Nobody likes punctures. They always happen at the most inappropriate times and, this time of year they’re all too common.
Fortunately, aside from buying really heavy-duty, puncture-resistant tires that weigh almost as much as your bike there are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting one.
First things first, if you don’t have one yet you NEED a track pump. They’re about £25-£35 for a good one, but they are worth their weight in gold.
If you are riding a road bike with 25-28mm tires, you are going to need to put upwards of 100psi into each tire. This will likely be far more than you can pump with the little hand pump you should be carrying in your bag or jersey pocket for emergencies (along with a pair of inner tubes and tire levers…). I consider myself quite strong, but I struggle to put more than about 60psi into my tires using a hand pump. Also, having a good pressure gauge like most track pumps do is tremendously helpful.
An under-inflated tyre will be far more prone to pinch flats and thorn punctures but an over-inflated tyre is more likely to be damaged by sharp flints as it won’t deform around them.
Source: Puncture prevention
It’s at this time of year when the roads are covered in mulch and broken branches that you are going to pick up those thorn punctures, so having enough pressure in your tires is critical.
If you are riding on the roads, it also goes without saying but you should be giving yourself plenty of space from the kerb at any time of year, but this is especially true in winter. Much of the rubbish that litters the roads gets chucked out to the side –this includes the leaves & mulch, but also the glass & sharp plastics from car accidents; the glass from broken bottles & glasses near pubs; and pretty much anything else that finds its way onto the road.
Give yourself another 30cm or more on top of the usual metre and if you are lucky enough to be riding in daylight (a rare treat during the winter), make sure you are looking far enough ahead to be able to react in time.
Light the night
Following on from the previous point about looking ahead, chances are it is going to be dark. If you are riding dark trails, morning or night, please make sure you have a strong front light –preferably a pair of them. I use two 300-lumen lights which provides reasonable illumination for a pitch-black Taff Trail. The more light you can have, the more chance you have of seeing some of the little surprises lurking in the darkness, before they find their way into your tires!
Stop & search
If you suspect that you have run over something sharp, such as a patch of glass (or in my case, a sprig of blackthorn), stop immediately and take a close look at both tires. If you are lucky, you’ll be able to pull out the offending item before it has chance to work its way through your tire and into the inner tube. Alternatively, you’ll pull it out and your tire will go flat immediately, but at least you’ll know! The last thing you want is to suddenly lose all the air in your tire on a fast downhill stretch or somewhere you really don’t want to have to stop.
Like Rogiet…on your own….in a storm!