Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Flats


It's a fact of life - if you do a lot of riding, you are going to get flat tires.

Every year at the Interbike Trade Show there are a few companies touting their flat-less, non-pneumatic tires. That these tires are going to revolutionize cycling by eliminating the dreaded flat tire. Despite the claims, these innovations never seem to catch on and, the over one hundred year old technology of the pneumatic tire roles on!

And that leads us back to the flats. In a typical year, my wife, Professional Triathlete Paolina Allan and I get on average 2 - 3 on-the-road flats, in thousands of miles ridden. Last, year was typical - we had exactly three flats for the year between the two of us!

Paolina had two on one day and one ride - one going up Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ and another coming down Mt. Lemmon. The picture above is me changing #2. #1 was a staple through the tire, and #2 was a small razor sharp piece of scrap metal that again went right through the tire. I note in the picture above, another group ride's support van had stopped and loaned us a floor pump - very kind of them.

I had one, on the day we road the Ironman Canada bike course in August. Just as we started to ramp things up heading up the Yellow Lake climb, I ran over a metal screw, that perfectly punctured through the tire. In all three instances the change-over to a new tube was made quickly, and we were on our way in a few minutes.

These three flats, were total flukes and, just plain bad luck. On message boards and forums I see many triathletes and cyclists are plagued with flat tires. What I do to minimize flats is as follows and it seems to work for us:

- Ride on the best rubber that you can afford. I see this often - people riding $5,000 bikes and really cheap tires. Up-grade your rubber. It's win-win: Better ride and less flats.

- Make sure your tires are installed properly. It's not that hard a skill. This should be a basic. Know how to do it, at home and on the side of the road. Practice it! Outstanding guide for clincher tube changing at the always informative Park Tool site.

- Always check tire inflation and pressure, before every ride! Buy and use a good floor pump for home use and for on-the-road know how to use a Co2 cartridge (always carry two) or mini pump.

- Between rides check your tires over carefully. Look for cuts, and small micro pieces of glass and metal imbedded in the tread/tire. Use a pin to dig the small things out of the rubber.

- Scan road ahead for obvious things that cause flats. If on a group ride, alert following riders to these issues. Don't get too obsessed about this, as you also need to focus on riding and other things.

- Try to find a tire and rim/wheel combo that goes on and off easily for both your every-day wheels and your race wheels. Some combos are terrible and require the strength of three men to make a change. You don't want that combo.

FWIW - we have had great success with the Vittoria EVO CX tires. These clincher tires are "expensive", but they meet all of my key tire criteria:

- Have amazing feel for the road.
- Roll straight and true and offer fantastic grip in corners.
- Despite claims of others, reasonably durable. Again, only three flats last year!
- Go on and off our regularly used wheels very easily.
- Are readily available in most good bike shops.

Despite all of this, flats happen. Be ready for them! Don't sweat it. Know what you are doing. Make the change, and get on with the ride!
How often do you get flat tires?

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9 comments:

edinho said...

Steve, hello from Brazil!

I agree with you and follow almost all of your advices, except the brand/model of my tires: I prefer Conti's GP 4000.

However, flats appear (to me) a matter of luck, despite all precaution: sometimes I find my self ages away from the last tire (something like 6 months) and sometimes they happen 3times in a week... go figure!

Please keep writing!

edinho said...

I mean, ages away form the last flat tire... lol

Steve Fleck said...

The GP 4000 is a nice tire to. For some reason, it's much harder to get on/off my regular rims.

Agreed on the luck.

Thanks for reading.

SF

Steve Fleck said...

The GP 4000 is a nice tire to. For some reason, it's much harder to get on/off my regular rims.

Agreed on the luck.

Thanks for reading.

SF

Ben said...

My flats used to come in clusters until I started paying attention to tire wear!

Bert Sandie said...

A couple of other tricks
(1) rotate the front and back wheels - the back wears ~4 times faster
(2) always ride with a mini pump; seen many people left stranded on side of the road with CO2 issues
(3) most new rim and tire combos can easily take 100 to 110 PSI; get an a good floor pump with pressure gauge

Kel said...

Just a couple other things to address, the Vittoria's I would say in general don't seem to have the durability you speak of. My brother used to ride on these and flatted a lot more often then he does on Conti's. I ride on Conti's (GP4000S) and have had 1 flat in 3 years, and that was when I rolled throgh a drain gate in advertantly.

As for pressure, a lot of people say if you're too low you'll get punctures, but the thing with that is how many of you guys have actually had pinch flats from riding with too little pressure, it's more likely something that's gone through and through your tire. No amount of pressure is going to save you from that. I usually run slightly south of 100, possibly down to 90, you get better ride quality too

bob said...

new road biker here, picked up a bike on the Cervelo deal (as did the wife), what is your opinion of the tube liners for road bikes?

thanks,
bob

Steve Fleck said...

Bob,

Good choice on a new bike :)

I have never used the tube/tire liners. I have heard that they are good at reducing punctures to a certain degree. The down side to them is they add weight, and deaden the feel for the road.

As I say in the blog, I willing to trade off a bit of tire durability for better overall feel, which I feel we get with the tires choices I have made. And three flats in a whole year of a lot of riding, for two people, is not that big a deal.

Enjoy your new ride!

SF