Avoiding a puncture

There’s no good time to get a puncture. At best it’s an inconvenience, at worst a puncture can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately we are subject to a variety of puncture hazards on the Island and immediate surrounds; notably thorns and flint chippings.

If you really need to get to places on time every time, or if you just hate punctures, there are some things you can do to avoid them:

Some of the Cycle Hayling committee recommend Marathon Plus tyres which have ridden thousands of miles without a single puncture and are nearly bullet-proof, and they won’t use anything else. I don’t particularly like them, but fortunately, Schwalbe and other manufacturers make many other (nearly) puncture-proof tyres.

You can get solid tyres, with no air to leak out, but they don’t yet seem to have caught on, possibly because they’re less comfortable, expensive, and new.

So why aren’t all tyres puncture-resistant? Well they’re usually:

  • quite expensive – but you save loads on delays, reliability, convenience, maybe taxis and definitely inner tubes.
  • heavier – maybe 400 grams, but that’s tiny on a 15kg bike.
  • usually a little bit slower – maybe 5%, but that only matters if you’re racing or trying to keep up with someone.

But you can ride them over broken glass and drawing pins, like this guy!:

They can be harder to fit, but this video shows the trick. The key point is getting the tyre right down into the well at the middle of the wheel rim, where the wheel is smaller. He uses pedal straps to hold the tyre down into it, but we suggest re-useable ties, like these on Amazon:

Best prices change all the time, but in Dec-2021, Marathon Plus tyres were available for £25 to £30:

Squeeze sidewalls to check pressureCheck before you ride by squeezing the sidewalls, as shown. If you can make a dent, they’re probably too soft, which will slow you down, and increase your risk of punctures from sharp objects and ‘pinch’ punctures when a pothole pinches your tyre and wheel rim together. Tyres normally show their maximum pressures.

Article on inflating tyres

Sometimes something will embed itself into your tyre and work itself in towards your inner tube. A flint chipping, for instance, can sit in the tyre until you hit a kerb or a pothole at just the right place to force it through your tyre causing a puncture.

It therefore pays to examine your tyres from time to time. That’s easier if your tyres are clean.

If you find something embedded in your tyre use a sharp point to extract it. Long nose pliers are good for removing thorns, though, because it’s easier to get the whole thorn out that way.

While examining your tyre, make sure there are no score marks caused by brakes touching the surface of the tyre. If you see any, or if you suspect your brakes are touching the tyre, get your brakes adjusted as soon as you can. Wear on the tyre can cause failure and a very expensive puncture because you will have to replace both the tyre and the inner tube.

Take care not to:

  1. Pinch the inner tube between the tyre and the wheel
  2. Catch the inner tube if you need to use a tyre lever to get your tyre back onto the rim
  3. Leave the valve anything other than pointing straight out perpendicular to the wheel rim; a trapped valve will eventually weaken and cause a puncture
  4. Get grit between the inner tube and the tyre; grit works its way into the inner tube eventually causing a puncture

We’ve no statistics to prove it, but it’s a good guess that one of the most common causes of punctures is failure to remove what caused an initial puncture, resulting in two failures one shortly after the other. If you get a puncture make a note of where your valve is in relation to the tyre before you remove your inner tube. That will help you find whatever caused the puncture. Bear in mind that flint chippings can bury themselves into the tyre making them difficult to spot.

There are two ways you can improve the puncture resistance of ‘normal’ tyres:

  1. Tyre liner – tape that fits to the inside of the tyre preventing sharps from penetrating to the inner tube. My own experience with these was mixed. I found them difficult to fit. They appeared to work for a while but after nearly a year I started getting punctures because the edge of the tape was rubbing a groove into the inner tube – which eventually failed.
  2. Tyre sealant – ‘gloop’ you insert into an inner tube through the valve (might be unsuitable for schrader valves). The idea is that – when you puncture – the gloop seals it, allowing you to reinflate the tyre and carry on.