Avoiding a puncture

There’s no good time to get a puncture. At best it’s an inconvenience, at worst a puncture can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately we are subject to a variety of puncture hazards on the Island and immediate surrounds; notably thorns and flint chippings.

There are, however, some things you can do to avoid punctures:

Keeping your tyres inflated reduces the surface area between the tyre and the road reducing your exposure to hazards. You also reduce the risk of ‘pinch’ punctures caused when your inner tube gets pinched between your tyre and the wheel rim – usually as a result of hitting a pothole or an obstacle in the road.

Article on inflating tyres

Sometimes something will embed itself into your tyre and work itself in towards your inner tube. A flint chipping, for instance, can sit in the tyre until you hit a kerb or a pothole at just the right place to force it through your tyre causing a puncture.

It therefore pays to examine your tyres from time to time. That’s easier if your tyres are clean.

If you find something embedded in your tyre use a sharp point to extract it. Long nose pliers are good for removing thorns, though, because it’s easier to get the whole thorn out that way.

While examining your tyre, make sure there are no score marks caused by brakes touching the surface of the tyre. If you see any, or if you suspect your brakes are touching the tyre, get your brakes adjusted as soon as you can. Wear on the tyre can cause failure and a very expensive puncture because you will have to replace both the tyre and the inner tube.

Puncture resistant tyres are more expensive and heavier than normal ones. Set alongside the inconvenience of punctures, however, they can be seen as good value for money.

There are several makes of puncture-resistant tyres. Personally, I use Schwalbe Durano, Continental and Marathon brands and have no reservation commending them.

This chap goes to some lengths to demonstrate the effectiveness of puncture-resistant tyres:

It can be difficult to fit puncture-resistant tyres. This chap demonstrates how it can be done. Note the importance of getting the tyre right down into the well of the wheel rim:

Take care not to:

  1. Pinch the inner tube between the tyre and the wheel
  2. Catch the inner tube if you need to use a tyre lever to get your tyre back onto the rim
  3. Leave the valve anything other than pointing straight out perpendicular to the wheel rim; a trapped valve will eventually weaken and cause a puncture
  4. Get grit between the inner tube and the tyre; grit works its way into the inner tube eventually causing a puncture

We’ve no statistics to prove it, but it’s a good guess that one of the most common causes of punctures is failure to remove what caused an initial puncture, resulting in two failures one shortly after the other. If you get a puncture make a note of where your valve is in relation to the tyre before you remove your inner tube. That will help you find whatever caused the puncture. Bear in mind that flint chippings can bury themselves into the tyre making them difficult to spot.

There are two ways you can improve the puncture resistance of ‘normal’ tyres:

  1. Tyre liner – tape that fits to the inside of the tyre preventing sharps from penetrating to the inner tube. My own experience with these was mixed. I found them difficult to fit. They appeared to work for a while but after nearly a year I started getting punctures because the edge of the tape was rubbing a groove into the inner tube – which eventually failed.
  2. Tyre sealant – ‘gloop’ you insert into an inner tube through the valve (might be unsuitable for schrader valves). The idea is that – when you puncture – the gloop seals it, allowing you to reinflate the tyre and carry on.