The dreaded puncture is the most frustrating aspect of cycling for many a bike rider . I was asked today if there is anything that can be done to help avoid getting one . The simple answer is , yes there are a number of things any cyclist can do to reduce the chance of puncturing , and here they are ;
1 : Pump your tyres – Every cyclist should have a track pump and should use it once a week to check the pressure in their tyres . The minimum pressure for a clincher tyre is 6 Bar or 85 psi whilst the maximum is 8 Bar or 120 psi . On very rough surfaces a lower pressure will have a cushioning effect but the trade-off is a slightly higher chance of a pinch flat ( Last year in the Paris Roubaix sportif Sean Kelly told us to ride 6.5 Bar in the back and 6 Bar on front – we had just one puncture between all of us for the day ). On very smooth surfaces a higher pressure will roll better and faster . Heavier riders should have slightly more pressure . In winter or in wet weather the pressure should be reduced slightly to give a little more grip . In general 7 Bar or 100 psi is a good guide if you are unsure .
2 : Watch the road – A pothole , a stone , broken glass or piece of metal . All of these can be avoided 90% of the time if you are looking out for them . If you are in a group it is very important to point them out to the riders behind you . A pothole or a stone will often cause a pinch flat which will go down immediately whilst a piece of glass or metal may take a while to work its way into the tube .
3 : Use good tyres – It is irresponsible to go out with a group of cyclists with poor tyres . I have seen guys heading out for 5 hour group training spins with the canvas showing through the tyre . I have changed tyres on the Sean Kelly Tour every year with the canvas showing . Very often the response given is that ‘I was trying to get the last bit out of them’ . In the first case there is nothing worse than having the whole group being forced to stop or ride up and down the road while waiting for someone to change a tube that will sure as anything be flat again later in the spin . In the second case , imagine training all year for an event or a race and wasting it all by using tyres that are not fit for purpose . There is also the safety aspect . It is unfair on your fellow cyclists to ride in a group with poor tyres that have an increased chance of slipping on a wet corner .
4 : Check your tyres : Once a week I go around my tyres with a scribe ( a very small screwdriver or a heavy pin would work too ) . I check for any piece of glass or flint and remove it . Then I fill the small hole left behind with patch solution, that you’ll find in every puncture repair kit . It always amazes me how many guys racing don’t bother to do this .
What tyres to use :
I don’t subscribe to the view that any cheap tyres will do for winter training . I want good tyres with good grip that I can trust , especially if I am going to be doing big miles on bad roads . Usually the price difference between a cheap tyre and a good one is the price of 2 tubes . This saving is cancelled out after 2 punctures . A crash on wet roads may cost a whole lot more .
Tyres can be a personal thing . Some will swear by the gripping power of slick tyres like the Michelin Pro race 3 or the Schwalbe Ultremo R whilst others want a bit of thread like the Vittoria Open Corsa or the Vredestein Fortezza . The most popular tyre we sell in the shop is the Continental GP4000S in black . The black tyres are grippier as there is no dye used to add colour . The Vittoria Diamante or Rubinio pro are slightly cheaper and are good all round tyres too .
For very bad roads in poor conditions the Schwalbe Marathon or Specialized Armadillo are a good choice as are the Continental Gatorskins .
Good quality rim tape is also a must although the chances of a protruding spoke nicking the tube are a lot less with the factory built wheels that are so popular nowadays . The Mavic Open Pro style rim should be checked if persistent puncturing is occurring without ant other obvious causes .
Tubeless tyres have a reduced chance of puncturing as do tubulars , but if you stick to all of the above you should not have too many problems .