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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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4 Answers 4

up vote 19 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: http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/27/what-type-of-tires-can-prevent-goatheads
  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. –  Blam Jun 5 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 far to the right--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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3  
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: bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/246/… –  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 at 9:25

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