Four quick pre-ride checks to stay puncture-proof

By Kaye Lopez | Photos by James Pond and Clark Young/Unsplash

Last month, we looked closely at the three common types of tires on the market. This time around, we’ll investigate how to check your tires, avoid punctures while riding, and what to do when you hear that dreaded hiss.

If you’ve earned your miles on the bike, you’ve surely suffered a puncture. Small punctures are inconvenient because they are harder to identify. Large punctures are nasty because there is the risk of losing control of the bike. Catastrophic blowouts are scary because so many things happen so quickly that you must be prepared to think fast, act smart, and get lucky. Whatever kind of puncture it is, it will be inopportune and untimely. There is no good time to get a flat, but there are ways to prevent it from happening.

Check Your Tires

Make it a habit to check your tires before you ride. My coaching schedule and my students’ varied training programs students mean that I’m on the bike before 6am six times a week. Before I park my bike for the day, I set both valves at the 12 o’clock position so that the Slime sealant doesn’t accumulate around the valve overnight. Then I do my ritual the next morning where I top up the pressure on my tires while my coffee is brewing. It’s normal for inner tubes to lose some pressure (lightweight latex tubes being more porous than the more common butyl tubes) before the next ride, but I’ll know there’s something wrong if there is an imbalance in the amount of air I have to pump between the two tires.

Look for Puncture Culprits

If that one tire hasn’t gone fully flat since I last rode but is comparatively softer than the other, I first inspect the carcass of the tire by spinning it slowly and looking closely at the tread for things that may have penetrated the tire. If it’s a shard of glass, it’ll likely be embedded but shiny against the darker color of the tire and easier to spot. If it’s a piece of metal, like a tack or stapler, I will see it protruding, but it will be a bit tougher to pry off.

Puncture-proof Your Tires with Slime

Because I have Slime sealant in my inner tubes, chances are it’s already at work sealing the potential puncture so I just spin the wheels after removing the offending debris and let it finish the job. There are other brands of sealant, both pre-installed in the inner tube and in bottles for the DIY mechanics out there, but Slime consistently works for me. If the puncture is too big for the sealant to manage, I just change the whole wheel and remind my mechanic to fix it later in the day.

If the puncture is too big for the sealant to manage, I just change the whole wheel and remind my mechanic to fix it later in the day

Check Wear and Tear

Another thing I check is to see if the tire is getting worn out excessively. You will see that because the ply, which looks like finely woven threads from inside the tire, will become visible. Some modern tires even have indicators on the tread surface that act as a wear guide.

All these quick checks are easy to do, even before my coffee has brewed. Be sure to apply them before you go out for your next ride then stay tuned for part two to learn more tips on staying flat-free while riding.