How to Prevent Your Bike From Getting a Flat Tire
If you aren’t prepared, a flat tire can really ruin a great bike ride. While most serious riders carry extra tubes, a patch kit, and a pump or compressed air with them when they ride, that’s a lot of hassle for the rest of us. Fortunately for you, there are many ways to prevent getting flats in the first place.
As you may already know from experience, even a thorn can pop a bike tire. This is because bicycle tires are much more prone to flats than car tires are, due to limitations in weight and cost. However, by using any of the following solutions, or even better, a combination of them, you can have a good chance of never getting a flat.
Bicycle Tire Liners
Bicycle tire liners are a very effective and simple solution to the problem. A tire liner is simply a belt of extruded plastic that is used as a fairly impenetrable barrier between the tire and the tube. To install it, first inflate your tube just enough to get it to hold its shape like one of those balloon animals. Then line the interior of your tire with the liner. At this point, the liner might not want to stay put, so go ahead and put your slightly inflated tube into the tire, pressing the liner firmly between the tire and tube. Go all the way around the tire and make sure that the liner is nicely centered because you want the tread area to get the protection. Please note that tire liners do not protect the sidewalls, but there are other solutions for that.
Bicycle Tubes That Don’t Go Flat
Another great way to prevent flats is by going with a pair of thorn-resistant bicycle tubes. While standard tubes are extremely thin and vulnerable to popping, thorn-resistant tubes are quite thick. This simple modification has amazing results, especially with thorns and glass that would easily penetrate regular tubes. Even better, thorn-resistant tubes are protective all the way around, guarding against threats to the tread area, the sidewalls, and even from spokes or burrs on the inside of the wheels themselves. Use these tubes in conjunction with tire liners for truly excellent protection.
Yet Another Layer of Security-- Armored Tires
Still worried? Well, then you can add puncture proof bike tires to your arsenal. These tires are beefed up versions of standard tires and usually have a kevlar belt in the tread area that withstands puncturing and slicing. These can be used on their own or with the other products, including bicycle tire liners.
And Some Back Up: Sealant
There is one final layer, and yes, this one can be used in combination with any or all of the others. It’s called tube sealant and is usually better known by the proprietary name Slime. This stuff is amazing in that it instantaneously fixes a flat right when it happens. It doesn’t prevent a flat, but it does fix it fast enough that you can usually keep riding. Tube sealant comes either in a bottle of goop or in tubes that have already been “pre-Slimed.” In practice, the goop coats the entire circumference of the tube when the wheels spin. If the tube gets a hole in it, escaping air pushes the goop into the hole where it quickly coagulates and dries, patching the hole before too much air escapes. Pretty amazing. When you get home, replace the damaged tube with a new one.
Most threats to your flat-free bliss come from hazards on the street or trail, but don’t forget that your own wheels can cause a flat. Wheels are constructed so that the end of the spokes are secured to the rim by special nuts called spoke nipples. Sometimes a spoke will go all the way through the nipple, poking into your tube like a needle. This will inevitably lead to a flat. Also, the rim itself or the spoke nipples may have sharp burrs that can slice your tube. The solution for all of these scenarios is to make sure that first, the spokes are not too long, and second, that the rim is banded with a good rim strip or rim tape. If your rim strip or rim tape is looking shabby, replace it. In a pinch, you can tape the inside of the rim with a couple of layers of electrical tape.
Proper Installation is Key
First, a word about removing the tire and tube. If you have a hybrid bike like the Body Ease Men's Matte Black 21 Speed Comfort Bike, you may need to use tire levers to remove a tire. Exercise caution in using tire levers as they can puncture tubes. Tires on cruiser bicycles, like the sixthreezero Around the Block Women’s 26" 3 Speed, can be hand-removed without the aid of tools.
The first step to ensuring perfect installation is to inspect the rim. Make sure that there aren’t any foreign objects or burrs. Then confirm that the rim strip or tape is fully covering the spoke nipples so that there is no chance that the spokes can poke through to the tube.
Now inflate the tube just enough for it to hold its shape and place it in the tire. This is also the moment to place a tire liner snugly between the tube and tire.
Insert the valve through its hole in the rim and begin sliding one bead (hoop part of the tire) onto the rim until the entire tire is hanging onto the rim.
Back at the valve again, carefully squeeze the tire and tube together to fully seat both sides of the tire bead into the rim. This is a very critical point and it is important to push the tire toward the rim center and take a look to ensure that no part of the tube has slipped out of the tire. Continue this visual inspection around the whole wheel. If the tube gets caught between the tire bead and the rim, it will puncture when you inflate it. Check the sidewall for the recommended pressure. Over-inflation and under-inflation can both cause flats.
Thorn resistant tubes, bicycle tire liners, puncture proof bike tires, sealant, and proper tire installation can all be used in any combination to keep you riding. In fact, with these solutions, it’s conceivable that you could avoid flats completely. Peace of mind makes a perfect ride even better.
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