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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-11-11, 11:49 AM   #1
troypolamalu
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How common are flats?

I plan to get a new bike soon and was wondering how often do you find yourself getting flats? I want to use my bike to get to work so if flats are very common I may have to find a tire that is less prone to them.
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Old 06-11-11, 11:56 AM   #2
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Most new bikes bring tires that feel nice to ride on, but that are not very flat resistant. These are fine for well cared roads without much debris. If you ride on roads or trails with lots of broken glass and other debris, then that is when you will want to move to a more flat resistant tire. Try the stock tires to see how they work for you since they are free with the price of the bike, and if they don't work out then that is when you should consider upgrading.
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Old 06-11-11, 11:59 AM   #3
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.... and tire inflation is critical.

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Old 06-11-11, 12:01 PM   #4
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Before I started using Mr. Tuffy liners, I was getting a flat a week at least, sometimes a couple a week. Since then, I get about 1 a month, if that. I've only had 2 punctures that the liners didn't stop in about 6 months. One was a 2" finishing nail... that would have gone through any tire.

EDIT: The other couple of flats I had were from tube failure, not punctures. Even a "tough" tire will pinch flat if you let it get low and hit a pothole.
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Old 06-11-11, 12:03 PM   #5
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How common are flats?
It really depends troypolamalu. Some of it depends on road conditions, some of it on the tire and/or wheel, and some of it on just plain luck (or un-luck).

Some of the favorite puncture resistant brands are the Panaracer RibMo's or T-Servs, Schawlbe Marathon Supremes, and Specialized Armadillo's.

The best way to combat flats is to first figure out what caused them.
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Old 06-11-11, 12:07 PM   #6
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thanks for the quick replies!
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Old 06-11-11, 12:22 PM   #7
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I got my current commuter bike last October. True to earlier comments, the OEM tires were quite flat prone. After a month, I took the OEM tires off and put on a pair of Continental Contact tires. I usually do somewhere around 400 miles per month, and haven't had a flat since. In addition to commuting duties, I take this bike out with my son when he wants to ride the dirt paths at our nearby wildlife refuge or lake. The 26x1.75 Conti Contacts seem to be Jack-of-all-trades tires. They are also the tires that Surly puts on their Long Haul Trucker. A friend of mine has an LHT, and has had success with the Conti Contact tires as well.
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Old 06-11-11, 12:42 PM   #8
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I've been commuting daily for most of 20 years during the summer months and have only had 4 or 5 flats while commuting in that time. It really depends on the roads, your tires and how you ride. Keep your tire pressure up near the recommended inflation to prevent pinch flats from potholes, large gravel and other road induced wheel impacts. Riding on wet roads seems to make things a little more prone to cutting through your tires for some reason. Kevlar tires do help some if you're dealing with debris like broken glass. The main thing your looking for is a tire that has kevlar belts, not necessarily a kevlar beaded folding tire. If you particularly bad streets for debris I would second the recommendation for Mr. Tuffy tire liners. They may add some weight to the bike but you'll never notice it unless you also race on your commuter bike. Channing a tire is much slower than the liners will ever make you.

You may reduce your chances but it can (will) happen eventually. You should learn how to change a tube if you don't already and carry the tools necessary to do so when you commute. For most bikes this only requires a spare tube, a pump and some tire levers. Another thing to keep in mind is to find the cause of the flat before putting a new tube in. I once had a flat caused by a little piece of wire that worked its way through my tire. I changed the tube out and promptly got another flat because the wire was still in the tire.

It is also a really good idea to leave yourself a little extra time to get to work in case you have a flat tire or other mechanical problem. Murphy's Law rules on this kind of stuff. If you work in a place where they have little tolerance for being late, plan on leaving with enough time to deal with a flat - usually 10 to 15 minutes. Showing up early is looked upon favorably with most employers.
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Old 06-11-11, 12:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by troypolamalu View Post
I plan to get a new bike soon and was wondering how often do you find yourself getting flats? I want to use my bike to get to work so if flats are very common I may have to find a tire that is less prone to them.
For flat resistance specifically there are only 3 brand/makes of tires that I would recommend after over 20 years of cycle commuting. Schwalbe Marathon Plus, Specialized Armadillos and Continental Gatorskins. They're all relatively pricey and worth every dime. Flats are the common denominator in bikes costing 3000.00 down to those costing 300.00. They are a ***** no matter what type of cycling one is doing.

The art of stress-free commuting is eliminating as many potential equipment failures as possible starting w/a solid, proven brand of bike and setting it up properly w/fenders, tool-kit, frame pump, tube(s), patchkit, tire levers, rack, bag(s), etc. The #1 priority though is where the rubber meets the road. Most new bikes are stock w/some sort of Kenda tires. They're crap and should be discarded in favor of one of the afoementioned sets asap. Bontragers are ok, but I rarely hear them mentioned as being as flat-resistant as the brands mentioned, previously. Factor the cost into your budget.

Cycle-commting has hazzards enough w/traffic, weather, dogs, pedestrians, road debris, construction zones that the last thing one wants to worry about is getting a flat on the way in to work. On the way home isn't so bad as there's no time pressure. Even w/great tires always allow 10 more minutes than your average commute time for a puncture emergency. And if you should be unfortunate enough to get one always make sure you run your fingers around the inside of the tire...gently to feel for a staple, piece of wire or glass, etc. that may not be visible from the outside. Have fun and stay upright!

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Old 06-11-11, 12:50 PM   #10
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Every 1000 miles or so for me.
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Old 06-11-11, 01:12 PM   #11
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Once, twice a year maybe and I ride through a lot of glass and debris. Use good, puncture resistant tires.
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Old 06-11-11, 01:16 PM   #12
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I've been very lucky for a long, long time. I also tend towards kevlar-belted tires. No skinny tires, so that even at less-than-maximum pressure, pinch flats should not be a problem.
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Old 06-11-11, 06:52 PM   #13
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Very open ended question and has a lot to do with geographic location. I have had one flat in 3 years in Metro Atlanta area. People in Goat head prone areas in the west feel they are doing good if they make it a week on the same tires I run.
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Old 06-11-11, 07:20 PM   #14
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How high is up?

It totally depends on your environment. Some people ride in areas where there's a ton of broken glass, or on trails where there are goathead thorns. Those people can flat multiple times per week.

I can go a year between flats. I just flatted last week, picked up a drywall screw. Before that it was quite a few months. I think I average twice a year.

If you're in an area with lots of road hazards, you can run kevlar-belted tires. That probably won't stop a drywall screw though.
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Old 06-11-11, 07:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by troypolamalu View Post
I plan to get a new bike soon and was wondering how often do you find yourself getting flats? I want to use my bike to get to work so if flats are very common I may have to find a tire that is less prone to them.
I got a flat about 3500 miles ago and killed another pair of inner tubes within a day because I didn't find the piece of tire wire ("steel belted radial" car tires shed them when too worn) until sitting down under bright lights and flexing the tire until I found something I could grab with my wife's tweezers.

I find Continental Gatorskins to be a nice combination of riding nice, flat resistant, and long-lasting.
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Old 06-11-11, 10:34 PM   #16
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Thanks for all the replies! I have learned so much from this site in just a few days!
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Old 06-11-11, 11:49 PM   #17
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the only time i've gotten a flat is when i was practicing hopping curbs with underinflated tires. i ride only in city conditions though
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Old 06-12-11, 12:29 AM   #18
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The farther to the right you ride, the greater your chance of flatting. You will flat,riding style and tires will make a difference as to how often it happens.
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Old 06-12-11, 01:01 AM   #19
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Get Schwalbe Marathons, 35mm if your bike will handle them, and flats should become (almost) non-existant. With practice, however, and a spare tube a flat can be fixed in 10 minutes.
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Old 06-12-11, 04:13 AM   #20
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Tires are definitely better now than they were back in the 70s when I started riding. Right now I'm on Schwalbe Marathons and have gotten one flat in more than two seasons of riding, but even on cheaper tires I wasn't getting more than one or two a year. (I change to studs for winter.) I ride through a lot of gravel, over potholes, level crossings, and broken pavement.
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Old 06-12-11, 04:30 AM   #21
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For flat resistance specifically there are only 3 brand/makes of tires that I would recommend after over 20 years of cycle commuting. Schwalbe Marathon Plus, Specialized Armadillos and Continental Gatorskins. ....
The art of stress-free commuting is eliminating as many potential equipment failures as possible
I second this advice.
If you want to buy a bike, get one from a reputable bike shop so they can set it up right. The best shops will tweak your wheels for extra reliability.
To eliminate the most common causes of flats you should fit a high-grade commuter tyre BUT you also need to check inside the wheel. It is all to common for manufacturers to skimp or cheat where you can't see.
Make sure the spokes are not poking into the inner tube. Check that the rim tape is good or replace with a decent brand such as Velox. Check that the valve hole has no sharp edges (swipe with fine emery cloth).
Some of the highly protected tyres are hard to fit and will stay undisturbed for years. It pays to fit a good, branded inner tube (Schwalbe, Continental, Michelin) and to fit it correctly.

I use the plain Schwalbe Marathon rather than the better Plus version and reckon on at most 1 flat/year. These days it is usual to replace the inner rather than repair the hole by the roadside. You can repair the hole at your leisure later.
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Old 06-12-11, 04:46 AM   #22
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10.000 - 16,000 km a year and flats have been quite rare no matter what I have been riding... quality tyres, proper inflation, and staying out of the gutter seems to be the secret to reducing flats here.

Majority of my tyres are Schwalbe and they have proven to be very reliable and resistant to punctures.
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Old 06-12-11, 05:05 AM   #23
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10.000 - 16,000 km a year and flats have been quite rare no matter what I have been riding... quality tyres, proper inflation, and staying out of the gutter seems to be the secret to reducing flats here.

Majority of my tyres are Schwalbe and they have proven to be very reliable and resistant to punctures.
Me too. I know I'm tempting the flat gods when I say this, but I haven't had a flat in over 34000 km (21000 miles). Most of my bikes have Schwalbe marathon tires (supremes, XRs, racers, and winters). Of course, no matter what kind of tires you have, you should still keep them properly inflated and try to avoid road debris.
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Old 06-12-11, 05:24 AM   #24
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Schwalbe marathon tires were the worst tires that I have had...Flated 10 times in 2600 miles on a tour.

Flats and wind are part of bike riding. Just carry spare tubes and learn how to change them.
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Old 06-12-11, 07:35 AM   #25
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I just bought a new bike a little over two months ago and SO FAR no flats, but there is a lot of debris out there to watch for. I am always stopping to pick up things on my daily routes that would otherwise be unwise to run over. Actually a few days ago I had to pick up a box of nails that fell out of a vehicle for example.

I know it's demoralizing though to get a flat it's happened to me quite a bit even with a lot of precautions and thankfully it's only stranded me a few miles away from home at the most.
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