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The Inconvenient (Flat) Truth

flat

It’s a beautiful day. You’re tired from riding — or maybe just heading out, trying to sneak a quick spin in before the sun goes down – and BAM! psssssss…… Flat city, baby. While it might be frustrating, knowledge is power and mastering flat repair with these tips will help you get back on the road in a jiffy.

Protect

Buying puncture resistant tires and keeping your tires aired up is the best line of defense against flats. Unless you regularly ride through blackberry bushes or an industrial zone, avoid self-sealing slime filled tubes and tire liners. Both are heavier and more trouble than they are worth. Replace your tires when the tread is flat, has a lot of cuts in it, or the sidewall is showing wear.

Plan

Always have at least one spare tube and patch kit with you. The tube will make things faster; the patch kit is an excellent back-up in case of multiple flats. Carry tire levers and some kind of boot in case the hole in your tire is so big it needs to be repaired as well. A foot length of duct tape is always a lifesaver. Did we learn nothing from MacGyver?

Pump, Pump it Up

Choose your inflation device wisely, and practice using it once before you hit the road.

CO2 Cartridge

Pro: Super quick if speed is your priority.

Con: You’re limited to the number of cartridges you can carry. After that it’s cell phone city. Also, the cartridge can be heavier than a lightweight pump.

Lightweight Hand Pump

Pro: Lighter than any other option and small enough not to add grams to your ride if you’re counting. Some come with a hose for easy use.

Con: Depending on design, your arms may tire before you hit the inflation you want. No bells or whistles here.

Touring Hand Pump

Pro: Can come with a gauge, foot stops and lots of bells and whistles. Easily attaches to your bike either on a frame mount or under a water bottle cage. Designed to be easy to use.

Con: Not the lightest. Some models have configurations that take some of the stress off your arms.

Prepare

If you’re not confident to change the flat, find a clinic (I offer great ones through Gracie’s Wrench!) to help you learn how. Once you have the know-how, the flat-fear-factor goes way down so when it does happen, you’re not panicked. Take the opportunity to install your own tires when you replace your old ones, and practice flat repair in the secure environment of a class or your own home instead of stranded on the road. It’s good practice and will also give you an idea what it will be like to fix a flat on those wheels if and when the time comes.


Tori Bortman is a bike mechanic and the instructor/owner of Gracies Wrench.

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