How to stop getting punctures

Schwalbe London Edition Tyres

Is it possible to stop getting punctures?

I would argue that it is. After a spate of 3 punctures in two week, I decided enough was enough.

If they can design Cycle Hire Bikes to hardly ever get punctures, then why can’t I do the same with my bike?

I made a few tweaks and I’m happy to say I’ve been puncture free f0r over 12 months. (Which sounds like something you would say at a Punctures Anonymous meeting).

Start here: Tyres

The best thing you can do to banish punctures from your life is to get a pair of puncture resistant tyres. For my single speed (and for road bikes) I thoroughly recommend the Schwalbe Durano Plus. The Gatorskin tyres are also highly recommended by readers of London Cyclist.

To work out the size you need, look at the sidewall of your existing tyre. The size should be listed there.

Two sets of tyres will set you back under £50 and will save you countless road side repairs and late meetings.

If you can’t afford both new tyres at the same time, start with the rear wheel as this is where you get most punctures and it is more of a pain to repair.

Stick to recommended tyre pressures

Bicycle pump

On the sidewall of your tyre, a number will be listed for the recommended tyre pressure. You should be careful to not be below or above this. Go too low and you risk more punctures.

It’s a good idea to have a track pump with a pressure gage at home. This will allow you to measure the pressure and also to pump up your tyres quickly.

Your inner tube will gradually lose pressure so you’ll need to top it up frequently.

Where are the punctures coming from?

If you find yourself getting many punctures it may mean a number of things. First of all there may be an object trapped inside the tyre that is causing repeat punctures. It may also mean the tyre is worn out so is no longer correctly protecting the inner tube. If you find you are getting punctures on the inside side of the inner tube then it may be that one of your spokes is protruding past the rim tape. If this is the case you’ll need to replace the rim tape.

Should you use tyre sealant?

Tyre sealant
You can also use slime filled inner tubes. In theory when a puncture occurs, the liquid seals the puncture. However, cyclists have reported mixed results in using this.

Stay out the gutter..

Another big tip is to stay clear of gutters in the rain as this is where debris congregate waiting to cause you a puncture.

More guides like this one..

This guide is taken from the Bike Doctor App. For more guides checkout the app for your iPhone, iPad or Android.

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29 Responses to How to stop getting punctures

  1. 802BikeGuy.com 27/06/2013 at 12:34 am #

    Did you get permission from the Bike Doctor to use this? This guide is a good start, but not nearly comprehensive enough…

  2. Richard Bloomfield 27/06/2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I would also recommend the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. I’ve had these tyres on my hybrid bike for well over 2 years without a single puncture.

    It’s also a good idea to check that your brake pads aren’t rubbing against the tyres, as this can weaken the walls over time and lead to punctures.

    However, as you point out, prevention is the best defence against punctures – so make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure, and stay away from the debris in the gutters!

    • Rob Fletcher 28/06/2013 at 8:33 am #

      +1. I’ve been running Marathon Plus tyres for over 3 years now. First on a mountain bike & immediately fitted the 700c ones to my cyclocross bike when I upgraded.

      I’ve done thousands of miles in that time, ridden London to Paris, etc. Not one puncture. I do t even think about it any more.

      There’s even a big ragged hole in the tread on the back tyre that’s been there for months & they still don’t deflate or blow out. I wouldn’t be surprised if they literally are bullet proof.

    • Robert Conn 01/07/2013 at 7:34 am #

      +1 for Marathon Pluses. Most bulletproof commuting tyre I’ve ever used. Worth the cash.

    • SarfLahndahn Ici 14/07/2013 at 5:44 am #

      +1 for Marathon Plus (26 x 1.75 I think?) here. A real bitch to get on or off, but I haven’t had to do that for over two years since I bought them, so who cares? I even ran the whole front wheel right over a broken-off quarter of a pint glass that some fool had lovingly left in the street at London Bridge. OK, it wasn’t a sharp piece of glass but I couldn’t find a single scratch on the tyre. The roads are full of glass and metal here and sometimes it’s preferable to ride ‘in the gutter’ for a metre or two to avoid the challenging pothole course posing as a public highway that is the average London street.
      We couldn’t have an integrated transport system in this country even if the CEO of Railtrack, The Highways Agency, DFT, and TFL got down had a circle-jerk! I’m tempted to move to Holland, but until then, these tyres remove one annoyance and worry on the road.

  3. Vincent 27/06/2013 at 12:35 pm #

    Thanks for the article. In addition Schwalbe’s Marathon (Plus) and Durano (Plus), I was recommended the following:

    Continental : GP 4000(S), (Ultra) Gatorskin

    Michelin : Lithion, Pro 4 Endurance (replaces Krylion Carbons), City

    Schwalbe : Supreme, Ultremo

    • jezh 14/08/2014 at 3:57 pm #

      I couldn’t recommend the GP 4000 for puncture resistance, lovely tyre but if you are 90kgs or more you will have punctures, especially in the wet. Much better the Continental hardshell if not so nice ride/speed.

  4. Helen 27/06/2013 at 5:01 pm #

    A frequent tyre check also helps. In my experience with tough tyres they will puncture eventually, usually if a splinter of glass has worked its way into the tyre. If you tyre check you can remove the splinters before they go deep enough to cause a puncture.

    I also favour Schwalbe tyres but find that if they do puncture they are incredibly difficult to take on and off. Currently I have nimbus tyres with flak jacket. After 5 months I’ve had one puncture, which I could have prevented if I had followed my own advice above. On the bright side, they’re not as difficult to fit.

    • Rob Fletcher 28/06/2013 at 8:36 am #

      I had the same difficulty in getting Marathon Plus 26″ on & off my mountain bike wheels however the 700c version on my other bike slip on & off very smoothly. I think it depends on the wheel.

  5. WilliS 27/06/2013 at 5:06 pm #

    I would 100% NOT recommend gatorskin.
    I ran to Gatorskin Hardshells, which suppose to be their best puncture protection city tyre, for 1 year and it was the most puncture plagued of my life.

    Each puncture was a real puncture, rather then embedded sharp or slipped rim tape or low pressure pinch.

    They are simply awful.

    I have returned to the Bontranger Racelite Hardcases and have been puncture free for 18months.

    Steer clear of gatorskins.

    • Steve 04/07/2013 at 11:06 pm #

      I use 23mm gatorskins on my road bike. They have been on there for 18 months / over 3000 miles without a single punture.

    • jezh 14/08/2014 at 3:58 pm #

      Amazed I’m plagued by punctures on other tyres but did 4k miles on Hardshells without one. How much do you weigh?

  6. Gavin 28/06/2013 at 8:46 am #

    I fitted the “slime inner tubes” to my hybrid last February, they were great, for a while.

    Had no punchers for three months, then two came along in a day!
    The slime did its job for the first puncture, just had to pump the tyre back up to pressure. The second puncher happened on the way back home from work.
    The slim obviously hadn’t completely sealed the first puncture on the tube and by this time the hole was too big to reseal so had to replace the inner tube at the side of the road.

    After that episode I took the plunge and purchased a set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres with normal inner tubes and I have to say that they are great, no punctures for over 2000 miles!

    They are a sod to fit, I used some cable ties to hold a part of the tyre on the rim, and this helped me to get the rest of the tyre on.

    I’ve just fitted some Continental Ultra GatorSkin’s to my road bike, too early to tell if they are any good, fingers crossed!

  7. Peter Clark 28/06/2013 at 11:57 am #

    Agree with those pointing out the down side of puncture resistant tyres. I’ve tried a couple of types and whilst I’ve had fewer punctures it hasn’t been none. And they can be an absolute pig to get on and off at the roadside/good opportunity for an upper body workout (delete according to whether your glass if half full or half empty).

    I now believe there will always be an element of luck in whether you get them or not and take the view that I’m now sufficiently skilled at the quick repair that I’ll take my chances with regular tyres.

  8. Jude 28/06/2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I have Specialized armadillo tyres and I very rarely get punctures – maybe once a year, if that. The result is that when I do, it takes me ages to fix it as I’m so out of practice. I recently bought a new back tyre as the old one was starting to split. I tried, and failed miserably, to change it in the shop. Not only had I forgotten what to do, but – as others have already said above – they are an absolute pain in the bum to get on and off. I was feeling horribly incompetent, but thankfully the staff in the shop (Cycle Surgery in West Hampstead) helped me out.

  9. Andrew 28/06/2013 at 2:03 pm #

    +1 for regularly checking for debris stuck in tyres; I fairly regularly pick out shards of glass, flints or metal. Its a good idea to do this with the tyre deflated. I try and do this after every ride before I put the bike away so that its always ready for the next ride.

    I’ve had a pair of ultra-gatorskins on my road bike for 9 months and only had one puncture, which happened on the turbo trainer (I think the inner tube got too hot and existing defect, possibly a previous almost-snake-bite puncture, finally let go).

  10. kie7077 28/06/2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Park tools track pump is awful, the pump brakes, and presta valves get stuck in it and the inner tube gets broken, Not recommended,

    OTOH I got a Revolution track pump and it is an absolute pleasure to use – very recommended,

  11. Ed 28/06/2013 at 4:46 pm #

    For commuting I cannot recommend Continental Sport Contacts highly enough. These are both fast rolling and seemingly indestructable. I have only had one puncture in over 2000 miles on absolutely shocking pothole and debris strem roads.

    The key to fitting puncture protected tyres like these and Schwalbe Marathon + is to use toestraps / string or cable ties.

    Here is the video on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XUFVrl0UT4

    I also use Schwalbe Blizzard Sport & Continental Ultra Race which, touch wood, have been very good. Vittoria also get great reviews and can be picked up from about £8 upwards.

  12. leftback 30/06/2013 at 10:57 pm #

    “Another big tip is to stay clear of gutters in the rain as this is where debris congregate waiting to cause you a puncture”. Shocking: you should not ride in the gutter wet or dry! Joe Blow pumps the way to go. Nice video about fitting tyres, learnt something there :)

  13. Ed 01/07/2013 at 7:45 am #

    Spa Cycles – the guy that put that very helpful video for fitting tight tyres on Youtube have some very good prices on various sized “London” branded Marathon pluses – the tyres that Andreas uses! £20 + £4 postage http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b0s142p2829

    And also good prices on the Schwalbe Blizzard Sports that I recommended for road bikes in 700 x 23 http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?show=33

  14. Sarah 03/07/2013 at 7:13 am #

    I have Mr. Tuffy tire liners that you just slip into the tire between the inside tire wall and the tube. I haven’t had a flat since I put them in the tires of my road bike 2 years ago! So simple and cheap (They run about $20 for two liners).

    I would skip the slime and difficult to remove super tires and just by a pair of inexpensive tire liners. Another brand is Stop Flat tire liners, but I’ve never used them so I can’t attest to their effectiveness.

    • Sarah 03/07/2013 at 7:15 am #

      also, I ride everyday in all kinds of weather, and there were lots of thorns where I lived last year. Still no punctures. And the tire liners are made of polyurethane and can be re-used. They seem to pretty much last forever.

  15. Akos Szilvasi 03/07/2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Good quality inner tubes are more critical than the tire. Most of the time the tube’s seam fails or around the valve.

  16. Ed 03/07/2013 at 3:01 pm #

    Sarah,

    “also, I ride everyday in all kinds of weather, and there were lots of thorns where I lived last year. Still no punctures.”

    Thorns! LOL where I live the roads are strewn with glass, car accident metal & plastic debris, potholes literally every 10 metres or less and I often ride along a coastal track with all the dropped cockle, winkle and mussel shells – and those things really are sharp.

    As I said, with my Continental Sport Contacts only 1 flat in over 2000 miles. They are cut to buggery now but I am loathe to throw them out as the inner protection hasn’t been breached.

    Looking back I think my flat was actually caused by a pinch flat – due to potholes – and nothing you do can prevent that.

    Those tyre liners you recommended cost at least £10 EACH in the UK – where this blog is based. You’d be better off spending the extra on better tyres in the first place.

    Akos – “Good quality inner tubes are more critical than the tire. Most of the time the tube’s seam fails or around the valve.”

    Basic beginner mistake. Before I took cycling more seriously I regularly wrecked tubes around the seam. With hindsight this was because I wasn’t fitting or pumping them up right.

    I have never spent more than £3 on a tube and since learning how to fit and pump none have been damaged round the valve.

    You can pick up 10 Specialized tubes here for £20 http://www.tredz.co.uk/.Inner-tube-Bundle-10-x-Innertubes_54896.htm#Tab_ProdDetailInfoReviews

    My tips are –

    buy a tyre with some kind of puncture protection – read the user reviews

    Always ensure your tyres are inflated to the correct PSI – use a decent track pump. I use this one I think – currently £12.01 – bargain! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beto-Track-Steel-Barrel-Gauge/dp/B0010VTQ9O/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1372859408&sr=8-5&keywords=beto+track+pump

    Never over inflate tyres beyond the max PSI on tyre wall. It is possible to under inflate somewhat for a “softer” ride – but this increases your chance of puncturing.

    This is another beginner mistake. I used to think that tyres should feel “squidgy” when pressed with a thumb or finger. Wrong. There should basically be NO play – they should feel hard!

    Don’t ride in the gutter, avoid potholes (as much as you can in this country) and if you need to go up a kerb that is higher than 1/2 an inch in height either learn to wheelie and bunny hop or do it very slowly. Alternatively stop the bike and lift it onto the pavement / path. Apart from anything else this helps prevent you buckling your wheels which causes all sorts of additional and expensive problems!

  17. Pontylad 12/07/2013 at 2:49 pm #

    It is a truism that you can waft along for months even years without a puncture and then they seem to come in clusters . Gatorskins on my road bike have been pretty good for the last couple of years certainly better than the bog-standard Continental pair they came with ,they haven’t been completely puncture free but three or so punctures in about 28 mths is certainly better than average .I’m guaranteed to get a flat on the way home now .

    Travel with a spare inner-tube is also an unwritten law and don’t pinch it when you put it on as a replacement as there is nothing more heart-sinking than seeing the tyre go flat again as soon as you get back in the saddle .

    Mountain bike tyres don’t seem to have the same issue although I did spike myself right through the sole of my sandal (ok sandal ! but it was in Spain and they were the sporty type for trail walking ) with a particularly nasty three headed thorn the tyres however road straight over the same stuff .

    Back in the 90’s I even tried solid tyres once but never again is all In can say .

  18. Sarah 26/07/2013 at 2:25 am #

    “where I live the roads are strewn with glass, car accident metal & plastic debris, potholes literally every 10 metres or less and I often ride along a coastal track with all the dropped cockle, winkle and mussel shells”

    Ed, sounds like a post-apocalyptic wasteland…by the sea. I think most people would not need so much protection. However, it does sound like you’d need something more extreme than tire liners (or tyre liners to you, UK).

  19. Ed 26/07/2013 at 9:40 am #

    Sarah – “Ed, sounds like a post-apocalyptic wasteland…by the sea.”

    Doesn’t it just? Unfortunately it is all true. The roads where I live, Dorset, are what is fairly classed as, “a joke”.

    Instead of so many Poles over here I think we need more French. They seem to know how to lay a road hence TDF.

    We have “extreme” temperatures in this country though. In winter it gets to 0 and in the summer it may hit 30. Both of which turn the road into mature Cheddar Cheese.

    You’d have thought with those “extremes” someone may have perfected a road surface that would withstand them. If you know any country that can please let me know – I’ll pass it onto the council and the government.

    UK Roads = JOKE

  20. Elisabeth 13/06/2014 at 10:34 am #

    My biggest tip for avoiding punctures is to pick up glass bottles
    If I spot a bottle today that could well be splintered glass or worse tomorrow, i pick it up and transport it to the nearest bin.
    OK, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m convinced it’s saved me some punctures…

  21. Don 15/07/2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Thinking about new set of tyres for this winter for my hybrid. As expected usual suspects here: Schwalbe Marathon Plus & Continental Gatorskins (Hardshells). The Marathons of course are legendary but downsides obviously weight and speed. Gators again, interestingly seem to split opinion on puncture protection (also on other sites issues over grip in the wet – slicks supposed to be superior here?!). Vittoria Randonneurs good choice but comment about Continental Sports Contacts caught my attention as thinking about getting Continental Contact II tyres. Anyone has any opinions/experience of these? Also any suggestions of best commute tyres for wet conditions (as well as puncture protection)? Cheers.

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