We usually associate punctures with an instant loss of inflation, putting a stop to a ride within seconds. With a ‘quick’ change of the trusty inner tube, we can usually be off without any further issues. But what about those punctures that happen gradually, the ones that sneak up on you when you least expect it? In fact, there are four different type of punctures with very common causes and by knowing why they happen, you’ll be better equipped to prevent them in the future – which is something we all like to hear!
Although this may have a cool name, snakebites, or ‘sidewall punctures’ are one of the most common punctures in road cycling. The cause? Inflating tyres to an incorrect tyre pressure. All tyres have their own recommended inflation pressure embossed on the sidewall, usually in units of PSI (Pounds-Per-Inch). That number can seem quite high, ranging from 80 PSI to 130 PSI, but as a general rule, to allow a tyre to perform at it’s best, the thinner the tyre, the higher the tyre inflation.
You may be hesitant as there’s a lot of resistance caused by inflating tyres to a high pressure, making it seem as though you’re over doing it. Yet, by doing this, you’re protecting yourself from this common nuisance of a flat. And if you want to take tyre inflation to a new level, we recommend taking a look at the Airsmith Inspire King LCD Pressure Gauge. It will provide you with the most accurate pressure readings, ensuring you keep far, far away from those pesky snakebites.
This type of puncture is the one we see most frequently around the winter months. There tends to be more debris and less visibility to see it coming on the road. Anything from small stones to glass can slice through the tyre and puncture the inner tube. Take a look at your inner tube after a puncture, overinflate it and try to see whether there's a single hole on the outer surface of the tube. If you find one, this is more than likely an outer surface puncture. While the culprit to this puncture may have fallen out, it may also be embedded into the tyre itself.
So, before replacing the inner tube, take a look at the outside of the tyre while running your fingers carefully along the inside of the tyre. If you’ve opted for lighter tyres, you may be less protected against this type of puncture. If you find this happening repeatedly, it’s time to invest in a new pair. Bikes Etc recently put to test some of the best tyres on the market, to see how they would fair in a real ‘torture test’. They rode along a road full of broken glass to see the difference in puncture resistance. The Arisun Rapide C2 PRO came out on top and even after riding through broken glass, no less than 20 times; they remained unscathed and were voted ‘Best In Test’. Read more about the test here
These punctures can lead to an instant flat. They happen when the tube, instead of being safely encased within the tyre, escapes outside of the tyre. This usually happens soon after changing a tyre, especially if you’re changing a flat in the pouring rain! A small section of the inner tube gets pinched between the rim and the tyre, causing it to blow.
Try not to panic if you get a blowout, especially if riding in a group. If it does go ‘bang’ you’ll feel a sudden loss of inflation and will begin to feel every lump and bump in the road as the rim of your wheel takes full brunt. Try to limit the time you’re riding like this, to prevent further, long lasting, damage to your wheels. Pull over to the side of the road and change your tube and while you do so, be sure to keep a look out for any other damage it may have caused.
The best prevention for this is to be extra vigilant when changing inner tubes, it’s no fun if you change your tube for a surface puncture and have to stop 1km down the road to change it again for a blowout!
Have you ever wondered what the little black cap on your valve actually does? Well, apart from being a bit of an eyesore, they're great for preventing this common type of puncture. Sometimes, small amounts of debris can find itself inside the valve, causing it to be stuck in the open position, allowing air to leak out of it. This slow processing flat tyre could also indicate that the valve is loose or ripped.
Another type of valve problem can occur when riding on underinflated tyres. Due to the lack of pressure, every time you brake, the tube and tyre move just a bit, even when your wheel stops moving. This can cause the valve to come through the rim hole at an angle. If this continues, you’ll find the valve separating itself from the body of the tube - this doesn't have a very happy ending!
Punctures are never fun, especially when the only thing you want to be concentrating on is the pain you're enduring! But by understanding what causes them, you can prevent them because no one likes to be the first to shout ‘PUNCTURE’ to the rest of the group! Ride with confidence, keep your bike happy and enjoy miles of smiles!
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