I know we have touched on this topic before, BUT, flat tires continue to be problematic for so many cyclists.
The first step is getting a good bicycle floor pump. These usually include gauges and are made to inflate tires faster and easier than the pump you carry on your bike for emergencies. Once you have a floor pump (we carry a good selection), use it to check your tires regularly and ensure they’re properly inflated.
This is important because the number-one cause of tire problems is riding with too little air pressure. This happens because bicycle tubes naturally seep air, so even if your bicycle is just parked in the garage, the tires soften over time.
Soft tires make it harder to ride. Worse, they increase the risk of flat tires two ways (this holds true for road and off-road rubber): They’re more likely to pick up debris, which may work into the tires and pop the tubes. Second, when you hit holes, ruts, rocks, etc., soft tires can deform to the point that the rim pinches the tube (between the rim and obstacle) and cuts it in two places, which is what’s known as a pinch flat or snakebite puncture (because the holes in the tube resemble a snakebite). Besides damaging the tube, this impact can bend the rim, leading to an expensive repair.
Under-inflated tires also lack the sidewall rigidity needed for safe cornering. And, too-soft tires wear quicker, too. So, save yourself a lot of hassle and get a good floor pump and top off your tires regularly. We recommend pumping before every road ride and once a week on your off-road bike.
It’s also important to keep an eye on your tires for wear and tear. With enough miles, the tread will wear out or the sidewalls might crack or tear, and when worn like this, tires are much more susceptible to sharp objects. On some road tires, it’s hard to tell when the tread is wearing out because it’s very smooth even when brand new. One way wear is apparent on your rear tire is that it will tend to square off. When the flattened top of your tire is about 5/8 of an inch across, it’s time for new rubber. Also, whenever you can see wear spots on the tread where the threads in the tire casing show through, you know the tire’s worn out.
Tracking mileage is another way to gauge condition. Road tires generally last about 1,500 miles when used on the rear and about twice that on the front, though this varies according to the weight of the rider, bike and equipment, and the roads you ride. If you’re unsure, feel free to drop by and we’ll be happy to inspect your tires.
Besides watching for wear and tear, regularly check your tread for cuts and debris. Sometimes a small piece of gravel or glass will get stuck in the tire leaving a small gash and hiding beneath the surface. If you spot these and carefully pick them out, it’ll help ensure they don’t keep working their way through your tire causing a flat. Flats aren’t always caused by outside objects. Sometimes the culprit is something sharp inside the rim, such as the edge of a nipple hole or a jagged rim seam.
Fortunately, there’s an easy trick for telling what’s causing flats. When you get one, remove and inflate the punctured tube, and find and mark the hole. If the hole is on the “belly” of the tube (the same surface the valve is on), something inside the rim popped the tube. If the hole is on the outer surface, it was caused by something that penetrated the tire and tube.
Of course, it’s very important to find and remove anything that caused a flat. Run your glove or a rag around the inside of the tire in both directions and it will snag on anything sharp, which you can then remove. For punctures on the tube’s belly, make sure that the rim strip is fully covering the nipple holes and that it can’t move out of position. If you find anything sharp on the rim, sand it smooth with a file or sandpaper.
If you follow all these steps and still suffer more than your share of flats, there are several additional options available, such as flat-resistant tires and tubes, and sealant, which is injected into the tubes/tires to fix flats automatically. Just ask and we’ll recommend a solution to make flat tires things of the past.