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I have recently increased my commute from 1 mile each way to 16. It's a mix of city riding, country roads(an area I call no man's land where it's a two lane road with a 55mph speed limit, chip sealed road, all kinds of debris, rolling hills, and for some reason always a strong head wind), and some mixed use tails. This week alone I have suffered 3 flats(one slow leak that I couldn't determine the source, one from a piece of a steel radial tire, and one total blowout). I'm running 700x28 tires, but can go up to 32's. I'm thinking of running a multi tiered flat defense, starting with a good puncture resistant tire( Conti Gatorskins or similar), adding a liner, using sealant in my tubes, carrying a flat kit and a spare tube. Is there some piece of the flat puzzle I'm missing? This is getting to be more expensive than driving. Please help.

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    Don't forget to check your tire pressure daily if you're doing that long of a commute. – Benzo Jul 28 '17 at 16:54
  • I have an old fashioned hand pump and if I make sure the tyres are as hard as I can get them I don't have a problem with punctures. Most of my punctures come from running over a stone or some other bump with slightly softer tyres which pinch a hole in the tube against the rim. – Mr_Thyroid Jul 28 '17 at 18:23
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    @Criggie the problem with that is that the worse stretch of road is unincorporated, and the county doesn't have sweepers. I've looked into this. – CRoberts Jul 28 '17 at 22:09
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    Yeah. It's outside of the city limits for both cities that it stretches between. I can try getting the local clubs involved. By winter there is supposed to be a trail that runs parallel which would be a godsend, but until then I'll see what action can be taken – CRoberts Jul 28 '17 at 23:42
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    @Criggie - In the US "unincorporated" refers to areas outside any "city" or other incorporated area. Generally there is a county or "township" board responsible for maintaining roads, but that's run by three old farmers who want their own roads maintained but otherwise want to keep taxes down. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 30 '17 at 12:56
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I think that you should only take such drastic measures if you really required them. What tires are you currently using that are getting so many punctures?

I would try for something like GatorSkins or Schwalbe Marathons by themselves to see if that fixes the issue. Only once you determine that a good tire by itself isn't sufficient should you go further and add tire liners. Sealant should be a last resort just because it's messy to deal with if you get a larger puncture that the sealant can't fill.

Make sure your tires are always filled to the correct pressure in order to prevent pinch flats. A good track pump makes it easy to top up your tires a couple times a week.

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    The difference between a truly puncture resistant tire (Like Gatorskin Hardshells) and a race tire is amazing. I have bought and ridden ultralight race tires than punctured 3 times on one ride around a loop. Then switched to Gator Hardshells and ridden the same loop dozens of times with no issues. – Deleted User Jul 28 '17 at 15:33
  • I currently run Clement Stratta LLG's. They seem to be able to handle the occasional glass, but is the steel belt fragments that are killing me. I think the Gatorskin Hardshells will be the first step, plus a tube or two. – CRoberts Jul 28 '17 at 20:06
  • I wouldn't say Gatorskin is puncture-resistant. I have used UltraGatorSkin tires recently, and have suffered punctures whenever I ride in an environment that is prone to punctures. Marathon tires are probably better protected, but then again you lose much time in the form of higher rolling resistance. So, it's a tradeoff. A good portable pump, a tube, a puncture repair kit and a lot of experience dealing with punctures is my solution. – juhist Jul 29 '17 at 20:08
  • If you believe www.bicyclerollingresistance.com, at comparable pressures Marathons have similar or lower rolling resistance than Gatorskins. The big penalty is weight, standard Marathons are only available with a wire bead, and the extra material adds weight too. – Jamie A Jul 31 '17 at 17:25
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Definitely carry a tube or 2. Flats seem to happen in the rain which makes patching harder. The roadside puncture kit should have a sealed tube of glue as it goes off once opened (unless you get on with glueless patches). Once I've opened a tube I patch any punctured tubes, which become my spares. With old-fashioned patches this works. Then your only consumable is patching supplies (and the rare blowout; I've had one in 25000 miles - overinflation).

I can vouch for marathon plus too, but I'm currently riding marathon supreme which should be a bit faster while still having a decent level of protection.

I run liners on another bike and they've caused one puncture but saved a few. On that bike it's broken glass I'm most worried about. I only use them on that bike because I was too cheap to do it properly. With good anti-puncture tyres, liners would probably do more harm than good.

Slime works well but can be a bit of a pain if you have to let the tube down (e.g. replacing a tyre, rim or spoke).

Suggestion: go for gatorskins or marathon plus/sumpreme. Add slime only if that's not enough. Keep the pressure up.

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Have a look at this other question, it has a lot of good information: What is a good way to keep my tires from going flat easily?

FYI, the main prevention for flats is good tire pressure. For 28mm tires try running close to 100 psi. I run 23mm medium weight road tires at 120psi and get one flat a year on similar roads and distances to what you describe.

  • Not all 28mm tires are even rated for 100 psi. I've got fairly reputable (Michelin Pro4 Endurance) 28mm tires rated for 58-87 psi, and I've never gotten pinch flats running them around 65-70 psi. – Jamie A Jul 31 '17 at 17:42
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Technique should not be discounted too - stop riding through roadside detritus and go around it.

Learn to unweight your bike if there's unavoidable potholes, or ideally learn to bunny hop.

Depending on your location you may be entitled to take the road lane (this is also a great speed motivator.)


Another technique to revise is how to fit your tubes/tyres. A mistake in fitting can contribute to later punctures, so never use screwdrivers as levers only plastic tools if you need one at all.

You should also practice putting the tyre's logo at the valve stem. This way when you find the puncture in the tube you can lay it out on the tyre, and identify a 50mm area of the tyre to inspect closely. Makes finding the cause a lot easier.

Punctures are a part of riding sadly, so don't be put off by the odd flat.

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    I would take the lane, but the combination of little daylight, inattentive drivers at 55+mph and rolling hills has me worried about that. I do my best to avoid the glass. In town I can easily maneuver or hop the potholes. Unweghting is something I will have to learn. – CRoberts Jul 28 '17 at 23:45
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    Is bunny hopping a good idea on a road bike? I loved to jump curbs or obstacles on my mountain bike, but since obtaining a road bike, I've avoided it. I've been afraid of putting too much stress on the skinny wheels and breaking a spoke or putting the wheel out of true. Are my fears unfounded? I'm a heavy man... does that change things? – gilly3 Jul 29 '17 at 3:08
  • @CRoberts unweighting is like a jump but its more about timing and reducing your weight on the saddle at the right instant. – Criggie Jul 29 '17 at 4:00
  • @gilly3 I'd rather bunny hop than smash through a pothole. A quick wrist/leg lift of the bike might be all it takes to save you from a sudden obstacle. I've successfully cleared 7 out of 8 cattle stops while moving at speed. (the last one I was moving too slow and flatted by landing the back wheel on the irons.) Road wheels may be skinny, but they're still as strong as your frame. If you're trying to land sideways, that's a taco recipe no matter what. Bunny hopping on a road bike is totally fine, and much easier if you have clips or clipless over flat pedals. – Criggie Jul 29 '17 at 4:00
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32 mm puncture resistant with slime is good prevention.

I don't like a liner as it abrades the tube.

I don't carry slime as the spare as they take up a lot more space.

I took the Schwalbe Marathons off my bike as they are heavy and harsh. But they are about the most ballistic.

Inspect your tires on a regular basis and clear debris! You often have small glass that will work its way into a puncture. Keep the tires at recommended pressure.

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In contrast to Criggie's answer I use Marathon Plus (size 700x32) and don't get punctures.

I started using them because I used to get occasional punctures and didn't like that.

I even found they're faster, too, if only because I'm more confident, that potholes and whatnot have no effect on them.

You say you had 3 flats in 1 week (where "1 week" is presumably 160 miles). I have no flats in 1000s and 1000s of km.

I found they have to be newish, after 5 years the tires lost their magic i.e. became vulnerable to slow leaks, partly from wear but maybe because the rubber dries out or something even if they're not too worn (I replaced them, and the new tires are magic again).

  • I'm really leaning towards the idea of tougher tires that are slightly wider and carrying extra tubes. I know that my speed well suffer, but that just means I have to push harder. – CRoberts Jul 28 '17 at 23:47
  • 5 years is an awesome run for any serious rider's tyres. I get 2-3 years and that's with several different bikes sharing the work. – Criggie Jul 29 '17 at 4:01
  • My tires weren't really too worn down even (similar to this rather than this) ... so I guess (and this answer claims) it's age (possibly weather), not just how much they're used. – ChrisW Jul 29 '17 at 10:16
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If you are getting flats very frequently, you probably have some glass embedded in the tire and when you hit a bump at the right place, it pierces the tube. I had tires that looked like they were in good shape but I was getting flats on every ride. When I got two flats on a 50 mile ride I decided to switch to gatorskins. I then suffered a catastrophic blowout with that tire where the bead separated but the manufacturer replaced it at no cost. I also went to larger tires on the recommendation of the bike shop. According to the dude, the larger tires are actually 'faster' because there is less contact with the road. I'm not sure about this 'fact' but I haven't had a flat since, it's more comfortable and I don't really notice much difference in performance.

  • I think "less contact" is incorrect. But wider tires can actually be faster because they're a lower pressure and conform to all the tiny imperfections in the road better. It does depend on the quality of the tire though. Here's one article that gets into it a bit: janheine.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/tire-pressure-take-home – Noah Sutherland Jul 28 '17 at 21:06
  • @NoahSutherland So that's a little counter-intuitive. The flatter the tires, the more contact, the more friction means more resistance. Consider a drag-racing tire. Wide, soft, and no tread. But the are not round, they are flat. This is because they are trying to maximize friction. Also, I pump my bigger tires to the same pressure as the smaller ones so, I'm not sure I follow your logic on this. – JimmyJames Jul 28 '17 at 21:19
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    @NoahSutherland I'm also struggling with this statement in the article: "Higher pressure decreases the energy required to flex the tire." I'm quite certain it's the opposite or I'm misunderstanding the statement. – JimmyJames Jul 28 '17 at 21:22
  • Hmm...I'm not sure about that last statement. It does seem opposite, but I don't know the science incredibly well. The basic idea though is that with lower pressure (and especially with a high quality supple tire) the tire conforms and absorbs vibration better and allows the bike and rider to keep momentum more efficiently. There are a lot of other articles out there with some pretty in depth studies to back it up. As far as your comparison of big and small tires, you should be able to get away with lower pressure on the wider tires because the larger volume of air can support the weight. – Noah Sutherland Jul 28 '17 at 21:29
  • @NoahSutherland Interestingly the article that page links to has a section at the end titled: Wider Tires are Faster. The terminology is a little hard to parse but maybe that's what my dude read. – JimmyJames Jul 28 '17 at 21:31
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No one has yet mentioned checking the condition of your rim tape yet but if the parts of the rim where the spokes are attached are showing through that may be contributing to your flats

If you are riding on the extreme shoulder of the road consistently that may be more of a cause

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