Wednesday, 24 March 2010

2 important methods of avoiding flat tyres when bicycling


Flat tires, especially the blowouts, can ruin long bike rides. A few years back while doing a 300-mile road trip, I had five flat tires, everything from a slow leak to a major blowout. In fact, the fifth one happened while I was seeking help in a small town for the blowout. There, I sat on a park bench waiting for a store to open so I could fix or replace my two flats. How did that situation happen? As a new rider then, two reasons come to mind.

I failed to avoid certain hazardous road debris that can cause bicycle flats.
I was riding on soft, inexpensive easily-punctured tubes and tires.

Even though we now know the obvious answers to this problem, two fairly prevalent ways to prevent these flat tires during the non-supported rides are discussed below.

1. Avoid the potentially hazardous debris on roads or trails (easier said than done).

We must avoid any obvious potential tire-puncturing debris, like, broken glass, sharp gravel or rocks, pieces of metal, thorny twigs, small patches of grass that could contain cockle-burs, or avoid any physical nut, jut, or rut that could cause a tire to bump hard or pinch an inner tube. Of course, we cannot keep our eyes on our pathway every second of the ride. But we can train ourselves to sense potential hazardous debris in front of us most of the time.

This practice means riding in the daytime instead of at night. Certain debris is hard to see in the dark, even with a headlight. A bicycle headlight causes numerous shadows on the ground, which can be difficult to distinguish from actual hazards. If one must ride at night is a must for some reason, like being caught between towns or trailheads, then the headlight should be powerful enough enough to ward off any confused, zig-zagging, night-roaming critters that could divert us into a flat-tire situation.

In some instances, this practice means riding mostly on the clean road shoulders and trails where the hazardous debris is minimal compared to the country back-roads and nut-and-twig-laden trails. Still, even on these clean pathways, bicyclists might have to avoid certain areas where debris could collect.

2. Use tough flat-resistant tires and tubes plus extra liners.

The smooth tread on the road and cruising-type tires will wear out comparatively faster than the thicker mountain bike (MTB) treads. Still, depending on the kind of riding being done (bumpy or smooth), avid riders will change out their tires two or more times a year. Will any new tires work okay? Maybe so, to a degree.

Yet, one prevalent way to prevent flat tires is to use the multi-layered tough-skin tires (tube or tubeless). These tires and tubes will definitely cost more, but they are worth it in the long run. Also, along this line of preparation, the following practices will aid flat-tire prevention considerably.

Line the inside of the metal bike wheels with heavy spoke-tape (between the rims).
Add thin plastic thorn liners to the tires (an extra layer between each tire and tube).
Use the heavy puncture-resistant tubes (sometimes called super tubes).
Use slime-containing or self-sealing tubes or tires, if preferred.
Replace the tires before they become cracked, weakened, and susceptible to blowouts.

In short, as a precaution on long bicycle rides, we need to stay away from the hazards that cause flat tires, and ride on fairly new tough-skin tires. Yet, one question still remains. Will these rides be much fun with this much prevention?

To learn more about safe flat-free bicycle riding, see the following sites.

Michael Bluejays's Preventing Flat Tires

Utah Mountain Biking Tire Care and Flat Prevention

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