“Boo to punctures! Race day punctures put paid to all my months of training and travel costs in my last overseas cycling event… how do i avoid them next time?”
- Chye, long-distance triathlete and Grand Fondo rider
The solution is closer than you think it is. Let’s look into the obvious and not-so-obvious ways to help Chye have a fuss-free ride as much as possible on his next overseas outing:
1. Change tires & tubes – when committing to that big race or ride, and wanting to leave nothing to chance, just buy new. Tubular tires get old and worn after a few events, as do regular clinchers. A fresh set of rubber (including new inner tubes, installed carefully) ensures the most peace of mind.
2. Take care of the wheels – aside from tires and tubes, inspect the rim and rim tape carefully and regularly. Damaged rim tape can lead to spokes poking your inner tube. Go for fresh tape if needed, and always make sure it is installed neatly with no folds, and with no loose debris between tube and tire.
3. Consider the terrain and the set-up itself – if you have been riding a lot of rough or debris-laden roads lately, or are going to for your big ride/event, consider changing to wider tires – not only for grip, but also for better shock absorption and avoidance of punctures. The trend towards wider rims and tire profiles recently makes this a good choice in the interest of versatility and comfort without sacrificing speed. For extra insurance – and if you ride lots but are not concerned too much about weight – go for a tire with beefed-up sidewalls or a specific puncture-resistant casing.
4. Murphy’s Law works – learn to change a flat tire out in the field / on the road competently. Practicing a few times in training whenever the chance arises – be especially helpful when your friends puncture, and offer to fix their flats while they watch – will make you a master. And then pack accordingly for your long ride/race/event. Chances are, nothing disastrous puncture-wise will happen to you; try to wing it, hope for the best, and leave your repair kit behind, and you can rest assured that something WILL happen to you… cycling life is funny like that!
5. The needle routine – this one is going to sound scarier than it actually is. Take a needle (a stiff, sharp toothpick, or medium/large safety pin). Roll the tires slowly around, and eyeball the surface for any nicks, cuts, and holes. Chances are, if the tire is at least 1000kms into its life cycle, it will have damage of this sort and moreover, there will be little grains of sand, glass, or metal stuck inside! Very simply: dig out the debris carefully with the tip of your needle. Avoid pushing the debris deeper in – which is what actually happens eventually if you leave it in there, going deeper with thousands of revolutions of the wheel until it cuts through to the inner tube or air chamber and then… BOOM!
I’ll leave you with that thought now. Go check your tires right this instant with a needle in hand; and if you find they are too far worn (too many nicks, cuts and hole!), consider a new pair.