Suffering a puncture when out enjoying a ride is every cyclist’s worst nightmare.
While in most cases fixing a flat is a relatively easy task, it does nothing to help your mood as you hear the telltale hiss of air escaping and know that you’re destined for a chunk of time at the side of the road replacing or fixing the tube.
Unfortunately, punctures are a fact of life for cyclists, but there are steps you can take to help reduce the risk of a flat. How can you best ensure that you don’t spend time by the side of the road when you should be riding on it? Here are eight tips to help you stay flat-free.
Choose your tires carefully
Naturally, we all want the fastest, lightest and grippiest tires available, but those lightweight rubber compounds tend to be more malleable than thicker, more hard-wearing tires. That means flints, glass and other objects can more easily get lodged into the tire, risking a puncture.
This comes at the cost of extra weight, and in some cases a lack of ultimate grip, but if you’re not intending on racing and durability is top of the agenda then these are a serious option to consider.
The key is finding the right tire for the job in hand. For training and sportives, we reckon that means a tire which offers an all-round combination of speed, weight, grip and puncture protection, without sacrificing too much in any one area. The Michelin Power Endurance and Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tires are favorites.
Pump your tires up
Tyre pressure is key to avoiding pinch flats. Pinch flats occur when the inner tube is pressed hard against the rim of the wheel and this usually happens under a sudden impact like hitting a pothole or the edge of a curb.
To reduce the chances of this occurring, ensure your tires are properly inflated before each ride, especially if, like most riders in the UK, you know the road surface is likely to be less than perfect. The pressure means there is less chance of the tube deforming and coming into contact with the rim.
Again, there’s a balancing act when it comes to tire pressure. Everyone has there own preference, and a lower tire pressure can improve comfort and grip, but by ensuring your tires are regularly topped up t your desired level, you can help stave off flats.
Also, bear in mind that the pressure requirements change depending on the width of your tires – the greater the width, the less pressure is required to disperse the force of an impact, so less pressure is required in the inner tube.
Check your tires regularly
This is a simple tip, but easily forgotten in the rush to meet your mates for that 9am start, or to ignore because you think ‘I’ll be alright this time’.
Just because you didn’t have a puncture the last time you rode your bike, that doesn’t mean sharp objects like flint and glass haven’t lodged their way into the tire, waiting to be pushed through to the inner tube by the rolling pressure of you riding your bike.
A simple check is sufficient, taking a look to see if there’s anything lodged in the tire, or running your fingers lightly over the rubber, ensuring you remove any objects that are lodged in. Try doing this immediately after you finish a ride so that you know you’ve checked before you start your next ride and aren’t rushed for time.
If you do have to remove anything and the resulting hole reaches down to the canvas of the tire, you should look to change it as soon as is reasonable.
Don’t ride in the gutter
You can also think about where you ride on the road, too. A lot of the flint and glass that will puncture your tire is likely to be lurking in the gutter on the edge of the road, or sometimes gathered in the center if you’re riding on a single-track road.
It makes sense, therefore, to avoid these areas. Look out for the clearest paths set by cars. As an added benefit, the tarmac may be slightly more compressed in the area as the repeated weight of car tires pushes down into the road, offering a smoother and faster ride. Win-win!