A simple puncture can ruin your day. One of the best ways to ruin a good ride is to have a flat. You have to stop, all your buddies have to stop and usually they stand around critiquing your ability to change a tube quickly. They’re rarely complimentary. You can feel about an inch high.
And it’s worse when it’s raining.
Whilst up to a point having a flat tire is just a part of road cycling, there are some things that you can do to limit the likelihood of having a flat.
6 Tips to Avoid Punctures
1. Puncture Resistant Tires
Now of course if you’re a racer you probably won’t be using puncture resistant tires. They tend to be a fraction heavier and a fraction slower than the best race tires. But readers of this website generally aren’t racers, they’re beginners or average road cyclists who ride for the enjoyment, the exercise and the social contract.
Your average road cyclist doesn’t care about a little extra weight if it helps avoid flats.
Do a little research before you buy your next set of tires. Off the top of my head I can suggest two particular tires that have worked for me, these are Maxxis Refuse and Michelin Krylions. I have used both these tires for some time and find them to be very good at avoiding flats. In fact the Michelin Krylions are what I have on my bike now, and I can’t recall getting a single flat whilst I’ve been using them.
Whilst good tires is important, it is not the only thing that you can do to help avoid flats.
2. Use The Right Tire Pressure
Find out the optimum tire pressure for the tires you use and make sure your tires are properly inflated for each ride. I inflate my tires to 120lb each ride. Poorly inflated tires, as well as making your cycling more difficult, can increase your risk of flat tires. In particular poorly inflated tires increases the risk of a pinch flat.
A pinch flat occurs where your tire contacts an obstacle such as a rock, a piece of wood or other debris, or more commonly falls in a hole. A poorly inflated tire will often compress right down to the rim of the wheel, causing a “pinch” of the tube creating a hole.
3. Know Where You Are On The Road
The next thing to do is to be aware of where you are riding on the road. Vehicles travelling along the road will gradually sweep debris, and in particular broken glass, to the edge of the road. All sorts of nasty stuff can build up there, such as bits of metal, shards of glass, nails and worse.
When you’re riding keep your eye out for patches of debris on the road, this is the place where you’ll most likely to pick up something nasty in your tires. Where possible move out to avoid any such area of debris, though of course be aware of traffic when you do so.
If you’re riding in a bunch, and you’re at the front of the bunch, make a point of moving out and alerting other riders to the hazard.
In fact if you ride regularly you’ll soon learn where these more hazardous areas are. They are often in areas of heavy traffic, and as heavy traffic isn’t cycle friendly, and as road debris also isn’t cycle friendly, you can then plan your rides to avoid these areas. Not only will that reduce your risk of punctures, it will also increase your enjoyment of your ride.
4. Know The Worst Black Spots
Avoid them or take precautions. When near areas where bottles may be thrown on the road, be extra vigilant. I know one watering hole near us where young, stupid drinkers are prone to throw beer bottles on the road. If you know of an area like this avoid it, or at best be very aware of the risk.
In such a situation glass can be spread all over the road, and we have been known to get off our bikes when suddenly coming across a patch of glass and carry the bikes across the glass. It’s much easier than fixing multiple flats. However even keeping an eye out doesn’t always alert you in time. If you do ride across a patch of glass you can, hopefully, reduce your risk, by doing this.
5. Clean Your Tires. But Beware
Note: This is not easy, and requires practice, however can work well for someone who knows what they’re doing.
If you do find you’ve ridden across a patch of glass reach down and place your hand on top of your front tire in front of your brakes. Allow for one or 2 wheel rotations to brush all pieces of glass, which may be stuck in your tire, out of the tire. It’s essential, of course, that you’re wearing gloves. Don’t attempt this without gloves.
The same can be done with the rearwheel, though requires a few more contortions. I know of someone who holds his drink bottle on the wheel to save bending down so far.
However I repeat, only do this if you are confident, and under no circumstances get your hands or fingers anywhere near the spokes.
6. Examine Your Tires Regularly
It is often the case that a flat will happen sometime after the object lodges in your tire, often days later. It’s often the tiniest sliver of glass, and it needs to work its way through the tire before it contacts the tube.
From time to time let all the air out of both of your tires and rotate your tires slowly, pinching the two sides of the tire together. This will open up any holes or nicks in the tire and expose tiny objects.
A tiny sliver of glass can be extremely hard to see, and magnifying glasses may help, but look at each hole in your tire carefully, and use a small object to pick any glass or other objects out of the tire. Sometimes you can’t see them at all, but if you use a small item such as a small screwdriver to feel for them you can feel them when you can’t see them.
I do this from time to time, however know other people who will do this after every ride. It’s better than repairing flats in the rain.
7. Keep An Eye on Tire Wear
Change your tires before they get too low. As the amount of tread on your tire reduces the likelihood of flats increases, for obvious reasons. When you get your first flat on a tire immediately examine the tread. If the tire is worn replace it. The first flat is usually an indication, with a good tire, that it’s time to consider replacing it.
8. Examine Your Rim Strip
Where you do have a flat, particularly where it seems to occur on the part of the tube that contacts the rim rather than the tire, inspect your rim strip. If you look inside the rim you’ll see a strip of cloth or tape that encircles the entire inner rim. This is to protect your tube from objects such as the end of spokes.
Running your finger around on the rim strip can often alert you to sharp spots you can’t see.
If the rim strip is damaged this itself can cause flats. Replace it.
Having a flat tire can ruin your day. I hate it, as does everyone else I ride with. Follow these simple precautions and you will greatly reduce your risk of punctures, though of course it’s impossible to avoid them altogether.