Nothing will prevent you from getting a flat tire on your bike 100% of the time. You do, however, have a number of options that can greatly reduce your chances of getting a flat. With this advice and/or products, you may never need to worry about tube punctures or patch kits again.
Your first step should always be to make sure your tires are properly inflated.
Tires have a preferred air-pressure range, which is measured in psi (pounds per square inch).
Look on the tire sidewall for the recommended pressure. As a general rule:
- The air pressure in road tires should be between 100 and 140 psi.
- Mountain bike tires should be inflated between 30 and 50 psi.
- Tire pressure for urban and casual bikes should be between 60 and 80 psi.
Having under-inflated tires can result in problems with "pinch flats." This occurs when your tire compresses all the way to the rim, causing two small holes that look like snake bites. On the other hand, over-inflation does not cause flats, although it can blow out the tube in some cases.
Check your tire pressure using a tire pump or gauge. The higher-end tire pumps will come with a psi gauge, but if you own a lower-end pump, you'll need to carry your own tire pressure gauge. It is important to know whether you have a Presta or Schrader valve stem (the slimmer Presta valve needs the top nut unscrewed before checking pressure).
Basic Tire Care
Periodically inspect your bike tires for embedded glass, rock shards, or other sharp objects, especially after riding a route that has substantial debris. Embedded items may not cause an immediate flat, but they can slowly seep through a tire and eventually cause a puncture. You can remove this debris with your fingernail or a small tool before it causes any problems.
Keep a close eye on your tire sidewalls and tread for excessive wear, damage, dryness, and cracks. You are more likely to get a flat tire if your tires exhibit any of these symptoms. Ask a bike pro at your local other reputable bike shop to examine your tires if you're unsure.
Using this option is convenient because you can use it to fix an existing flat tire, as well as to avoid future blowouts. Squeeze a little sealant through the stem to cover the inside of the tube. In the case of a small puncture or cut, sealant can fill the leak quickly and create a plug that is usually more durable than the inner tube or the surrounding tire.
There are two types of sealants available. Slime is designed to be injected directly into Schrader-type tubes only. Café Latex is designed for injection into Presta-type tubes or tubeless tires. Café Latex requires you to use an uncontaminated syringe sold separately.
To prevent blowouts, some inner tubes (with Schrader and Presta valves) use "pre-slime." Since these inner tubes are usually thicker, stab-resistant, and pre-injected with mucus, they offer excellent flat avoidance.
What are the disadvantages of sealant? Sealants alone will not prevent large cracks or cuts, and some can be messy to install.
The tire liner is a thin strip of plastic that fits between the tire and the tube. The extra layer minimizes the risk of flats being punctured by thorns, glass or other sharp objects. Liners are popular and work well, but they add 6 ounces. In high performance tires, this weight adds significantly to your rolling resistance. Liners could be worth the weight, however, if you live in an area that has a lot of thorns or road debris.
Puncture-resistant Tires and Tubes
Alternately, you can switch to tires designed to resist flats. It's true that these tires won't feel as fast as standard bike tires, but bike commuters have reported that they experience fewer flats when using them.
What do they do? Several tire makers use aramid fiber belts (such as the well-known Kevlar® brand) to resist punctures; others increase tread thickness. There are many proprietary names for these tires: the Serfas Flat Protection System, the Continental Safety System, the Michelin ProTek reinforcement system, etc. In addition to being relatively heavy, these tires reduce pedaling efficiency.
You should also use thorn-resistant tubes. These tubes are just thicker (and heavier) versions of conventional tubes.
How to Fix a Flat Tire
Flat tires don't have to catch you off guard. Yes, they're frustrating, but if you know what to do, you can fix them in no time.
Here are some tips:
- Stock up on the right tools and supplies. Included are a replacement tube, a tire lever, a pump or CO2 inflator, and a pick, knifepoint, or similar poking tool. When working on your rear wheel, you'll also need a battery key, an adjustable 18mm wrench, a 4mm hex wrench, zip ties, and a cutting tool. You can also use a tire pressure gauge to ensure that your tires are properly inflated.
- Remove the battery. This will make it easier for you to flip your bike over. Discharge your bike completely before you begin. Once the battery is off, hold down the power button to eliminate any stored electricity.
- To replace a tire, you do not need to remove the axle nuts completely. They can simply be loosened.
- If you remove the wheel, be sure not to damage the motor wire you just unplugged or the round, thin brake rotor.
- Before you use the tire lever, gently nudge the tire off the rim to create some slack.
- Install the new tube back into the tire with some air in it so that it keeps its shape. Since it will be less unwieldy, this will save you a lot of time and effort.
- In most cases, if you aren't able to directly see the threads or casing of your tire after cleaning it, you should be good to go.