What Every Cyclist Should Know About Flat Tires

They can happen at the worst possible moments – in the middle of a race, at the most remote part of the trail, or when you’re already late for work. What every cyclist should know about flat tires includes how to avoid them, how to repair them, and when to get rid of them.

Flat Tires Are Avoidable

Always test tire pressure before you begin a ride. Slow leaks will reveal themselves in significantly diminished pressure from your previous ride. Don’t ride on under inflated tires, which can further damage the tire, lead to pinch flats (if you're using tubes) and the wheel. Under inflated tires increase rolling resistance too. Overinflated tires can cause a blowout, especially during hot summers. Overinflation decreases traction and makes for a more bone-jangling ride.

Most flats are caused by rolling over or into something sharp. Broken glass, nails, thorns or sharp bits of gravel can cause cuts or punctures. Hard impacts against curbs, rocks, or trails after negotiating a bump often cause pinch flats, or “snake bites” on tires with tubes. These flats are called “snake bites” because whatever caused the pinch usually leaves two holes in the tube, one atop the other. Stay alert for debris, potholes, ruts, and rocks and avoid them if you can.

Damaged rims can cause flats. Sharp edges, improperly installed rim tape, or a bad fit between tire and rim can all cause problems. Check the condition of your wheel rims regularly. If your tires keep going flat, it may be a sign of rim trouble.

Flat Tires Are Usually Repairable

Flats are inevitable for anyone who regularly rides a bike. Keep a patch kit, sealant, spare inner tube, and inflation device with you if you can. For tubeless tires, keep a plug kit handy. Plug kits make it unnecessary to remove a tubeless tire to repair it in most cases. Practice removing wheels and tires and remounting them correctly, before a flat makes it necessary. When running tubes, punctures can be repaired with patches. Long cuts, however, aren’t so easily repaired and you may have to replace the tire or get by with a tire boot to get home. Tubeless tires use a special sealant that can “self-repair” small impact and sharp object punctures typically within seconds and you may not even know it happened. When a tire puncture is too big to seal in a tubeless setup an inner tube might work to get you to your destination, but plan on replacing the tire as soon as possible.

When To Replace Your Tires

Every cyclist knows that flat tires happen. Tires don’t last forever, especially if you ride daily. Signs your tires are getting too old and worn include fraying on the inside threads of the tire and cracking and tears on the edges of the rubber that fits inside the wheel rim. If those edges are torn, frayed, or cracking, you won’t get a good seal on the rim and it’s time for a new set of tires.  Also, if the rubber starts feeing hard or gets a glossy sheen, this is an indicator that the rubber has dried out and the tire is end of life.  It may still look good on the surface, but it's lost traction and compliance, which can be dangerous.

Wider tires can make a difference if you ride rough roads or trails, or if you’ve recently changed your style of riding from road to trails, or trails to cyclocross or gravel. A big change in riding style may call for a new bike entirely. Look over a selection of Masi bikes for sale to find a stylish ride that meets your needs, whether you bike to commute, race, or adventure!

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