How to avoid flat bike tires
This entry was posted on March 20, 2013.
Flats are a pain in the butt, there is no way around it. We’ve already taught you how to change a flat tire in another tutorial, but the best solution by far is to avoid getting a flat in the first place. This tutorial will explain how flats most often occur and how to ride smart to keep your tires intact.
Types of flats
Before you can learn how to avoid flats, you have to understand how they happen. The most common and obvious form of flat tire the puncture flat, caused by thorns, nails, broken glass, metal wire, or other sharp objects that pierce the tire and tube of your bicycle.
The second most common flat is the pinch flat, which occurs when the bike hits a large, abrupt bump that causes the tire to compress as it absorbs the shock. If the tire compresses fully, the tube can be caught between the tire and the rim and pinched, which often causes two small holes on either side of the tube.
The third and least common form of flat tire is the sidewall blowout, which is caused when the tire bead, either because of road damage or defect, tears. This will almost certainly cause a flat tire and cannot be remedied by replacing or patching the tube - an entirely new tire is needed.
Keep them full
The first consideration to avoid flat tires is to keep your tubes fully inflated to the recommended PSI indicated on the side of the tire. Properly inflated tires can more easily absorb shocks and thus are less likely to incur pinch flats, and may also shrug off small punctures because of the firmness of the wheel surface. It is best to check your tire pressure before every ride or at least once a week.
The second thing everyone can do to avoid flats is adjust their riding style. Avoid abrupt obstacles that could cause pinch flats - one method often used by urban riders is to pop the front wheel of their bike slightly off the ground when mounting a curb or a large bump. Mountain bike riders are more likely to perform a full bunny hop.
The right route
Choosing the right path is also important to avoiding flats. In an urban environment, side streets contain less broken glass and other debris. Avoid the busy arterials. On trails, ride with awareness and avoid pointed rocks, sharp sticks, and other dangers.
There are a few ways to use special equipment to avoid flats. For example, some more expensive tires incorporate kevlar or other puncture-resistant materials, and many also feature reinforced sidewalls that helps protect against pinch flats. You can also use tire liners for an added layer of protection.
Tubeless tires are another gear option that is becoming more and more popular. These special tires must be paired with compatible rims, and create an airtight seal so that an inner tube is not required. This makes them essentially impervious to pinch flats.
Many tubeless tires are used with products like Slime, a gel which can be inserted into the tire (they can also be used with normal inner tubes). When a hole develops in a tire or inner tube that contains slime, the gel fills the breach and hardens to maintain the integrity of the tire. Many riders use Slime to reduce the amount of time they have to spend fixing flats.
With these techniques and special equipment, many riders go hundreds or even thousands of miles without experiencing a single flat. If you heed the advice written here and learn from your mistakes, you can do the same.