dirtier, machines. In this post I get rid of the dried out original tires on this 1970s bicycle equivalent of a Datsun B210. This post is intended for those who have never changed tube tires, have always had a bad time of it, or are just incredibly bored right now.

If you’re lucky or really strong you can just grab onto the old tire and tear that sucker off after letting the air out. Hint: push the wheel into the ground with one hand then pull the tire up and off of the rim with the other. If this doesn’t work you need to use a tire lever. Tire levers are God’s great gift to man. If man is ever working on somthing that has tires that need to come off or go on. Tire levers are cheap. And tire levers work infinitely better than a flat head screw driver. Don’t skimp on the tire levers. Get some.


Here are the new tires and tubes. Not pictured: new rim tape. Imagine my surprise when I peeled the old tire off in the previous photo and saw there was no rim tape - apparently never was, the people in Westfield, MA just sent the bike out of the factory, devoid of rim tape on one wheel, because why not? It was the 70s, that’s just how things were done back then.

Next up is putting the tube into the tire. This is easier if you inflate the tube slightly so it holds its shape and stays in the tire.


Getting the old tires off was easy enough, but getting them on required using a tire lever.

Put the tire and tube on the bottom of the rim so that the valve stem fits through the valve stem hole. Push the wheel and tire down and usually you can pop one of the tire beads over the rim by hand, and will only need the tire lever to pop the remaining bead onto the rim. The lever has a hooked end which hooks onto the lip of the rim, and pushes the tire over it as you pull the lever around the rim. Just be careful to not pinch the inner tube during the process. You may have to push the tube in bit by bit as you lever the tire on a section at a time.


Et voila! new tire and tube on the rim. Now back to that other rim that was missing the rim tape...


The one rim which had rim tape on it, had tape which was marked for a different size wheel than this bike has. My guess is the factory ran out of the right size tape that day, and you know, whatever, maybe try this size tape - or maybe don’t tape it at all, you know, whatever, ‘cause this is a factory in the 1970s. I got some fancy cotton tape from the bike shop. There are two holes in the end of the tape for either presta or shrader type valve stems. Just line up the tape hole with the identical size rim hole and wrap it all the way around.

Once that was taken care of, putting the tire on this rim was the same business as the one above. Pretty simple stuff if you have the right tool.


And all back together and ready for a ride.

Columbia as I mentioned in my post about the tandem bike, was America’s oldest bicycle company, founded in 1877. Their Westfield, MA factory produced bicycles for over 90 years before production ended in the 1990s. The factory was torn down in 2008. Columbia bikes also have automobile relatives in the Pope-Hartford and Pope-Toldeo automobiles. As well the company produced mopeds for a few decades - I used to own one of these which inexplicably had a water-jacketed cylinder but no radiator or piping of any sort, and a belt CVT transmission. Unfortunately like a lot of U.S. manufacturing they ran into problems staying competitive in the 1990s. The factory was literally Victorian era, and bicycles were built almost entirely by hand using decades old tools and production techniques. Happily (?) the company still exists today as a manufacturer of office furniture.