By David Shelby
We’ve all experienced a flat bicycle tire at one time or another. We know it will eventually happen, but why does it always seem to occur on a mountain bike trail you’ve been waiting all year to experience? To say the least, it’s never a good time to get a flat, but you can take some preventative measures to be prepared if one decides to ruin your bike ride. Follow these 10 tips and you may avoid some headaches when your next flat happens.
1) Replace the rim’s rubber strips with thin plastic or fabric strips. Thinner strips provide more room for the tire bead and makes mounting and removal easier.
2) Use slightly smaller cross-section tubes. Racers do this all the time to make it easier and faster to repair a flat. For example a 26 x 1.75 diameter mountain bike tube will work on any 26-inch rim. A 20 centimeter road bike tube will easily stretch and fill up to a 28 centimeter tire. The smaller sizes weight less and take up less room in your pack.
3) When carrying spare tubes (which is a must) dust them with talcum powder. This helps the tire bead slide into the rim easier, sometimes without needing a lever!
4) If you get a flat, very carefully feel the inside of the tire for embedded thorns, rocks or glass. Otherwise you’ll end up with another flat in no time. Just be careful not to cut your fingers.
5) If you’re patching a tube with rubber cement and a patch, make sure it dries properly before reinstalling it. Blowing on it or wetting the tube to locate a leak will add moisture and will compromise the bonding process. Listen or feel for the leak to locate it.
6) Squeeze both sides of the tire’s bead away from the rim to break the sticky bond that sometimes develops between the tire an rim. It also forces the tire into the deepest part of the rim, making it easier to remove when necessary.
7) Replace or check your rubber cement on a regular basis. No matter how hard you try, it always seems to dry up and it’s good to have a fresh tube.
8) Get a Schrader valve tool. If your kids’ bikes use tubes with a Schrader valve get a tool from an auto parts store to tighten up loose valves. This is a common problem that can be solved with some spit on the valve and tightening it up with the tool.
9) Carry a spare tube and a patch kit. Some punctures near the Presta valve can’t always be patched and a spare tube can get accidentally punctured by tools or from constant abrasion while in your pack.
10) If you notice a leaking tire, stop and fix it immediately. If not, you can cause additional damage to the tire and tube or worse, dent the rim by hitting a pothole or large rock.