How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!

Puncture Flats. Before I started cycling coast to coast across the United States, I decided to stick with my narrow Continental Grand Prix tires I already had on my bicycle. These tires have a thin tread and sidewalls that I liked for their low rolling resistance and speed. Since I usually ride around three thousand miles a year, about the same as the cross-country ride, with only a few flats, I thought they would be fine. Unfortunately, I experienced many more flats in the first two weeks riding across the country than I would normally get in a year. In fact, in one day alone I had four flat tires .

I quickly realized that road conditions varied greatly from what I was used to and I needed to rethink my tire choice. So I changed out the Grand Prix tires for Continental Gatorskin flat resistant tires. Like other flat resistant tires, there is an extremely puncture resistant belt incorporated into the tire to help reduce flats. While I wish I could say that I never got another flat, I think I only had one flat for the remainder of the trip.

Since flat resistant tires generally have a thicker tread and sidewalls to help prevent flats, they may not be as fast as the tires with a thin tread and sidewalls. That said, I honestly didn’t notice a difference in performance with these puncture resistant tires. However, I wasn’t stuck along the road fixing my flat “fast” tires.

Spoke Hole Flats. While my flat resistant tires greatly reduced puncture flats from road debris, after returning home I noticed that the majority of my flats were caused by the spoke holes in my rims. Either the rim tape shifted exposing the inner tube to the sharp edge of the spoke holes or the rim tape deformed at the spoke hole and the tube ruptured.

Although old fashion cloth rim tape seemed to resolve the problem, I was on a quest to eliminate my spoke hole flat forever. So, my answer was to pop Velocity Veloplugs into each spoke hole. While they are meant to eliminate rim tape, I also used light weight plastic rim tape to hold the plugs in place. This would ensure the plugs stayed in place and wouldn’t shift or get lost if I had to change a tire.

As a result, I had a bulletproof solution to my spoke hole puncture problem with negligible weight added to my wheels.

Tube Sealant. While my flat resistant tires work well, some road debris like the thin steal wires from ruptured automobile steal belted radial tires still manage to puncture them. Subsequently, I still need another level of protection if I want to accomplish my mission to eliminate flat tires forever. Fortunately, I found that I could do that with tube sealant.

I had heard horror stories about sealant, however, this was not the case for me. For example, in one instance I was turning at an intersection when I heard the pssst . . . . pssst . . . . pssst . . . . of a punctured tire going flat. Yet, before I cleared the intersection the tube sealant had already sealed the puncture. All I had to do was pump a little air into the tube to replace what was lost and I was on my way.

Since most tube sealant only requires a few ounces in each tube, there is negligible weight added to my wheels. But most of all, it’s very satisfying to hear a flat tire just fix itself.

Pinch Flats. Pinch flats are generally caused be under inflated tires. They happen when the tube is punctured by being pinched between the tire and rim. They are easy to spot because the puncture looks like a snake bite with two holes side by side on the tube. Although narrow tires have very high air pressure, they are more prone to getting pinch flats simply because they have a smaller cushion of air to protect the tube than wider tires.

I found that simply checking my tire pressure before each ride eliminates this type of flat for me and I haven’t had one in years. However, if you check your tire pressure regularly and continue to get pinch flats, you may have to change out your tires for wider ones.

Avoidance. With bulletproof tires, the last step in eliminating flats forever is to avoid road hazards and debris that can damage tires. I find, for cyclists, that the edge of the road is generally the most hazardous, with poorly maintained pavement and road debris. This is where broken glass and other debris tend to collect. Fortunately, most state laws recognized that cyclists should ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe.

Confused about what that means? Me too. While I am not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice, here’s how I understand it. The right side of the roadway is generally marked by a white line on the right side of the road. The pavement to the right of that white line is the safety shoulder.

Even though it is tempting to ride on the shoulder as far away from the flow of traffic as possible, it sometimes puts a cyclist at risk. I do ride on the shoulder when it is safe, however, I will also move into the roadway when I judge that the road conditions make it safer for me to do so.

Ken Whittaker