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Thread: Rain = Flats?

  1. #1
    B-b-b-b-b-b-bicicle Rider orange leader's Avatar
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    Rain = Flats?

    On my ride in this morning, (through urban Baltimore) the ground was still wet from the rain last night. About 3 miles from my house I noticed my front wheel going flat.

    The last time it rained during (or jsut before I can't remember) my commute, I got a rear flat, actually 2, but they weren't related, one was caused by my valve stem innards which had come out, and the other was a metal shaving puncture.

    Anyhow, I have noticed a far higher concentrations of flats when I ride in the rain than at any other times.

    My personal hypothesis is that the smaller particles of glass stick to the wet tires (kind of like licking your finger to help turn a page, or pick up something really small) and then get multiple chances at penetration. Perhaps the water and rubber form a sort of suction too, to hold the glass there for multiple chances.

    I was just wondering if any one else has noticed this, and if anyone has come across any real scientifically tested hypothesis (which are then by definition theories), or just have some of your own hypothesis as to why this might happen.
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  2. #2
    tsl
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    My only flats seem to come in the rain too. Always glass. I'd been thinking it was because, with the whole road surface shiny from the rain, I couldn't see the glass. I like your idea too. Better than leaving it to Murphy.

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    The one and only flat I've ever gotten up until now (riding daily for over a year now) happened when it was wet out. I think it being wet out helps lubricate the entry of sharp objects into the tire.

  4. #4
    These go to 11. DavidLee's Avatar
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    You're correct about the glass sticking to the tires. Taken from sheldonbrown.com, written by Jobst Brandt.

    Many sharp objects, especially those that lie flat on the road like nails and pieces of metal, more often enter rear tires than the front tires. That is because the front tire upends them just in time for the rear tire to be impaled on them.

    For example, nails seldom enter front tires. When dropped from a moving vehicle, nails slide down the road, and align themselves pointing toward traffic, because they prefer to slide head first as they would when laid on a slope. The front tire rolling over such a lengthwise nail, can tilt it up just in time for the rear tire to encounter it on end. I once got a flat from a one inch diameter steel washer that the front tire had flipped up so that the rear tire struck it on edge. When following another wheel closely, the front tire can get the "rear tire" treatment from the preceding wheel.

    The front wheel set-up effect is especially true for "Michelin" wires, the fine strands of stainless wire that make up steel belts of auto tires. These wires, left on the road when such tires exposes their belt, cause hard to find slow leaks almost exclusively in rear tires.

    When wet, glass can stick to the tire even in the flat orientation and thereby get a second chance when it comes around again. To make things worse, glass cuts far more easily when wet as those who have cut rubber tubing in chemistry class may remember. A wet razor blade cuts latex rubber tubing in a single slice while a dry blade only makes a nick.

    As for pinch flats, aka snake bites , they occur on the rear wheel more readily because it carries more load and is uncushioned when the rider is seated. The rider's arms, even when leaning heavily on the front wheel, cushion impact when striking a blunt obstacle.

  5. #5
    Commuter First newbojeff's Avatar
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    Roads were not wet heading home yesterday and I got a staple -- both points -- into my rear tube. I don't think I had had a flat in about 2 years through this tire ever since I got it (Bontrager Hardcase).

    Sure is more crap flying around when it's wet out, though.

  6. #6
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by orange leader
    On my ride in this morning, (through urban Baltimore) the ground was still wet from the rain last night. About 3 miles from my house I noticed my front wheel going flat.
    During my commute this morning (Essex to Towson - northern Baltimore - wet roads) about a mile from work I rode over something that punctured my rear tire. I run sealant in my Tufo tires, so I just waited until it sealed and then continued on to work. Luckily the cut wasn't too big that the sealant couldn't do it's job. This was the first puncture with these tires that was deep enough to cause the sealant to appear. Funny how it happened after the rain.
    Last edited by NoRacer; 06-02-06 at 12:14 PM.
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

  7. #7
    Electrical Hazard
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    wow.
    I never even thought about the rubber/glass/water equation.. and now it all makes sense.
    Almost every time I've had to fix a flat due to glass, I had to find cover from the rain first.

  8. #8
    don't pedal backwards... MacG's Avatar
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    I can't remember getting a flat in the rain ever, despite riding in plenty of it. I do notice that skidding the rear tire of my fixed commuter in snow or rain seems to cause a lot more scratching than dry pavement does. I think the water/razor blade/tubing analagy fits well here.

    I also notice that I am more likely to scratch or cut myself when working with my hands in wet conditions than when it is dry. I think the water acting as a lubricant is a big factor for these kinds of things.
    from Minneapolis, with bike love

  9. #9
    B-b-b-b-b-b-bicicle Rider orange leader's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacG
    I can't remember getting a flat in the rain ever, despite riding in plenty of it. I do notice that skidding the rear tire of my fixed commuter in snow or rain seems to cause a lot more scratching than dry pavement does. I think the water/razor blade/tubing analagy fits well here.

    I also notice that I am more likely to scratch or cut myself when working with my hands in wet conditions than when it is dry. I think the water acting as a lubricant is a big factor for these kinds of things.
    Cutting your hands may be more due to the inherent properties of your skin. I used to scuba dive, and although I never cut myself while doing it, I was always strongly cautioned by other people to be careful under water because the skin cuts much more easily when after it's been soaked.

    I know I can skid a LOT farther in the rain on my fixie. I think the fact that I can, makes it more fun, which makes me do it more, which makes more wear on the tire. On dry pavement I tend to slow down, rather than skid to a stop, so thus, not as much wearing out of the tire when it's dry.
    Rudimentum mendum menda
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  10. #10
    this one's optimistic... feethanddooth's Avatar
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    after and during rain, the debris on the road get washed to the side near the curbs while the water drains. sadly for us, thats where our tires are too
    2002 cannondale r400, 2006 kona smoke, 2005 scott speedster s30

  11. #11
    Faith-Vigilance-Service Patriot's Avatar
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    Not only does more debris stick to the tires, but when the road is swamped, you can't see the glass, etc. This will spell disaster, as one cannot veer around obsticals you normally would.
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