Flats, flats, and more flats --- incredibly frustrating

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by lblando, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. lblando

    lblando New Member

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    Hello, this is my first post here. I am not a cycling expert, and thus I am hoping you can help me figure out a solution to my problem.

    First, some context. I recently bought a road bike, which I intend to use for two purposes: (1) commuting to work 3-5 times a week, and (2) weekend rides with friends. I don't plan on racing, or competing in any way. This is what I've ridden so far http://ridewithgps.com/users/190009. While not an expert, I do know how to ride a bike, and I like the idea of the freedom it brings you. I ride on the bike lanes, in San Jose (CA), as well as on paved biked paths. Nothing different, nothing unique, same as many of you I am sure, and yet....

    Second, the problem. In a word, flats. I have been getting so many flats, so frequently, that it has seriously made me want to throw in the towel. In particular because I do commute to work and I have already had missed meetings, etc.

    Third, details. Well, I *think* I am doing things right (e.g. changing the tubes with as much finesse as I can muster, checking pressure before every ride, making sure the tubes are up to 110psi at least, not riding too close to the curb, where the rocks/debris accumulates, "going light" on the rough patches to minimize the risk of pinches, etc). I even swapped the Hutchinson Equinox 23mm tires that came with my bike for 25mm Gatorskins in hopes that that would fix it. Such is the level of frustration I have reached that I even made an embarrassing YouTube video of me changing a tube to see if I am actually doing it right :) http://youtu.be/gyS_RuWQC2E

    Fourth, the problem appears to be pinch flats/snake bite flats, as I have yet to encounter one nail/thorn/glass piece stuck in my tire. I have had tons of flats, as you can see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157635449894885/ and all but one of them have been in the back tire.

    Fifth, one afternoon I collected all the punctured tubes and decided to fix them all. I did so and pumped them all to twice their volume (give or take). Checked them all to make sure no air was leaking (using a bucket of water). Everything fine. Left them hanging overnight. The next morning, about half of them had deflated substantially and only a few of them were as I'd left them. Is that normal? I mean, it is normal for a tube to deflate *a little* but not overnight, right?

    Finally, I have resisted going with the "puncture resistant tubes" such as this one (http://www.amazon.com/Avenir-Resistant-Bicycle-Presta-27-Inch/dp/B002K2KULA/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1378750511&sr=8-5&keywords=thorn+resistant+tubes+700c) because the rolling resistance (already increased by the Gatorskins) would be even worse, and honestly I don't know if the tube would help. As a matter of fact, after reading about the Gatorskins I thought they would be the answer to my problems and I have been getting as many flats with them as without them.

    So, any advice? Any help? I have read as much as I can find, and as mentioned above I think I am doing the right things, though evidently I must not be. Thanks in advance for any advice.

    --Luis
     
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  2. kdelong

    kdelong Well-Known Member

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    If you are checking your inflation prior to each ride, I doubt that you are getting pinch flats. My advice is that you take your tire and tube off the rim. Check the rim for anything at all that is rough. Use a fine grade of emery cloth to smooth out any rough spots. Check for the usual suspects such as a rim strip that is not covering the spoke nipples and allowing them to cause your punctures. Also check the inside of your tire casing for any debris that may be in there. You pretty much have to turn the casing inside out and go over it very carefully. I had a small piece of glass that worked its way into the inside of my tire once and I was getting flatted about once a week. I found the offending bit of glass after a lot of detective work. It did not stick up out of the casing until the tube put pressure on it and then it rubbed just enough until it rubbed through. If you match mark your rim and tire so that you put the tire on in the same place each time, and your punctures are always in the same spot, then look for something imbedded in the tire.

    Concerning fixing your tubes, I believe most fix a flat kits recommend that you allow the patch to cure for 24 hours prior to inflating them. There are some patches that claim to seal immediately but I have my doubts.

    As far as puncture resistant tubes are concerned, I purchased a pair of cheap Forte' PR Tubes for a bike that I rode through goat head country a couple of years ago. They are still on the bike under a pair of Hutchinson Fusion tires. I haven't noticed any increased rolling resistance from them other than a slight increase in weight, but the bike is a 1980's vintage bike and not super light anyway.

    Your inner tube installation looks correct as far as you took it. After you have checked too ensure that you are not pinching the tube, inflate the tire to about 50% of the rated inflation and then let the air out. This will seat the tube up into the tire and allow any twists to come out of the tube. Then inflate it to the recommended pressure. I hope that some of this helps you.
     
  3. digibud

    digibud New Member

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    Patches don't have to cure. I can't count the hundreds of patches I have done on the road. And they last pretty much forever. I have tubes that are years old with three or four patches in them. No problem.
    It does look like at least one of the images might be a snakebite. Do some punctures show up as two small cuts close to each other? If so it could be due to low pressure. You talk about inflating "the tubes" to 110. I'm assuming you mean inflating the tire to 110. That should be enough to work fine. Are you reasonably sure your tire guage is correct? When you use your thumb to press on the tire does it seem almost rock hard? You might try another tire guage to double check that pressure. Is it possible your rim tape is off center some place and you have a spoke hole that is showing through?
    Are the punctures inside (rim tape failure) or outside (low tire pressure, inner tube caught between tire and rim, something stuck in tire)? You find nothing in terms of glass? Try a very slow, careful look inside the tire, flexing it and looking super carefully. On your next flat, don't remove the tire entirely but pull the tube out while leaving the valve stem in place. Then pump the tire enough to find the hole. Note where it would line up in the tire and check that area carefully for glass or debri. Note if the puncture is inside or outside and note if it's snake bites.
    The inside/outside nature of the puncture tells a lot. As does snake eyes or not....As does whether the puncture is happening in the same general area of the tire...
    Your inner tube replacement looked pretty good but you may want to NOT tighten the valve in until you have the inner tube fully in place. If you tighten the valve too early the tire bead may not get seated down properly. I don't think you can easily feel the placement of the inner tube. I think you have to look at it carefully as you go around the tire checking that the tube is not sticking out and checking to see the rim tape is centered such that no spoke hole is uncovered even a tiny bit.
    You may have a rim problem or just a lot of debri that you're not finding. Gatorskins are good but not incredible Schwalbe Marathon Plus are another step up for toughness.
     
  4. digibud

    digibud New Member

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    Flat #7 is snake eyes almost for sure...almost for sure it is under inflation but no way 110lb is too little. Maybe the valve is bad and it's a slow leak? Something odd there.
     
  5. Brian in VA

    Brian in VA New Member

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    That many flats, almost entirely on the rear tire, leads me to believe you have something hidden in the inside of your tire that's causing them. I had the same problem last summer, with Gatorskins oddly enough, when a staple made it's way into the tire. Until I took the tire off, turned it inside out, and inspected it very carefully I had no idea it was in there as I never found anything out side it. And the piece was so small that it required me riding about 20 miles before it finally punctured the inner tube.

    Everyone elses recommendations are in order here but my money is on something in the tire or a spoke poking through from above.

    In any case, it's certainly frustrating. Although I did get really quick about changing a tire during a ride. [​IMG]

    Brian in VA
     
  6. mpre53

    mpre53 Well-Known Member

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    Check your rim tape. Entry level wheels often have cheap rim tape that isn't enough to adequately prevent the spokes from penetrating the tube.

    Single puncture where the rim meets the tube, rim tape problem. Double puncture or "snake bite" in same area, pinch flat. Anywhere else, likely some foreign object in the tire.

    You're very unlikely to have bought a crapload of defective tubes. Has to be something in the rim or tire. You get bad valves, and sometimes a cheap tube comes apart, but the odds of all of them being defective are off that charts.
     
  7. alienator

    alienator Well-Known Member

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    +1. I'd also carefully check your rim tape to be sure it's actually covering all the spoke holes and that's not torn any where, as mentioned above.
     
  8. CAMPYBOB

    CAMPYBOB Well-Known Member

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    All holes appear to be on the O.D. of the tube...I don't think rim tape/spokes have anything to do with your flats.

    As others have advised, check the inside of the tire carefully for anything (nail, rust flake, piece of glass, etc.) still stuck in the casing.

    Several of those flats are classic snake bite. Are you hitting rocks or pot holes? Again, follow the advice above and try a few more PSI inflation pressure.

    Lastly, even if you don't go with 'thorn proof' tubes you might just want to try another brand.
     
  9. dhk2

    dhk2 Active Member

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    Mysterious indeed. A bit more information would help. When you changed to the Gatorskins, did the flats stop for awhile, or continue at about the same frequency? If changing the tires didn't matter at all, I'd have to conclude that the problem wasn't something stuck in the tire, but due to the spokes poking through. Do they occur in the same place on the road all the time, or after the same number of miles on the new tube? If you put in a new tube, and get a flat every time after 20-30 miles, that says to me it's not road hazards, but the same thing in the tire or wheel causing the punctures.

    Where are the punctures occurring on the wheel and tire? Are they in the same place every time? eg , at 3 o'clock position from the valve stem? Where are they occurring on the tire? If you mount the tire in the same place every time, and start recording the position of the punctures, that might provide a clue. A fine wire shard from a steel-belted tire can be hard to spot. Can you find any damage or puncture in the tire itself right over the puncture in the tube? If something is puncturing from the outside through the tire, you should be able to see or feel damage to the tire where it came through to penetrate the tube. If the punctures are in the same place on the tire or wheel every time, then it should be easy to find the cause.
     
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