Flats are the most common mechanical problem. We all have 'em, but you can take steps to almost eliminate this problem.
Last month I talked about
the types of flat tires you may encounter and how by being able to identify
the cause will go a long way in a successful repair. This month I want
to discuss how to prevent flats in the first place. The first two times
I rode across the country I had a total of 2 flats on the road. One I could
have prevented because I knew it would probably happen after I hit an animal
bone in Montana. Had I stopped to inspect my tire, I would have discovered
a cut…about a mile down the road my rear tire blew out. Was it by accident
or luck that I didn’t have more flats? Well maybe, but some of our folks
had flats almost every day. We rode the same roads. There are some things
you can do to lesson your chances of having these delays…if you’re changing
tires, you ain’t having fun riding! Let’s discuss 11 tips to prevent flats
or at least help your chances of staying on the road.
Preventing flats is not luck. Yeah, I know everyone
is going to have them, but most riders that are skilled have very few.
If you apply these tips to your riding knowledge, you too will have fewer
flats and that equates to a more pleasurable ride! Have a great summer,
I hope to see you in August when I get back from my ride across the country…keep
the rubber side down...and your tubes full of air! Mike Munk
Inflate your tires to the required pressure—Under
inflated tires are subject to pinch flats. Also, there is more tire surface
on the road to pick up wires and glass. A properly inflated tire rolls
better and will last longer. Find the max pressure on the tire label and
inflate you tires to that pressure every ride.
Avoid glass or rocks—DUH! Easy to say,
sometimes hard to do. These foreign materials cause problems. If you see
’em, go around ‘em.
Avoid sandy piles or gravel—Little piles
of sand and fine gravel usually wash there by rain. These areas collect
little slivers of glass and may hide other foreign material that also wash
there in downpours.
Brush off tires regularly, especially after
riding through any of the above—Skilled riders can brush off their
tires while riding, but it’s not something you should try if you don’t
know how. If you ride through glass or other bad things, stop and spin
your wheels and use your gloved hand to remove foreign material. This is
a good practice anytime you stop for a break. Before you get back on your
bike…brush off the wheels. Glass or other foreign material that’s stuck
in the tire will eventually be driven into the tube after a few miles of
pounding by the road. You may remove something before it pokes all the
way into the tube.
Don’t ride in the gutter or trash—Same
as number 3…bad things collect there!
Avoid Potholes and Grates—These cause
pinch flats…if you decide to ride into these, you better have completed
number 1. Besides causing flats, these can cause other problems that will
bring the discussion about helmets into the picture.
Check tires regularly—Check for wear,
deterioration, and foreign material while your bike is setting in your
garage. If you find something wrong at home, it’s easier to fix there than
on the road.
Line up the valve stem with the tire label—This
is used as a reference. It may help you find a problem when you are fixing
a flat that may otherwise be hard to find…a hole in the tube or the foreign
material that may cause more problems if not found.
Check your rim tape—Every time you have
your tire off you should check this. Rim tape can go bad anytime and you
may catch it just before it goes bad. If there is an edge of a spoke hole
starting to peek through you may be in trouble later.
Avoid using tire tools to replace tire on
the rim—Sometimes it’s hard to get that last couple of inches of tire
on the rim. Grab a tool!!! If you do, care should be taken not to pinch
the tube with the tool. The only thing worse than having a flat is having
another one before you get the first one completely fixed! If your hands
are not strong enough to push the tire on the rim, either use the tool
carefully or use Daria VanderVeer’s line, "I always rely on the kindness
Point out hazards to other riders—When
riding in a group, riders that are following you cannot see around you.
You can really ruin a good cycling friendship by not pointing out a hazard
that your buddy hits. The only good thing is that he will have the flat
and you can get away…that’s probably the best move you can make…run for
Powder your tubes—This may not sound
really like it’s very important, but it is! This will accomplish several
things. It will allow easier installation of tube into the tire. It will
allow the tire and the tube to work independently of one another which
is the way it’s supposed to do. And finally, it will allow the tube to
align correctly in the tire upon inflation without dragging the rim tape
out of alignment. A sticky, clean rubber of the tube will cause the rim
tape to slide sideways as the tube twists to correct itself inside the
tire exposing the spoke holes, thus causing pinches in the tube. Oh, and
there’s one other nice thing about powdering your tubes…it makes your hands
smell nice after tube installation.