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Noah posted his ten quick tips for bike commuters on Monday. Among the tips is learning basic bike maintenance. Among the more common repairs for cyclists is fixing a flat, so it’s good to know what causes flats and how to avoid them.
- Pinch flats. I got a classic pinch flat last night on my commute home. I was in a hurry and bumped hard against a curb, after which I heard the hiss of a deflating tire. Pinch flats happen when the tube is pinched between a hard object (like a curb or pothole) and the wheel rim. Pinch flats are also called snakebites, because you’ll see two punctures in the tube where it struck the rim. Pinch flats are more common on narrow tires. You can avoid pinch flats by keeping tires properly inflated, by riding wider tires, and by avoiding boneheaded moves like bumping curbs and potholes.
Road debris. Glass, thorns, nails, bits of wire and other sharp objects can puncture the tire and tube, causing a flat. Watch the road or path in front of you to avoid debris like this, looking far enough ahead so you can maneuver around the debris. Various products are also available offering various degrees of puncture resistance. These include puncture resistant tires, extra thick tubes, plastic strips to shield the tubes, and gooey sealants that go inside the tubes. Whenever you repair a flat, you should always check the tire to ensure the sharp object that punctured your tube isn’t still there.
Rim and spokes. If you consistently get mystery punctures in the same spot, it’s probable that your rim tape is worn and needs replacing. The rim tape is a strip of cloth, plastic or rubber that lines the inside of the rim, protecting your tube from the sharp surfaces inside the rim.
Blow out. When a portion of the tube sticks out beyond the tire’s casing, it will explode loudly. This can be from incorrect installation or from a damaged tire. You might have cut the tire sidewall, for example, and the tube can herniate out through the cut and blow out with a dramatic bang. As you inflate your tube ensure the tube doesn’t protrude outside of the tire and rim. Also, examine your tires periodically and look for holes or cuts; if you can see daylight through a tire, it’s past time to replace it.
Valve damage. Any part of the valve and stem can get damaged through abuse or overuse, through which air can leak. I’ve seen people attempt to apply patches to leaking valve stems, but they rarely hold for long. Sealants don’t typically work well on damaged valves. It’s time for a new tube.
Me being me, I’m sure I’ve missed some types of flats. What else should I list? Photo Credit: “Screw you, mysteriously flat tire.” Photo by Wallet B Grundle.