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Title says it all, how do I keep my bicycle tires from going flat easily? I live in an area with a lot of sharp stuff (think glass shards, nails, cactus, etc)...

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up vote 24 down vote accepted

There are a number of things you can do:

  1. Puncture resistant tires. These have kevlar/aramid belting in the tire, thicker rubber or other features that make them harder to puncture. Would need to know more specifics about your bike (especially wheel/rim size) to be able to suggest specific tires, but Specialized, Continental, Schwalbe, and pretty much every other major tire manufacturer have a wide range of puncture-resistant tires. You can probably just go to your local bike shop and ask about puncture resistant tires, or you can order them online a number of places. There's a bunch of good suggestions here for specific types:
  2. Puncture resistant tubes. These seem to be harder to find.
  3. Slime/goo in the tube. Personally I don't care for this, but some people swear by it. This is a sort of thick goop that goes inside the tube; small punctures will get filled in by the goop.
  4. Tire inserts. These are kind of like a belt that goes between the tire and the innertube, stopping sharp pointy things from going into the tube.
  5. Keep tires well-inflated (near the top of the recommended pressure). This reduces the size of the contact patch and makes it more likely stuff will glance off the tire. You didn't mention them in the question, but this also prevents pinch-flats.
  6. Avoid riding over sharp pointy things, especially when there's water around. It's much easier to cut or puncture rubber when wet, since dry rubber tends to grab glass and metal.

Also, if you do get a flat, make sure to check both for remaining pointy bits and gashes in the tire large enough for the tube to herniate out through.

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I find that #5 is the most important – Dana the Sane Aug 28 '10 at 21:11
I don't agree that more pressure will reduce puncture flats. At a lower pressure the tire deforms to the sharp object and the surface in contact around the sharp object will hold your weight. If the glass is tall enough that it cannot deform around then equal. A 1/8" glass on my mtn 2.2" at 40 PSI will not even leave a dent. On a 25mm 100 psi it is tire on glass and glass wins. – Paparazzi Jun 5 '14 at 18:46

Also, check your road position. Most of the junk ends up at the side of the road, so you are much more likely to get a flat when riding too close to the pavement/sidewalk --where you are also much more likely to get hit by a car door, clipped by a passing car, or cut off at an intersection.

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Or in my case too that would be too far to the left. Not everyone drives on the right. – Amos Aug 31 '10 at 7:49
Agreed. "when riding too close to the pavement/sidewalk" is less ambiguous. – Wilka Aug 31 '10 at 12:28
Oops, sorry for the cultural insensitivity :). – Paul Vernaza Aug 31 '10 at 19:13

There are good puncture-resistant tires. I personally use Schwalbe Marathon Plus.

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Related topic:… – b.roth Aug 31 '10 at 16:33
I've only had one flat with my SMP's, they shed rock and glass readily, I totally like them. The flat I got was when striking a roofing nail squarely in the middle and it jabbed right thru the Kevlar belt in the middle. Unlikely, but simple to fix. – memnoch_proxy Dec 3 '11 at 5:02

I used to get flats all the time. Then I started to notice that most of the time there were two small holes in the tube. This is the classic "snake bite" or "pinch flat" that results from under inflation. On my road bike I now keep at least 100 PSI in the 20mm or 23mm wide tires and (knock on wood), I haven't had a flat in years. Wow, I hope this doesn't jinx me.

Additionally old timers will sweep their tires when they notice that they just ran through glass. This is a tricky maneuver where you hold a gloved palm on each tire as you ride along to sweep any glass from the tire. The thought is that on the first time around the glass is just sitting on the surface and it takes a couple of rotations to fully push the glass shard through the tire and into the tube. I shouldn't have to say you need to be extremely careful with this, one slip up and you'll break a wrist or worse. I typically stop and manually sweep the tires, a lot safer. There used to be some company that sold little wire units that would lightly rub the tire as it rotates with the thought that it would keep the surface clean and reduce punctures. Does anyone remember who made those and what they were called? This was in the late 80's early 90's when I remember seeing them.

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See this answer – andy256 Jul 25 '14 at 9:25

Just contributing my two cents, I learned the hard way that the reason for frequent flats could be that the Rim Tape (tape that sits between the Rim Spoke nipples and the tube) has aged and the tube is getting poked by the spokes - causing micro punctures. Filing down the spokes that poke through the spoke nipples, or using a good Rim Tape (sometimes clear medical tape also helps - wound 2-3 times around the rim) should help.

Also - see if you can get Butyl tubes - tougher and better.

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Gidday and welcome to SE bicycles. Good points - the location of the puncture around the tube will indicate clearly if it was a spoke. If the hole is on the side or outside, replacing the rim tape is not going to help. The hole has to be on the inside of the tube for a spoke to possibly be at fault, and it could still be a puncture caused by debris in the wrong place. I made a couple of minor edits, they're called "spoke nipples" not "spoke nuts" etc. I look forward to your future contributions. – Criggie Oct 22 '15 at 21:27
Also, butyl rubber tubes are the most common, the other sort is Latex and is quite rare. You can also get tubeless tyres, but OP would know if they had them. – Criggie Oct 22 '15 at 21:30
Thanks Criggie! – Vinod Fredrick Oct 29 '15 at 10:00

Obviously you need to solve the puncture problem first. But once you've resolved that, you can use nitrogen to inflate your tires and solve the leakage problem as well. It doesn't leak out as fast as air. My riding buddy keeps a tank handy and over the last couple years he's been gradually "converting" my bike tires over to nitrogen as/when they need air. They are definitely losing pressure more slowly.

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Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. Remember air is 78% nitrogen already, the 22% is oxygen and CO2. Temperature variations of a bike tyre are too small to justify Nitrogen and you're not a jet airplane or space shuttle where the amount of oxygen is restricted. Check out… for more info. – Criggie Oct 22 '15 at 19:10
If oxygen leaks out more rapidly than nitrogen then more oxygen than nitrogen leaks out, such that if you refill the tire repeatedly with plain air you should end up with pure nitrogen after awhile. If the difference were that significant, that is. Which it isn't. Mostly it's the placebo effect. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 22 '15 at 22:19
It's also a function of the tire size and volume. Very skinny road tires, I agree won't see much benefit from nitrogen -- 20% of what is already a small volume of air to begin with won't make that much difference. But we are using nitrogen in our tandem tires (700 x 35) and especially in the mountain bike tires. Do the math: if you've swapped out 20% of the O2/H2/Argon/trace gases etc then, depending on the relative membrane permeability exchange rates, nitrogen-filled tires do retain optimum pressure longer. If you're riding (and checking) every day, it's a noticeable improvement imo. – TimBaynes Oct 22 '15 at 22:40
Thanks @Criggie - just realized this was a stackexchange site. – TimBaynes Oct 22 '15 at 22:41

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