Today’s comes to us from Michael Hormel, about his method to prevent flats – and the results are astonishing. Here’s what he wrote:
I’ve only had one flat in the 10-15 years since I went from sew-ups to clinchers. The one was early this summer when I hit a rough spot were a culvert had been replaced and I bounced over it and got a pinch flat.
I take my time when installing tires and tubes:
- I powder my tubes and the inside of the tire.
- I make sure the tube is well-seated inside the tire and rim by pinching the tire together and wiggling it as I work around the wheel.
- I inflate to a low pressure and apply weight to the wheel by holding the skewer and rolling the tire across the floor to seat the tube.
- I let most of the air out, then reinflate.
All of this takes a little extra time but saves me a lot of time on the road.
I got this method from my father, who was a WWII Marine air core mechanic. He said they were having problems where every time a plane would land, it would blow a tire. He got the idea to inflate, deflate, reinflate to make sure the tube was seated properly. No more blow-outs after that.
Kerry Irons says
These are good techniques, and the same results can be obtained by working the tire and tube with your fingers to make sure the tube is “free” inside the tire and the tire is properly seated before pumping to pressure.
However essentially all of my flats are from punctures: bits of glass or wire (and sometimes nails, staples, or screws). Nothing in this method will prevent that kind of puncture. While I live in a state with a good bottle law we still see broken glass and other debris along the streets and rural roads.
Fred Rose says
Agreed. i’ve done this for better part of 40 years, the method works for preventing flats due to pinching the tube between the tire and rim, but does nothing for preventing flats from debris penetrating the tire and tube.
Rob A says
Great tips but as Kerry indicated, these will help prevent failure due to poor seating of the tube/tire, but will not prevent any flats from punctures.
I think the author really means he has only had one flat in the last 10-15 years from incorrect tire/tube mounting, not punctures. Flats will eventually occur when riding a road bike on public roads. That is a certainty!
Great tips for avoiding pinch flats, but as stated will not prevent punctures. I live and ride in Boise, ID, and around here “goatheads” (seeds of the Puncturevine) are the bane of our existence. In addition to installation techniques similar to Mr. Hormel’s, and per the advice of the mechanics at my favorite LBS, I also do the following:
-Use training tires that have extra protection (Kevlar belt or similar).
-Use tubes with removable Presta valve cores. Initial cost is about twice that of a tube without removable core, but worth it.
-After installing tube and tire, and seating tube, remove valve core and inject approximately 1 oz. of Stan’s liquid into the tube. Reinstall core and inflate tube.
This technique has almost completely eliminated puncture flats for me, my wife, and kids. Can be easily done with all Schraeder valve tubes as well.
Jim Mason says
If you live in the land of goat heads (Tribulus terrestris) then half a dozen flats a year would be outstanding! I’ve had as many as 3 in one ride.
All good points.
One additional thing I do when inflating a tire is to make sure it is seated well AND then watch while pumping up to pressure to make sure it stays seated (if one sees a bulge where the tire is coming off the rim, one can usually quickly deflate and save the tube – and one’s hearing. The tires most likely to blow off the rim are those which are easiest to remove from the rim when removing the old tube. I have found some brands (like Schwalbe) to be terrible…some seem to have a larger diameter than they should and I have had some new tires which were impossible to to keep on the rim…some of the wider 700c tires and some mt. bike tires.
Ed Pavelka says
Many punctures are not instantaneous (goat heads excepted). They happen when a sharp enough object sticks to the tread and grinds through to the tube during many subsequent revolutions.
Knowing this, I have a quick post-ride ritual: I put my bike in the repair stand and spin each wheel through a rag to brush the tires clean. Then I use a small flashlight to go around each tire, checking for anything embedded in the tread.
When I find something I remove it with the corner of a small flat-blade screwdriver. Or needle-nose pliers if it’s a piece of wire. The entire process takes about one minute per tire.
No, this won’t eliminate all flats. But it will prevent flats that are poised to happen because the culprit is already at work.
Using this quick and simple tire check I average one flat every 8-9,000 miles — and I start every ride feeling confident that this won’t be the day.
Yep, this is the best advice. Also I suggest brushing tires with gloves if you suspect you have just ridden over broken glass. Small pieces will sit on the surface of the tire for some time before they push in and can easily be removed if you do this.
great way to risk a crash with little benefit! if glass will puncture your tire, it will do so almost immediately or not at all. you’ll never brush a tire in time.
Donald Dickson says
Tire wipers can help too –
larry english says
how much did the one-flat guy ride in that 10 (or 15 ) years?
Michael H says
Ok, how many miles did I ride in those 10-15 years…. A lot. I don’t have an exact figure, but it would be in the thousands. I’m surprised I wasn’t contacted about printing my whole name by RBR before doing this, but again RBR, you’re forgiven. I first sent this tip in to John Marsh when he was running the site & he contacted me about printing it at that time 2-3 years (?) ago, I don’t think he printed my last name, but whatever, not a big deal.
Yes this mainly helps with pinch flats, but I haven’t had more than 2-3 flats in that time, if at all & I’m being generous with that estimate. Maybe I’m just lucky, or there’s some kind of magic! It also probably has to do with riding “decent” roads, although most are county roads with plenty of potholes & chip & seal etc. I’m careful about what I ride through & also use the old tip I was taught early on that if you go through debris, you use a gloved hand to wipe the tires as you’re rolling along after passing through. Kind of like the “tire wipers” mentioned above. I give my tires a quick look before each ride to check for wear & any embedded objects. Tires have mainly been Hutchinsons, Michelins, Continentals, Vittoria Diamonte Pros, All were 200-250 gram race/training type tires, lighter weight tubes, nothing heavy duty for tires or tubes. I’m fairly light also (effect??) approximately 150lbs combined rider/bike. “I can’t help it if I’m lucky….” (Thanks Bob…).
Michael H says
P.S. forgot to add, pressure has been as high as 110 to down to 75-80 now with the new research on this.
Ed: Good suggestion. I check my tires regularly for thorns, glass and other debris.
Most thorns (here in AZ) are flush with the tire surface when inspected and are impossible to remove with a pliers. I take an old spoke and grind one end to a sharp point. This makes a good and inexpensive removal tool.
Roy Bloomfield says
I carry these in all of my bike saddlebags:
. . . VERY helpful, very small, and very affordable.
I inflate my tube enough to give it shape before mounting and mount one tire bead. Then I fit the tube into the tire so that it fits into the rim. I then start opposite the valve work towards the valve finishing at the valve stem. Then I push the bead back on that last bit to ensure that the tube isn’t pinched under the bead. I inflate the tire partially and look around the whole tire to see that there are no bulges and the bead is seated. I don’t use a tire lever to mount the tire. Talc on the tube is a good idea (almost necessary for latex tubes) but I wonder if it would interfere with patching. I usually don’t use talc on butyl tubes.
Blair Robertson says
Breaking news: tubeless tires prevent 99% of flats. Why are cyclists here so defiant when it comes to ignoring advances in technology? This newsletter repeatedly gives tips on tires as if tubeless tires and sealant don’t exist. Wax your chain, install tubeless tires and get rid of your rotary dial phone. 😜
A lot of us have tried tubeless road. Due to the high pressures necessary for road tires, a lot of us find that the sealant just sprays out rather than seals. If that happens, it makes a mess and putting in a tube out on the road cleaning out the messy sealant and removing the valve stem is just more of a time consuming hassle. Tubeless is great for mountain and gravel bikes with fat, low pressure tires but not so much for road. Also, tubeless tires are more expensive than regular clinchers and are more difficult to mount/unmount due to the stiffer beads. If you don’t get that many flats, tubeless road isn’t worth it, IMO. From what I’ve read, most roadies agree with me an use tubes rather than tubeless for road. Basically, tubeless road is a fail.