How to prevent punctures
Punctures are inevitable for all cyclists so if you haven’t yet had one then count yourself as one of the very lucky few. If you rely on your bicycle for commuting then punctures can be especially inconvenient as they can cause long delays. Cyclists who commute within a city with a high population of cyclists may be lucky enough to stumble across a bike shop who can fix the puncture on the spot and but there is often a waiting list. In this short guide I hope to provide some knowledge on how to best prevent punctures in the first place.
You could just avoid riding over glass or sharp things but I am sure you know that this is almost impossible in many cities so on a more serious note please continue reading.
Get to know your bike
Become familiar with your bike by learning to remove the wheels and tyres and reassembling them. It is not as difficult as it sounds and nowadays there are plenty of youtube videos explaining each step of how to do it.
With a single speed or fixed wheel bike removing the front and rear wheels are much simpler than a road bike with a cassette and derailleur. All you need at most is an adjustable spanner for the wheel nuts (nothing if you have quick release wheels), and a pump and some tyre levers. Here is a video I found which shows how to remove the wheel, tyres and inner tubes.
Check your rim tape
Rim tape is a protection layer usually made of plastic or rubber which sits between the inner tube and the rim covering the sharp edges of the spoke holes. These sharp edges can often be the subtle culprit for puncturing your inner tube. You are likely to think you road over something, replace the tube, only to find you get another puncture.
After removing your tyres and tubes check that the rim tape is covering all spoke holes as the rim tape may have torn or slipped to the side. I always recommend investing in high quality rim tape so you will never have to worry about this issue. This video shows how to check your rim tape.
Invest in some puncture resistant tyres
Once you have checked your rim tape the next step is to make sure your tyres have extra protection to help reduce the chances of getting a puncture. These tyres have an extra strong hardened rubber layer and which can be a very effective against punctures. From my own personal experience I have used gator skins on my road bike and did not get a puncture for over 2 years. Once the tyre wears down after many miles this puncture resistant layer can weaken and lose it’s effectiveness. I would still recommend them as they are excellent at reducing the chance of a puncture. Expect to pay between £25 and £40 per tyre.
Use slime filled inner tubes
Slime filled inner tubes or self healing inner tubes are another way you can prevent the inconvenience of punctures. To give you an example I have owned my mountain bike since 2002 and put slime in the inner tubes back in 2004. I have never changed the tubes or had a flat since using slime and it is now 2015. I have occasionally heard a short loss of air when it has punctured but it quickly disappeared as the slime searched for the hole sealed it. One of the only disadvantages of slime filled inner tubes is that they can add some extra weight but not much. For commuting and recreational use you won’t really notice it.
Slime filled tubes are available already filled or you will have to find some inner tubes with a removable valve core which you can fill yourself.
Puncture protection tape
Another measure which I haven't tried is to buy some puncture resistant tape which is placed along the inside of the tyre. This supposedly acts like a puncture proof belt.
The ultimate solution
Very recently there has been a comeback of the solid tyre. A new technology has allowed for making lightweight tyres which match the weight of a tyre and inner tube. These new solid tyres are 100% puncture proof so you will never get a puncture. They are also guaranteed for 6000 miles or 3 years whichever comes first. The company is now onto version 2 of the tyre which is slightly softer. Watch this space.