Biking Lessons: Road Bike Flat Tires

Riding a bike is easy. Making a $25 Craigslist bike ready to ride was surprisingly easy as well – and I can happily say I have been riding regularly and generally without trouble since August!

And then the good times and my biking euphoria were cut short this week by a harsh reality… I experienced two flat tires in a row. A tiny sliver of glass had worked it’s way through the tire to puncture my tube on my ride last weekend. And then I inexplicably got another flat tire on my very next ride, earlier this week on my commute to work. Suddenly it seemed as though any of my money saving or health benefits were being compromised by bad luck as I waited to be rescued by awesome friends and coworkers driving cars. My biking plan apparently had a fatal flaw: my road bike tires and tubes were thinner than tissue paper, and I had somehow luckily avoided road hazards up until recently.

This run of bad luck did not make me give up, but instead I found a solution that I hope will prevent all flat tires moving forward: I bought a pair of Mr. Tuffy tire liners ($13), and “thorn resistant” bicycle tubes (2 x $8), and installed them on my bike today. Even before inflating the super-thick tubes I could tell my tires will be a lot tougher to puncture with these upgrades – the tube rubber was so thick they were difficult to fit between the wheel and tire wall. The liners are a pretty basic strip of material (oddly, they remind me of fruit roll-ups), but they seem like a great extra barrier that will prevent things like thorns and glass from getting all the way through to the tubes. I’ll let you know how they work in practice after using them for a year or so.

Road Bike Flat Tire Lessons

I also learned a few lessons when my tire lost air miles from my destination:

  • My dinky hand pump is worthless – it’s really hard to get a tire up to the proper PSI without a beefier pump.
  • Attempting to patch a flat on the side of the road isn’t very practical, and is often impossible if you can’t identify where the leak is located.
  • Preventing flat tires is way more important than being prepared to fix one while on the road.

So, I will soon be adding a few more things to my riding arsenal:

  • A spare tube or 2 (probably the ones replaced by the thorn resistant tubes installed earlier today).
  • Either a CO2 tire inflator, or a bigger pump (foot pump?). I’m not sure which is more practical; the foot pump could fit in my RideKick and last forever, but the CO2 inflator, while disposable, would weigh less and probably work better in a pinch.

I hope to never again get a flat tire while riding, but I also want to be prepared to fix a flat without having to call someone for help if needed – what flat tire suggestions or tips can you give a road biking newbie? Am I missing a vital piece of equipment? Let me know your expert advice in the comments below!

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Musings