Ride a bike much and flats are going to happen.
An occasional flat tire is part of life when pushing the pedals. Knowing how to prevent those pain-in-the-rear flats can keep them from becoming frequent happenings out on the trail or road. Being ready with the know-how and tools to fix a flat will get you home safely.
David Tovey knows all about flats and all about bicycling as president of Pedal It Forward. This area group of hard-working volunteers fixes up donated bicycles and provides them to anyone who needs a bike.
Tovey’s advice started with two words. Go tubeless.
“There’s a liquid inside of tubeless tires that seals small punctures on the fly,” he said.
Lots of mountain bikers and riders with gravel-road bikes are going for tubeless tires. They’re available for road bikes, but Tovey said most road riders still use tube tires.
Tubeless tires have to be paired with wheels that are designed for them, so going tubeless will likely require spending some money.
With tube tires or tubeless, proper tire inflation is key to preventing flats. Check the tires before every ride, and it’s likely they’ll need some air.
“A road bike tire can lose 20 pounds of pressure on a single ride,” Tovey noted.
When tires are under-inflated and the rider hits a bump, that can pinch the tube and tear it. Hello flat tire.
A good tire pressure for mountain bike tires is around 25 psi (pounds per square inch). Gravel bike tires are good at 30 to 40 psi. Proper road-tire inflation is 100 psi or more.
Some road riders want their bikes to be as light as possible. Tovey says don’t go for the lightest-weight tires out there. A slightly heavier, more rugged tire is best for most road riders.
The best place to learn to fix a flat is at home. There are videos and printed instructions galore that show the simple process of fixing a bicycle flat. Practicing at home is way less stressful than trial and error on the trail or roadside.
Most people who own a bicycle have tube tires. When a flat happens, many riders simply install a new tube, inflate the tire and off they go. That is, if there’s a tube to install. Carrying a small repair kit on the bike is important, as well as a pump for airing up the tire.
I carry a kit on my road bike and one on my mountain bike. Inside each kit are two spare tubes, tube patches and two bicycle tire spoons. A spoon is handy for removing the tire from the rim to pop in a new tube. It all fits in a small zipper pouch that fastens under the bicycle seat.
I’d be lost without reading glasses so my kits include a pair. It helps to see when fixing a flat. I’ve also stashed a sanitary wipe in each kit for cleaning my fingers after the repair.
On both bikes there’s also a small tire pump that attaches to the frame. They’re available at any bike shop. Get a pump with the largest barrel that will fit your bike. Pumps with those little short barrels take forever and a day to inflate a tire.
The Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared” applies to most aspects of life. That includes riding a bike.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org