There are few feelings more deflating than when you realize you're miles from the end of the bike trail or race and you're losing tire pressure fast. Your heart sinks, it gets harder to pedal and then you realize what's inevitable - you've got a flat tire.
But by taking the right precautions, you can improve your chances of avoiding this disheartening scenario altogether. Although there are certainly reactive ways to fix a flat tire, the best way to keep rolling along is to use good flat tire prevention strategies, which start long before you ever get on your bike.
Before you ride
When you're getting ready to take a long ride either on your road bike or on a mountain trail, take the time to inspect your tire for any debris, such as small sharp rocks or glass, that could be lodged in the rubber. While the object may not have punctured the tire just yet, any additional force could send it through the tire and into the tube inside. Remove these potential problems, and you significantly lower your chances of getting a flat.
The most important flat tire prevention method, however, is to ensure your tires are inflated to the appropriate pressure. The most common reason for a flat tire is under-inflation, so be sure to check the manufacturer's pressure recommendation, which you'll find embossed on the side of the tire. Typically, road bikes should be inflated to between 100 and 140 pounds per square inch, or psi, while mountain bike tires can have much lower pressure, running between 30 and 50 psi.
Most bike pumps will have a tire pressure gauge, so monitor this as you're inflating, making sure not to over-inflate the tire, either.
Types of flats
There are a few different kind of flats that can leave you stranded, but many of these are easily avoidable. If your tire is underinflated, you're most likely to experience a pinch flat, which occurs when the bike runs over stones, curbs or sharp edges on the road or trail. With the tire poorly inflated, it compresses, forcing the tube between the rim of the bike and the object that was hit. This commonly results in two small holes that open up in the tube.
However, if you over-inflate your tires, you run the risk of a blowout, which occurs most commonly when the tire can't hold every part of the tube in.
A flat known as a slow leak may also develop, which can sneak up on you as you keep pumping your tire up more and more to account for the lost pressure. Often, the holes that cause slow leaks are extremely difficult to find, so your best bet would be to replace the whole tube.
The right tires and accessories
You can also greatly reduce your chances of a flat by choosing a tire that was developed strictly to prevent such an accident. Many tires now come with reinforced synthetic linings that give the tube an added layer of protection from sharp objects. Several product types have been developed to improve durability, including the carbon black mixture GatorSkin.
You could also add plastic liners and other bike bike accessories to the inside of the tire. These liners, made by the company Mr. Tuffy, are outstanding at keeping even sharp debris out of the tube, however installing them makes tire removal and tube insertion a little more difficult than it would be without the lining.
If you don't want to buy new tires, you can opt to insert thorn-resistant tubes, which have an outer surface that is built extra thick. Many cyclists agree this is typically the easiest - and most affordable - way to add durability to your tire and prevent flats.
Some manufacturers have even started making tubeless tires for both road and mountain bikes which although promise to never go flat, may compromise the speed and smoothness of your ride due to the lack of air cushion.
When you change a flat tire, it's crucial to find where the puncture is so you can eliminate the chances of a similar occurrence happening again. To do this, refill the flat and listen or feel for the leak. Once you locate it, find the corresponding location on the rim and tire and check for any sharp or rough areas that may have caused the flat. As a general rule, thoroughly check the tires and wheels before installing a new tube to get the most out of it.
If you take the time to install the tube properly, you'll be much less likely to experience a flat. To do this, make sure the tube is flush with the interior of the tire and evenly distributed.
Preventive measures should be a basic part of bike equipment maintenance, which will give you many more rides on a single tube.
Return to Top