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Banish flat tyres with the right equipment and riding techniques

There's nothing much worse than a puncture to ruin a bike ride, whether it's commuting to work in the rain or a leisurely Sunday ride in the hills.

Puncture

Puncture

Is it possible to avoid getting punctures? In truth, not really, but there are some things you can do to try and minimise the opportunity for a flat tyre to ruin a bike ride. Here are some tips from the road.cc staff. 

Puncture resistant tyres

Not all bicycle tyres are created equal. Some are designed to be light and fast, some are designed to resist punctures and be durable. Whether you’re riding a carbon race bike or a commuting bike, fitting a pair of tyres with some sort of puncture protection can be a really good step towards minimising your chances of getting a flat. 

- road.cc People's Choice: Your favourite cycling tyres revealed

Continental Grandprix 4000s II 28mm.jpg

Continental Grandprix 4000s II 28mm.jpg

Puncture resistant tyres are manufactured with materials designed to prevent the penetration of sharp objects, like glass or flint, from slicing through the tyre rubber and reaching the inner tyre. A layer of Kevlar or similar tough material is added to light road bike tyres, and when weight is less of a concern (such as for commuting and touring) an extra layer of rubber is added under the tread.

Puncture resistant tyres will carry a bit of a weight penalty, but if you want to avoid flats, it’s a small price to pay. 

Tubeless tyres

The reason you get a puncture is the inner tube being pierced by a sharp object cutting through the tyre, like a nail, thorn or piece of glass. Remove the inner tube and there’s nothing to puncture. Better still, replace the inner tube with dedicated sealant, which can plug smaller holes, and you can virtually eliminate flat tyres. Cars and most motorbikes use tubeless tyres (without sealant) and it's becoming more popular in the road bike world.

- Road tubeless: everything you need to know

Orange Seal Tubeless Sealant.jpg

Orange Seal Tubeless Sealant.jpg

Going tubeless can involve a bit more of an upfront investment. You need tubeless compatible rims and tyres, but increasingly new road bikes are coming with tubeless-ready rims, so you might just be a tyre upgrade away from going tubeless. With special valves and a bottle of sealant and a bit of know-how (read this guide) you can ditch the inner tubes for good.

We’re big fans of tubeless here at road.cc - numerous members of the team have done entire winters without any flats riding tubeless. 

- Guide: How to fit tubeless tyres

Change your inner tubes

Inner tubes can vary a lot, from super light latex inner tubes to chunky butyl inner tubes. Butyl tubes are more common, but they’re not all made the same. Regular ones commonly use 1mm thick rubber, but super light versions can reduce the rubber thickness down to 0.6mm, but along with the reduced weight comes an increased risk of puncturing.

- Buyer's guide to inner tubes — how to save weight, ride faster or prevent flats with new tubes

Some people claim that latex inner tubes can actually prevent punctures because the material can deform around a sharp object.

flat tyre 5.JPG

flat tyre 5.JPG

“The latex stretches and deforms around the body which is trying to penetrate the tube instead of it trying to resist the body and shortly after being punctured through,” says tyre manufacturer Challenge. “The highly elastic latex material is much more difficult to puncture.”

Latex tubes lose air pressure and need regular topping up, though, and while they are much lighter than butyl tubes, they're more expensive, and there’s no guarantee they’ll prevent a flat. For everyday riding, you probably don’t want fewer punctures to come at the expense of daily inflation.

Slime Pro Pre-filled Lite inner tube crop

Slime Pro Pre-filled Lite inner tube crop

Another option is to use inner tubes filled with sealant. The liquid contains small rubber particles that dries on exposure to air. It works a bit like a tubeless setup, but the inner tube is filled with the sealant, so easier to fit and less mess involved. There is a weight penalty though. There are some aftermarket products like Slime (tested here) but if you have inner tubes with removable inner cores, you can add sealant to regular tyres.

This solution does add weight to the entire wheel but if eliminating punctures is your key priority, it might be the right solution for you. It would be a good step for daily commuting and touring bikes, where weight isn’t such a high concern. Partner with puncture resistant tyres and you have a pretty good puncture prevention setup.

Solid tyres

What if you remove the air cavity in a conventional pneumatic tyre setup completely? Some companies have dabbled with solid tyres in the past, with varying levels of success, and so far they’ve not really offered a serious rival to the performance and cost of regular tyres and inner tubes.

Tannus is one company that is investing in the technology, and we have been impressed with its most recent tyre which offers a surprisingly good ride performance. Fitting is more complicated than regular tyres and makes tubeless look a doddle. But there’s no way of puncturing a solid tyre, so for a commuting bike, a solid tyre offers some advantages. 

Pump up your tyres

It’s worth checking the pressure in your tyres. Are you running your tyres too soft? A very soft tyre is more likely to puncture when riding over a rough road and it’s possible to pinch the inner tube between the tyre and rim if you hit a pothole with sufficient force. In mountain biking, this is called a “snake bite” because inspection of the inner tube will reveal two neat holes either side of the inner tube.

Flat

Flat

The maximum* tyre pressure will be printed on the side wall of the tyre - if you pump them up to that you'll at least know they are not too soft. Having a pump with a pressure gauge is any easy way to ensure the tyres are suitably inflated. Pressure gauges are pretty cheap and a good investment if you do a lot of riding, and removes the guesswork. 
(*Not to be confused with the optimum or recommended tyre pressure - sometimes the max tyre pressure and the recommended pressure - the pressure at which the tyre performs best - are the same thing, but often they're not. In terms of a road tyre you won't go far wrong if you pump them up to 100psi and you can easily go 10psi less with a tubeless tyre… That's the potted version, in truth the subject of optimum tyre pressures is a whole other feature.)

If you don’t have a pressure gauge, press the tyre firmly with two thumbs.You can tell pretty easily if it feels too soft by how much you’re able to deform the tyre.

Check for worn tyres

When’s the last time you checked your tyres? A worn tyre is more likely to puncture because there’s less rubber tread on the tyre. Some tyres have wear indicators (small holes) so check these regularly, especially if you do a lot of miles every week, to ensure you’re not riding with worn out tyres. 

flat tyre 3.JPG

flat tyre 3.JPG

It’s also worth checking regularly for flint and glass embedded in the tyre. There are two schools of thought on whether you should leave or remove any objects in the tyre. Some say once an object its embedded in the tyre, it’s unlikely to puncture the tube, but some people say you’re just playing the waiting game until it bites the inner tube.

We prefer to remove any we find. Use a pair of tweezers to remove any objects embedded in the tyre and discard in the bin. If any big holes are left vacant, get some superglue and carefully fill the hole.

Pick your line

Avoid riding over gravel or other debris on the road and definitely avoid riding over broken glass. Also, avoid riding through puddles where possible in case they hide potholes. Don’t ride in the gutter of the road as this is where much of the debris lurks that could puncture a tyre as passing cars tend to push all the gravel, grit, flint and thorns out to the edge of the road.

SDW CX - Cavs Puncture

SDW CX - Cavs Puncture

Don’t ride in the rain

You might notice you get more flats in the rain. This is because rain acts as a lubricant and helps flint and glass to slice through the rubber of a tyre. You also tend to find that debris from the gutter of the road and the hedgerows gets washed out into the bit of the road you tend to cycle along. 

It's that combination of rain and debris in the road that is the reason you tend to get more punctures in the winter.

- Buyers guide: The best tyres to keep you cycling through winter

Don’t leave the house

We’re joking. Well, half-joking.  I know somebody who managed to get a puncture on the turbo trainer (no idea how) so even in the safety of your own living room, you’re never far from a puncture. 

Never mention the P word

Never ever mention the word puncture if you’re about to set off on a ride, or during a ride. Don’t joke about how you’ve not had a puncture in months because next thing you know you’ll be stood by the side of the road fixing a flat. Best just to avoid all talk of punctures and instead talk about the weather or something. 

Be prepared for a puncture

BTwin puncture repair kit - contents

BTwin puncture repair kit - contents

While you can take some prevention against a flat tyre, it pays to be prepared and always take one or two spare inner tubes and a decent pump with you on a ride. You might want to consider a couple of inner tube patches as well, especially for longer rides in bad weather. A small saddle bag can easily be stuffed with enough spares to get you out of a spot of bother and not add much weight to the bike. 

Got any good tips you use to avoid punctures?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

56 comments

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. . [174 posts] 1 year ago
7 likes

I can't add any advice on avoiding punctures, but if you're going to have one, do it on a lovely sunny day when you are right outside Starbucks, like I did this morning.  It was quite a pleasure to fix, sat in the sun, coffee in hand.

And following on from another recent thread, a nice lady car driver asked me if I had everything I needed.  Thank you again, in the unlikely event that you're reading this.

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Jaytee [13 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

What about tyre liners like these.

http://www.halfords.ie/cycling/bike-parts/bike-wheels/bikehut-touring-ra...

Any good?

I have a pair of Sammy Slick types.  Great all round tyre but was getting puncture every two weeks or so.  Was wondering of a tyre liner may be the answer.  

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PhilB [6 posts] 1 year ago
11 likes
. . wrote:

I can't add any advice on avoiding punctures, but if you're going to have one, do it on a lovely sunny day when you are right outside Starbucks, like I did this morning.  It was quite a pleasure to fix, sat in the sun, coffee in hand.

Starbucks made a good coffee? This should be front page news. 

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Angry Egg [32 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Conti gp4000sii... Yuck!!! My final one punctured last night. I used them for many years as I was told they were the gold standard for racy tyres. But have been replacing them with schwalbe ones gradually. Conti just cut too easily. And the side walls just cracks over time

 

 

 

 

 

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Rapha Nadal [542 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

. . wrote:

I can't add any advice on avoiding punctures, but if you're going to have one, do it on a lovely sunny day when you are right outside Starbucks, like I did this morning.  It was quite a pleasure to fix, sat in the sun, coffee in hand.

And following on from another recent thread, a nice lady car driver asked me if I had everything I needed.  Thank you again, in the unlikely event that you're reading this.

I had one oppoosite the cafe on Box Hill on Sunday.  Sun was out, cake in hand!

Avatar
Duncann [1046 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
PhilB wrote:
. . wrote:

I can't add any advice on avoiding punctures, but if you're going to have one, do it on a lovely sunny day when you are right outside Starbucks, like I did this morning.  It was quite a pleasure to fix, sat in the sun, coffee in hand.

Starbucks made a good coffee? This should be front page news. 

Could the "pleasure" have been due to the sugar intake...?devil

www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/17/cafe-chains-selling-drinks-25-t...

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dafyddp [432 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

I'm just a puncture magnet. Fed up with five in November, I bought a pair of chunky 35mm Schwalbe Marathon Mondials for my Croix de Fer (impressed with reviewers boasting of travelling round the world on these things without ever getting a puncture).

Sure to form, within a few weeks of buying them I found myself at the side of a road swapping over inner-tubes and cursing the excruciatingly tight fit. "The last word in durability", wrote one reviewer.  My arse.

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vbvb [619 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Angry Egg wrote:

Conti gp4000sii... Yuck!!! My final one punctured last night.

Same here. Sidewall parted from bead. Evans swapped for a trusty gp 4season.

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BBB [453 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Want fewer punctures with no loss of speed? Go tubeless and/or use wider tires at lower pressure.

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Chez_worldwide [24 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

"Don't ride in the rain". hahahaha. Don't have the choice at the moment fella!

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cyclisto [223 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Its all about good pumping and proper installation and you can go even on gravel with road tires

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Simon E [3046 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Don't rely on glueless patches to make a permanent repair. Fine out on the road but IME they don't stay artight for ever.

"passing cars tend to push all the gravel, grit, flint and thorns out to the edge of the road."

This is why I tend to ride in the left hand car wheeltrack (except where conditions dictate that another part of the lane is safer). It also means less chance of dangerous overtakes or drivers pulling out of side roads and driveways compared with riding 6" from the kerb / verge.

When estimating tyre pressure I squeeze the sidewalls, not the tread.

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BBB [453 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
cyclisto wrote:

Its all about good pumping and proper installation and you can go even on gravel with road tires

Not really, it's not. Higher pressure only prevents pinch flats but at the same time makes it easier for foreign object to penetrate the tyre.

Your road tyres would be massacred on New Forest paths in winter, within several minutes...

 

 

 

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Al__S [1227 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Recommend my dad get a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus for his pootling bike. Because they are really hard to puncture, what with theat thick bit of foam. He wasn't worried about weight.

 

First time out he somehow manages to get a blackthorn all the way through.

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imaca [79 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Check your tires before rides, lots of punctures occur after a peice of glass is embeded for some time before working it's way through the casing.

Solid tires? I used to work at a bike shop many years ago when a solid tire trend was in full swing, a lot of business was repairing and replacing wheels destroyed by solid tires:)

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cyclisto [223 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

@BBB

The only puncture I have had was from a poorly fitted pre-owned set of tires that I had fitted hastily on my bike. I have never had any puncture with 2 other set of tires, and of course I will not go to ride on purpose at gravel roads. However whenever tarmac stopped, my bontrager race lite hardcase 700c x 32 never had an issue not even when once poor planning led me on a 15mile harsh gravel ride with a fully ladden bike. I have even ridden over broken glass multiple times with no problem.

 

Oh forgot to mention that if a tyre has no thread at all, the chances of a potentially dangerous item to get caught are greatly reduced. Slick tires rule! The problem is that on 700x32c the total slick options are limited and I wish Bontrager hadn't ceased the production my tested race lite hardcase 700c x 32.

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Bristol Bullet [41 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I repaired cuts in my tyres with superglue for a while until I started getting regular punctures, it turned out that on one superglue repair,  the glue had formed a hard edge inside the tyre which rubbed against the inner tube, quickly piercing it. I don't use superglue anymore, I take my chances with the cuts in the tyres. 

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Anthony.C [228 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

If you are going to use glue it has to be the  flexible stuff like shoe glue, not  superglue which goes very hard. Best way to avoid flats is not to live in a flinty area, I was getting one every other ride in the Bucks/Herts countryside.

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samuri [71 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

I got ribbed a lot when I tried the tannus tyres but they worked great for me for about 3000 miles. The back then wore down to be so square the drag was crazy. Front still looks fine though.

Pity because apart from that the confidence they provided was awesome. Perfect for commuting where I was getting a puncture at least once a fortnight. No need to carry a pump, spare tubes and repair kit.

If Tannus can sort out the price, bring them down to say £25 a tyre, I'd go straigh back on my commuter for good and accept I'd need to replace the rear every 3000 miles or so.

At the moment I've found the slime filled tubes to be working very well. Not had any noticable loss in pressure for over a month and certainly no punctures. Weigh a bit more than normal but again, the confidence they provide is worth it.

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Charles_Hunter [149 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Whenever I'm out with the club and someone gets a puncture I check my tyres over for anything lodged in the rubber. 

When I get my bike ready the night before for a ride the next day I do the same, check the tyres for stuff stuck in them. 

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BBB [453 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
cyclisto wrote:

@BBB

The only puncture I have had was from a poorly fitted pre-owned set of tires that I had fitted hastily on my bike. I have never had any puncture with 2 other set of tires, and of course I will not go to ride on purpose at gravel roads. However whenever tarmac stopped, my bontrager race lite hardcase 700c x 32 never had an issue not even when once poor planning led me on a 15mile harsh gravel ride with a fully ladden bike. I have even ridden over broken glass multiple times with no problem.

 

Oh forgot to mention that if a tyre has no thread at all, the chances of a potentially dangerous item to get caught are greatly reduced. Slick tires rule! The problem is that on 700x32c the total slick options are limited and I wish Bontrager hadn't ceased the production my tested race lite hardcase 700c x 32.

Like I said, it's not as simple as installing the tyres/tubes correctly and pumping them up hard enough, otherwise most of people wouldn't be experiencing punctures. Also not everyone is willing to use hose pipe tyres like Hard Case series, Marathon Plus or Gatorskins...

Your personal experience cannot be universally applied to other peoples' riding scenarios. Even you, if you moved to a different place or even altered your route slightly you could  get many flats with your usual tyres. E.g. on my 15-20 mile commute almost all punctures happened on two 1-2mile long sections of cycle lanes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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michophull [143 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

When in the countryside, keep a look out for hedge trimming. They leave thorns all over the road. Every time I see one of those wretched tractor accessories I get off and walk until clear of the hazard.

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Vegita8 [49 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

I would say the most important factor is the route you are taking.

Both me and my brother are using Schwalbe Durano S and while I did not have a puncture for two years he does get one every two weeks.

He is now thinking to upgrade to solid tyres.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1641 posts] 1 year ago
15 likes

I found the best way to stop getting punctures was to stock up on a huge stash of spare inner tubes (the pound shop had them in stock so I bought the lot, as I was at the time getting punctures very frequently and inner tubes from Halfords etc are relatively costly).

It turns out that as soon as you have a large enough number of them you immediately stop getting any punctures, so they just sit there in the cupboard forever.

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Duncann [1046 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Al__S wrote:

Recommend my dad get a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus for his pootling bike. Because they are really hard to puncture, what with theat thick bit of foam. He wasn't worried about weight.

First time out he somehow manages to get a blackthorn all the way through.

That IS unlucky! I ride those tyres everyday and have more than a year between punctures.

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fenix [667 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've used Marathon Plus for years on the winter bike - they haven't missed a beat.  

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LarryDavidJr [347 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I get them pretty rarely.  In the last four years or so of riding, had one out on the road, (I think it only punctured the Gatorskin because I was heavily loaded (with commute gear) at the time) and one on the MTB, a piece of flint slicing open what were, to be honest, very thin crap tyres.

The others have all been snakebites due to me being too lazy to pump the tires properly before leaving!

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cborrman [88 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I disagree on light butyl tubes causing punctures; have been using conti supersonic 50g tubes with GP4000s puncture free on various bikes for 6-7 years now.

What is key is care of the tube:

1) keep them in talc in a plastic bag: if you have kept the tube in a soggy saddlebag  or sweaty jersey pocket for 6 months... then its practically punctured before you start!

2) install the tube in a clean dry environment to start with; if you fixed a puncture at the side of a road in the rain, do a proper job when you get back otherwise you are just storing up another puncture for another inconvenient moment

3) install with care, and talc again, to minimise pinching on installation.

Just to add road tubeless; when it does puncture beyond what the sealant can repair: you often have a few km rideable on low pressure, which with 2 or 3 pump stops have been able to get me home without fixing. Also, you do not always need to put a tube in, you can clean the inside, leaving the sealant at the bottom, apply a glueless patch (or normal patch if you like making life hard for yourself) and then reseal with minimal sealant loss if careful: pump up and you are away.  But you do need sealant, and to check sealant levels: Tubeless tyres generally do need sealant as they tend not to have great breakers to prevent the puncture in the first place.

When tubeless sealant does seal a cut; the sealant tends to dry up quickly so needs topping up, so if you have time after seeing the sealant seal a cut; patch the cut from the insde to maintain sealant life, otherise you will be topping up regularly. best is just to inspect the tyre and if you see a deep cut; inspect / patch it. The longets I have had sealant working was about 3 years, but that was inside a tubular, rather than tubeless tyre; so was practically hermetically sealed! 

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rupert3k [7 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Love tubeless.

Learning curve?

Sure.

Compressor somtimes needed to seat unruly tyres?

Definitely.

The feeling you get after pulling glass or nails out of  your tyres after it seals it pretty darn good though.

Never go back but I might carry a spare tube, tyre & sealant if I was touring.

 

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ajwilcox [4 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

No mention of rim tape. I had a puncture this week, took the tyre off, no rim tape, spoke nut had worn through tube. Not sure how that happened.

Also make sure the rim tape is seated in the well, is covering all the spoke nuts and holes,  and not covering the area of the rim where the tyre bead is going to sit.

The bead likes to lock under the lip on the rim. Rim tape in this area can push the tyre bead out of the correct position.  This can give you a really exciting moment when your tyre flips the rim and you get a 100psi tube bursting!

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