You're on the way to work or worse, in a bunch ride. There's a sense somethings not right as you begin feeling the ruts beneath your wheel. Suspicions are proven right as you look down to see your tyre is flat.
Flat tyres are an inconvenience for any rider. If you're practiced and you've the equipment, replacing a tube will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you're a rider who's avoided the art of tube changing, that's ok. A local bike shop can take care of it. But the following read is even more vital for you, because walking or driving to the local shop isn't always an option. Prevention is smarter. So we're about to list 3 reasons why you likely get flats, and how to avoid them.
The question, ‘Why did I get a flat?’ is asked daily in our workshop by commuters and road rider. We can tell you the origin by looking at the type of hole in the tube and its position, because near every conceivable scenario has been experienced here. We've seen protruding tacks and nails, sliced rubber and wrong tube choice. But lets explore the 3 main culprits so you can avoid them.
- No Air
- Damaged Rim Tape
- Worn Tyres
The cause of most flats is not from riding over glass. If you prepare your tyres correctly, you can ride over a little glass without consequence. The main cause of flats is having too little air pressure.
Excluding tubeless tyres (more on that soon), when your tyre is soft and pliable it means you've too low pressure. That's why glass, wire, metal, staples and even thorns pierce right through the rubber. Sharp objects love to slice and sever both tyre and tube, as well as your adventurous plans.
Too little pressure results in pinch flats, which can flatten the tyre suddenly. You may be affected when turning a corner or over a bump.
With low to no air the tube is pinched between the rim and the tyre resulting in a flat.
Inflators, like this Silca air inflator, and hand pumps are excellent on the bike when you get a flat. But for everyday you'll need to invest in a decent foot pump. The high pressure smart head pumps are quick and efficient for regular use.
How to avoid Flats due to low pressure
- Use your quality floor pump once a week. We always have one at Chainsmith and you're welcome to use it. If you’re at the store looking for a great floor pump, we've several priced pumps in store. We've also a selection of hand pumps.
- Read the recommended pressure on your tyre and follow it.
- Practice pushing on the tyre before you ride. You’ll soon get the feel for how hard the rubber should be.
Worn Rim Tape
Have you just been "riding along" and suddenly you're riding a flat tyre? You've no memory of rolling over something. Nor can you see any telltale signs of a tear or hole. The explanation could well be another culprit of common flats ... Worn or dislodged rim tape.
Rim tape is plastic, cloth or rubber adhered and stretched inside the rim. It prevents your spokes poking through and piercing a tube.
Like all plastics, rim tape has a shelf life!
How to avoid it? Check the rim tape and if its worn or exposes spokes, replace it. With a decent wheel you can usually extend the rim tape for a few years. But if you've a cheaper wheel or bike the tape is likely inferior and the application done cheaply.
Worn or sliced tyres
Check the tread on your tyres. If your bike was stored for 12 months its worth knowing that rubber is privy to perishing over time, particularly cracking on the side walls.
Exposed to temperature changes rubber develops cracks. The road surface also will eventually wears down the tyre like sandpaper, resulting in what we term balding. These can present as flat spots or involve squaring of the entire circumference, (like the image below).
Wether its cracks, holes or bald areas, tyres become unpredictable. They lose traction and are susceptible to flatting.
If you've any of these issues we say don’t trust the tread. Instead replace the tyres. Its not worth an accident over. We’ve plenty of durable or race ready tyres at Chainsmith. Our preference? For race and road bike purposes we like Pirelli and Vittoria. When you need durability either commuting or road riding, we also suggest Schwalbe.
When changing your worn tyres the difference in ride feel is obvious. You’ll have a renewed confidence both cornering and braking.
In brief, the experience from our Chainsmith workshop vote these 3 preventative measures the best to avoiding flats ...
Lastly, we advice investing in a decent floor pump for regular weekly use. The pump will preferably have a smart head usable for both Presta and Schrader, and allow high pressure up to 160psi. Alongside a decent bicycle pump, we advise inexpensive but excellent tyre levers to simplify the job of removing the tyre. Schwalbe tyre levers are our workshop favourites.
You are also welcome to book a tube change at our Chainsmith workshop here.