Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Year of Flats

There are many things to recommend commuting by bicycle. One irritating thing, though, that has plagued me to an unusual extent this year is getting a flat tire, and having to change it, on the road. Like yesterday morning about half way through my 45 mile ride. And this on a brand new tube I installed the previous night (to replace a tube with a slow leak).

I can go months and months without a flat, and then have three in one week. I haven't kept track but I may have had as many as 15 flats this year. And they usually come in bunches.

The most common cause is picking up glass or some other sharp object (like a staple) that punctures through the tire into the tube. While a bike lane on a busy road is a godsend, one downside is that debris migrates to the edge of the road into the bike lane, and bikes don't have enough mass to sweep the debris further off the road. I hate it when I find myself riding through small specs of shattered glass, either from a car accident or carelessly tossed liquor bottle.

I had another rash of flats due to defective tubes near the valve stem. That was sure discouraging, with multiple flats in one week. Another time I had a couple of flats due to the rim strip not covering the spoke hole edge completely.

On one group ride I had two flats on the road and had to borrow another spare tube. Turns out I didn't find the source of the first flat so it punctured again (small piece of glass). In a pinch I could try to patch a tube on the road, but that is a pain. I carry a spare tube, tire irons, and a pump to get back on my way. Then I try to patch the tube when I get home to salvage the tube for further use.

Here is a nicely repaired tube.

May the fates keep yours and my bike tires fully inflated day after day!


  1. Have you ever tried that green gel tube coating stuff? We used to get flats all the time in Tucson and that stuff really cut down on them.

  2. If goatheads grew here it would be even worse. So on the one hand you are getting more flats, on the other you are not getting any speeding tickets ;-) So you're actually coming out ahead . . .