Flats are not the reason we ride! Not even close. Flats by yourself are very bad. It used to be worse before the cell phone was invented… ah, the good old days! Even worse is when you flat on a group ride. If they are the type that waits for you, it is especially bad. You are effectively robbing the gang of their ride time while they wait for you to enact your repair. Ever feel like an Indy 500 pit stop team sometimes with an unspoken group feeling of “please hurry up so we can all get on with our ride”? Worse even than that maybe is being left behind as the group just does not wait. Yup, there are group rides like that if you didn’t know. And here is the worst. You flat, they wait, you repair, and your off to only flat again! Ugh! Here are a few tips on how to avoid flats and not be “that rider” that gets them.
Tires do Make a difference:
I was rolling with a group when it happened, not to me, but to the wife of another bike shop owner. She had flatted the Saturday before as well. Hmmm. I looked at her new ride equipped with Specialized tires, and knew then what the challenge was. Tires matter. She was running what I kindly call “crap tires.” What are crap tires? Simple, the ones that are prone to flats. How do you know which they are? Ask around and you’ll get a few recommendations. Experience is the best though. If you flat within every 10 rides, that is NOT normal. Get new tires. Oh, and please do not run the tire liners, goo filled, or extra thick tubes. Crazy approaches that effect the handling and balance of a tire. Just get a great tire, yes, spend the money and buy the tire. It turns out it is cheaper than flat repairs. Here is my go to tire choice: Continental Gator Skin, or any of Continental tire with “Black Chile Pepper” flat resistant technology. Continental just makes a great tire. Yes there are others, but there seems to be a general consensus around our neck of the woods that the Continentals are a go to choice. ($60 – $80 / tire)
Weight makes a difference:
Riders under 170 lbs have an advantage. Lighter means less pressure. Less pressure means less flats. It is just gravity and aside from losing weight, there isn’t much you can do about it. The “crap tires” are your worst enemy at if you fall into the 200+ lbs. category. Almost all of my cycling friends who are seasoned cyclists are rolling the same tires: Continental.
Road selection makes a difference:
Let’s face it, some roads are not conducive to a flat free ride. Roads with gravel, glass, nails, tacks, and seasonal thorns are to be avoided. A flat on a tubular can run you $70 per tire replacement. Clincher flats can cost up to $10 for the tube replacement and CO2 cartridge to replace. So, avoid roads like this, it is just not worth it. I was on the nice road after I had set up a brand new Continental GartorSkin, and got a flat. Impossible I said to myself, I have not flatted one of these in forever! Next week, I was on the same road, different bike with clincher wheels, and flatted again! The guy I was with said he has had a few flats on that road too. I asked what he thought it was, and his answer was profound enough to keep me off the road. The road lead straight to the local metal recycling facility! Turns out that this road was frequently traveled by vehicles loaded with all sorts of scrap metal that finds its way to the road and litter the shoulders with all kinds of puncture prone goodies. I now avoid the road as it has cost me far too much time and money in flats. Lesson learned!
Paying attention makes a difference:
Watch the road in front of you. Often (not always) you can see a flat obstacle coming at you.
Please don’t be that cyclist who runs over everything in the road. Rolls through glass instead of checking traffic and swinging around it is going to cost you and anyone riding with you time and money. Please don’t be drilling the front of a pace line with your cycling friends, and led them right into unavoidable obstacles that will lead to more flats, or worse yet, debris that can cause crashed! Yes, there is plenty of stuff out there that os serious to case plenty of carnage, which will cause you to be very unpopular and untrusted. Look, if you are on the front of the group, make sure you look for and point out obstacles like rocks, glass, and trash or road kill. We have all been guilty on this one, but hopefully we learn from our mistakes.
Tire wear makes a difference:
If the threads are showing, that means the rubber is worn off. Rubber is your flat protection and keeps the tire sticking to the road or trail. Worn off rubber anywhere on the tire means time to replace. Do I really have to include this? Well apparently yes, because some of you guys try to squeeze every last mile out of those old tires. You know who you are :)
You just got a flat, now what?
As you pull your tube out, make note of the tube’s orientation to where is was at in your tire so you can reference where the puncture occurred. Once you find that pin hole or puncture spot, lay the tube over the tire so you can determine the spot on the tire where the puncture occurred. Now, make sure to check the tire for glass, metal, or any debris that may still be in the rubber. You’ll want to gently use your fingers (don’t press too hard and potentially cut yourself – remember, what ever caused your flat was able to puncture some pretty sturdy rubber) to sweep the inside of the tire to feel for debris around the puncture area as well as the entire inside area of the tire. You’ll also want to look for small slits or embedded debris in the exterior part of the rubber. If you find that nasty little bugger, dig it out with something like the multi-tool you cary with you. You carry a multi tool, right?! Don’t miss this last step… The last thing you want to experience is another puncture from the same piece of shrapnel that got you in the first place. Trust me, this is very disheartening!
I hope this helped you a little and that you stay dialed in while out riding!
PS- If you’re riding in the Camas / Vancouver / Washougal area and you do find yourself stranded, please check out our Stranded Rider / SAG Support program and get on our list! Link for more information: Stranded Rider / SAG Support
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