Unfortunately, flats are part of riding and bound to happen to everyone at some point — but there are precautions you can take to reduce their likelihood. – By William Edwards
Follow these simple steps to prevent punctures.
Use Talcum Powder
Liberally dusting a new inner tube with talcum powder before installation makes the rubber’s surface slippery. This keeps the tyre and tube from sticking to each other and reduces friction that can possibly wear a hole in the tube.
“I have always had a large Zip-lock bag with the talc in it and simply dropped the tube in and given it a good shaking,” says Matt Eames, an instructor at United Bicycle Institute in Oregon. “It seems to keep the mess to a minimum as well as not wasting unnecessary talc.”
Stop and Look
This might be an obvious step, but many don’t take the time to do it. If you think you’ve ridden over a patch of glass or any other sharp objects that litter the road, stop and inspect your tyres for foreign objects. If you see anything embedded in the tyre, gently pry it out with a fingernail. If you have a handkerchief, bandana, or glove, use it to protect your hand while you gently spin the wheel, catching anything that gets caught on the cloth. This step can prevent an embedded object from causing a puncture later, if it hasn’t already pierced the tyre’s casing. It’s good practice to inspect your tyres after each ride, too.
It can be a bit more expensive than some other options, but buying a tubeless conversion kit or switching to Universal System Tubeless (UST) tyres altogether can be very effective ways to bring down your number of flats and improve a bike’s overall control. With no tubes, pinch flats become non-issues, and less air pressure is required for inflation, allowing for better shock absorption on rough terrain.
If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of your tubes, try using a sealant. When looking for a sealant, be sure to check if the inner tube requires a certain type, and how long it lasts before it needs to be replaced. Tyres and tubes can be purchased with sealant already in them — Slime brand products are marketed this way — but are more expensive and are typically heavier than those without it.
Rim Strips and Tyre Liners
Both rim strips and tyre liners guard the sides of the tube from its neighbours, the rim and the tyre. As the name implies, rim strips protect the tube from the holes in the rim, and the ends of the spokes. These are as simple as a rubber strip or a cloth tape, and fit inside the rim bed. Tyre liners are the similar to rim strips in their function, but protect from objects attempting to penetrate from the outside. Both are inexpensive to purchase, making them cheap insurance against flats. Eames says you should pay close attention to the overlap of the liner when it is installed, otherwise it can prove ineffective and may cause more flats than it prevents.
“Take care during installation that the liner stays centre relative to the tyre’s tread,” he says. “You can end up with a really protected sidewall and little help under the tread.”
Go Old School
They’re harder to find as their popularity has dropped off, but tyre wipers are still a great way to prevent flats. Tyre wipers attach to your brakes or fenders and consist of a rubber coated metal bar that lightly rubs the tyre as it rotates to wipe away debris before it has a chance to puncture the tyre. A quick Internet search will bring up a few different models. If you’re serious about stopping flat tyres, wipers might be the way to go.