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Persistent problem with flats on my road bike

Old 04-05-21, 11:42 AM
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Persistent problem with flats on my road bike

Hi all,

I ride a Focus Izalco with 700x23c tires (conti gatorskin) and I am sick and tired of the flats I get on my rides.

I just resumed riding recently (I used to bike to work before the pandemic ) and I am averaging about 1 flat every 3-4 rides and I am pretty much only biking on paved roads.

I am really not sure what I am doing wrong here. I even tried mr tuffy tire liners and although that helped a bit I am still average a very high number of flats.
I am exploring the following 3 options (all with 28c tires and Mr tuff tire liner), but haven't decided yet which one to go with:
1. 700x28c tires (Conti Gator Hardshell) with new tubes (Schwalbe SV15).
2. 700x28c "tubeless ready" tires, but use as a standard tire with an inner tube (Schwalbe SV15)
3. 700x28c tubeless ready tires, but in tubeless mode

The primary bottle-neck I see with moving up to 28c is the brake clearance. After loosening the barrel adjuster ALL the way and with the braker lever (the one on the caliper itself that can be used to reduce the brake spacing) in the up position, I am able to get ~30mm of clearance. Is this sufficient clearance (1mm on either side)? Also: is my method of getting that clearance (barrel adjustments+lever) an issue?

I am open to 700x25c tires as well if the above method is not deemed ok for some reason.

Is there any intrinsic build quality advantage of tubeless ready tires vs standard tires like the Conti Gator hardshell when it comes to flats? Does Option 2 above make sense at all? I came across 1 user with that setup who was able to ride for 3000 miles before encountering a flat.

Would really appreciate some advice as I would hate to have to give up on this.

Thanks.
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Old 04-05-21, 11:54 AM
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Running with the quick release open is not the best idea

pics will help, especially of frame clearance

what brakes do you have on the bike, that will help also (as an example 5800 105 brakes will handle a 28 mm which I have run and , i even have a 30mm tubular running with them., but i find in need to deflate the tires to get wheels off and on, even with quick release

also what year is the bike....factory specs may shed some light
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Old 04-05-21, 12:37 PM
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Did I miss where you stated why you are flatting so much? From something penetrating the tread and puncturing the tire and tube? A pinch flat which frequently but not always looks like two punctures in the tube close to each other and is frequently referred to as a snakebite. Or just a tube puncture not toward the tread of the tire, but somewhere else like the toward the rim or side wall?

If you aren't determining why you flatted then you need too. Just lay the tube on top of the tire like it was in the tire. Then add some air and see where it's leaking. If on the side that goes toward the tread, then look in the tire at that position to find if the culprit is still there. If not the tread side, then something else is going on.

If you are getting a flat every 3 or 4 rides and it's not from actual thorns or road debris, then I'd bet you are doing something wrong during the installation. I sometimes am careless and pinch the tube while getting the bead over the rim of the tire. Sometimes it flats immediately. Sometimes it is after 3 or 4 rides.

I get few flats that are ever caused by road debris. I do occasionally check my tire tread and remove thorns and rock shards embedded in the tread. If left they'll eventually be a puncture as they get a little deeper with each wheel revolution. 10 year ago I had to do that every ride. But tires have gotten a lot better or I've just been buying better tires. I only check tire tread for shards on a whim now.

Last edited by Iride01; 04-05-21 at 12:41 PM.
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Old 04-05-21, 12:49 PM
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I agree that it would be helpful to know what equipment you are using and where on the tires the failure is occurring. My Wife has some Alex rims and she was having an unusually high occurrence of flats. After doing some research we learned that others were having similar problems with these rims. There were shards near the spoke holes that were not adequately defended by the flimsy nylon rim strip Solution was to file/sand the interior surface of the rim and replace the cheap rim strips with Velox tape.

Another thing to consider is to run with some of the sealant designed for insertion in tubes in clincher tires. Muc-Off and Slime make sealant products especially for tubes and many of the tubeless sealant products also say they can be used in clincher tubes as well as tubulars.
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Old 04-05-21, 01:16 PM
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I agree that you need to find out what is causing your flats. I did ride with Panaracer Parcelas and had few flats caused most often by radial tire wire debris on the road.
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Old 04-05-21, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Did I miss where you stated why you are flatting so much? From something penetrating the tread and puncturing the tire and tube? A pinch flat which frequently but not always looks like two punctures in the tube close to each other and is frequently referred to as a snakebite. Or just a tube puncture not toward the tread of the tire, but somewhere else like the toward the rim or side wall?

If you aren't determining why you flatted then you need too. Just lay the tube on top of the tire like it was in the tire. Then add some air and see where it's leaking. If on the side that goes toward the tread, then look in the tire at that position to find if the culprit is still there. If not the tread side, then something else is going on.

If you are getting a flat every 3 or 4 rides and it's not from actual thorns or road debris, then I'd bet you are doing something wrong during the installation. I sometimes am careless and pinch the tube while getting the bead over the rim of the tire. Sometimes it flats immediately. Sometimes it is after 3 or 4 rides.

I get few flats that are ever caused by road debris. I do occasionally check my tire tread and remove thorns and rock shards embedded in the tread. If left they'll eventually be a puncture as they get a little deeper with each wheel revolution. 10 year ago I had to do that every ride. But tires have gotten a lot better or I've just been buying better tires. I only check tire tread for shards on a whim now.
This could very well be the case......I have been suspecting the instal myself and will carefully review it this time. I have attached a bunch of pics showing what is going on and also give an idea of the clearances I have with my brake caliper setup.

I found 1 leak and it seems to be positioned very close to the seam (where my thumb is pointing). I have no idea what the track with grooves is that seems to be winding around the tube. That is essentially where the leak is. I will examine it closer in a bit.

To answer another question raised here: the brake set is all SRAM Red. I don't have a lot more details because I bought the bike used and I was told by the seller that this was a custom build. The frame is a supposedly a 2012 Focus Izalco Pro frame and the entire groupset is SRAM Red (unsure of year, but again...supposedly from a Diamondback Podium 7 with 1500K miles on it).








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Old 04-05-21, 05:10 PM
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Made some headway into the root cause of the flat.
For starters, the flat is on side of the tube facing the treads (hope that is clear from one of the pics). And I think I know what caused the flat, but I am unable to fully explain it and this is where I am hoping the experts can chime in.
The ultimate culprit I think is me: installation of the tube has been shoddy, but I think it has more to do with the installation of the Tuffy liner rather than the tube itself. The liner shows 2 folds and the "tracks with grooves" I noted on the tube itself matches up very well with the fold locations on the liner. So adding the two together, I think that's what caused the flat?
But what exactly lead this situation to cause a rupture in the tube --> I am unable to explain.
As nice as the liners maybe, they make installing the tubes and tires and major pain and I would much rather do away with them.
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Old 04-05-21, 05:47 PM
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From your picture, the tire liner is too long and actually pinching your tube, which is causing the flats. This is one of the reason that I don't like them, plus I find tires with liners don't roll as nice.

If you want to keep the liner and not ditch them, I would recommend trimming the length down and taping it in place before tube installation.
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Old 04-05-21, 06:01 PM
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I tried mr. tuffys lot of years ago.....were a pain would never use again, I would start with new tubes and no mr. toughy

As for tire sizing, as best i can tell your bike would have come with 25mm original spec. The SRAM RED is speced to work with 28mm (again as best I can tell)

IME with 105 5800 speced for 28 mm, i do need to deflate the tire or push hard to get by the brake pads, but one settled in I close the the quick release and have good range to adjust the calipers.

I would suggest 25mm or even better 28mm will help with with punctures.

then you need to decide on the tire and need to balance performance vs puncture resistance.... you have a race bike.....how are you riding it and what to you want for ride.

if you want performance with reasonable puncture resistance I have had good luck with the Conti GP 5000 in 28 and the continental race light tube. No flats in 400 miles. I used them for commuting pre covid. I also used Vittoria Corsa G ....they were great riding but horrible for flats averaing a flat every 80 miles (i am 250 lb and run the tires at about 90f 100 rear)
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Old 04-05-21, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by *Scuba View Post
From your picture, the tire liner is too long and actually pinching your tube, which is causing the flats. This is one of the reason that I don't like them, plus I find tires with liners don't roll as nice.

If you want to keep the liner and not ditch them, I would recommend trimming the length down and taping it in place before tube installation.
That makes sense.
I am going to get rid of the liners......it's just a pain to install and I am going to trust my Conti Gatorskins in the mean time and assume that all the previous flats were my doing with poor installation. I am going to carefully check for pinches this time post flat repair.
I do eventually want to move to wider tires though so that is the next problem I need ti trouble-shoot.
Many thanks!!
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Old 04-05-21, 06:12 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
I tried mr. tuffys lot of years ago.....were a pain would never use again, I would start with new tubes and no mr. toughy

As for tire sizing, as best i can tell your bike would have come with 25mm original spec. The SRAM RED is speced to work with 28mm (again as best I can tell)

IME with 105 5800 speced for 28 mm, i do need to deflate the tire or push hard to get by the brake pads, but one settled in I close the the quick release and have good range to adjust the calipers.

I would suggest 25mm or even better 28mm will help with with punctures.

then you need to decide on the tire and need to balance performance vs puncture resistance.... you have a race bike.....how are you riding it and what to you want for ride.

if you want performance with reasonable puncture resistance I have had good luck with the Conti GP 5000 in 28 and the continental race light tube. No flats in 400 miles. I used them for commuting pre covid. I also used Vittoria Corsa G ....they were great riding but horrible for flats averaing a flat every 80 miles (i am 250 lb and run the tires at about 90f 100 rear)
Yeah...Mr. Tuffy is out for me too!
Thanks for the notes on the clearances. As I mentioned before, my coarse measurements with a 12 in ruler (I am getting calipers to dial it in more accurately) tells me that I won't have the clearance for 28mm tubes with the quick release closed. With the quick release open though I am measuring a ~30mm opening.
I am not a racer, but a recreational rider. I used to go out riding 70-80 miles a week, but I have twin toddlers now so I don't get out that much anyway, but one activity I really want to get more into is taking my twins out in my bike trailer on rides. I did that with my son and was 5 miles away from home when I ran a flat and got a mouthful from wifey! Sooo...if I am to continue this activity, I really need to convince her that I have a long term fix for the flat problem...
My choice for new tires would be Conti Gator Hardshells. I already have several of the Schwalbe SV15 tubes. The other option is tubeless ready tires, but use them with tubes.
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Old 04-05-21, 07:37 PM
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Sorry you are having so much difficulty. I've had 4 sets of Gatorskins without punctures. Also a similar experience as yours with liners. A couple of thoughts other than what you mentioned already.

1. If your tubes are old, they may be deteriorating. replacement might help.
2. Using some baby powder or corn starch on the tubes and insides of the tires might help.
3. Once installed but before inflating press the tire away from the rim to be sure the tube is not pinched.

Good luck!

Last edited by stevel610; 04-05-21 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 04-05-21, 08:02 PM
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The photos suggest a lot of chaffing is happening to the tube. Not just the Tuffy ends (one reason why we don't sell them) but also along the tube's sides. This suggests too little air pressure or too much load. The tire's insides will act like a file if the tube and tire move WRT to each other. I wonder about the rider's weight and how much air pressure they ride with.

Are the rims made of Carbon fiber? Do they have a hook edge like most every Al rim has had for decades? Many carbon rims are made in a mold (not extruded like Al is) and can't have a hooked inner edge to better grip/hold a tire at high pressures. Not directly a flat cause but one more possible factor.

Now I'll take a dark turn- The cost of many "racing" bikes over the last 20+ years has been the inability to fit wider tires then the 23/25mm ones that were so trendy. As I've said before the cost of these bikes is not only their initial price but their limitations.

Back to the bright side- I get asked about how many flats is the "right" number... how frequently do people get flats. My experience is about a flat for every 1000 miles for me. Some years I have gotten zero and some years I've had 6 or more. This with half my riding life running sew ups too. Andy
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Old 04-05-21, 08:06 PM
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Pro tip: Install the tire and tube without using a tire lever. Then inflate the wheel to 40 poinds of pressure (no more!) and deflate. THEN pinch the tire away from the rim all the way around on both sides to ensure that none of the tube is sneaking out under the tire and getting caught in the rim. Then inflate to full pressure.
Avoid 23mm tires
Avoid Mr, Tuffy liners and thorn resistant tubes unless you live in an area with goatheads.
Good quality 25mm tires and decent tubes should go hundreds of miles without flatting.
Last time I had a flat was ten months ago- that’s over 4000 miles.
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Old 04-05-21, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
The photos suggest a lot of chaffing is happening to the tube. Not just the Tuffy ends (one reason why we don't sell them) but also along the tube's sides. This suggests too little air pressure or too much load. The tire's insides will act like a file if the tube and tire move WRT to each other. I wonder about the rider's weight and how much air pressure they ride with.

Are the rims made of Carbon fiber? Do they have a hook edge like most every Al rim has had for decades? Many carbon rims are made in a mold (not extruded like Al is) and can't have a hooked inner edge to better grip/hold a tire at high pressures. Not directly a flat cause but one more possible factor.

Now I'll take a dark turn- The cost of many "racing" bikes over the last 20+ years has been the inability to fit wider tires then the 23/25mm ones that were so trendy. As I've said before the cost of these bikes is not only their initial price but their limitations.

Back to the bright side- I get asked about how many flats is the "right" number... how frequently do people get flats. My experience is about a flat for every 1000 miles for me. Some years I have gotten zero and some years I've had 6 or more. This with half my riding life running sew ups too. Andy
My rims are not carbon fiber. Nor sure about the material and the other question you asked though.

I inflate my tires to ~100 psi. I used to be 200 lbs and now thanks to COVID, I have put on several more! So I am likely. a factor as well. But I see your point regarding the chaffing.
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Old 04-05-21, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by rccardr View Post
Pro tip: Install the tire and tube without using a tire lever. Then inflate the wheel to 40 poinds of pressure (no more!) and deflate. THEN pinch the tire away from the rim all the way around on both sides to ensure that none of the tube is sneaking out under the tire and getting caught in the rim. Then inflate to full pressure.
Avoid 23mm tires
Avoid Mr, Tuffy liners and thorn resistant tubes unless you live in an area with goatheads.
Good quality 25mm tires and decent tubes should go hundreds of miles without flatting.
Last time I had a flat was ten months ago- thatís over 4000 miles.
Awesome! I will definitely try this! I think I have all the info I need on proper install now.

The verification of the fit of 25mm tires and brake clearance is the next thing I need to understand.
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Old 04-06-21, 01:22 AM
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used to live in and around a new home construction zone and my flats were every 500 miles or less and frequently in the last mile or two from home.
between industrial staples, small nails, metal shavings, razor blades and the like...there were plenty of flats. used the mr. tuffy liners for a while. since moving
(and still living in a major metropolis), a flat is closer to every 1,500 miles. got in the habit of removing the entire tire, inspecting it, turning it inside out, inspecting it and
reinstalling after extracting anything objectionable on either tire side. also gives me a chance to check tire wear from the inside (the occasional internal flat happens
with wear) and use a dollar bill or two as a boot to get home.

running my '23 conti 5000gp's and '23 michelin pro service 4's at 95 psi weighing 175 lbs. always unweight the saddle over railroad crossings and rough road.
personal flats bugaboo the last few years have been freshly trimmed bougainvilleas or similarly thorned plants so i try to give those a wide berth if possible.
glass, surprisingly has rarely been a problem in two decades of riding...up there with the random inner tube failure...like every 5 years or so.

i'll reinflate to 40 psi, check both sides of the tire to insure no tube is poking out/bulging, then continue inflating. new tires can be difficult to extract a tire lever w/o
potentially tearing tube so i usually bring an extra in case. if it's a boonies area w/o support, bringing 4 tubes. laff if you like but went through 6 tubes in a 78 mile
ride a few years ago (all small thorns) out in east county san diego and had to ride 10 miles back to the car (mostly uphill) in the dark with sporadic, fast traffic on a
semi-winding road with only a single taillight, a rear tire at 50 psi and half a moon for vision/front lighting. unintentionally epic. don't wanna do it again.

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Old 04-06-21, 01:28 AM
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There's nothing intrinsic about tubeless tires that will make them flat less often when used with a tube. They have a higher tolerance, stronger bead and usually some reinforcement in the sidewall, in part to prevent sealant seaping.

If your rims are tubeless ready tubeless with sealant will eliminate the significant majority of flats, at the cost of being more difficult to fix if you have a major cut on the road, and needing to add sealant every few months. I'm a fan, personally.
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Old 04-06-21, 04:17 AM
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Just to add my dollar's worth, those Gatorskin tyres are pretty tough so unless you live in a really bad area you shouldn't really need anything extra. My current favourites are Michelin Pro 4 Endurance which are good all-rounders, probably lower in rolling resistance that the Gatorskin and definitely lower in puncture resistance. I ride in an area where there are a lot of small flints so I probably get more punctures than average but I'd certainly be really disappointed if I got one every 3-4 rides.

A handy trick I've found, for those who also tend to pick up flints, is to wipe the tyre down with a damp cloth. The flints are much lighter in colour than the black rubber so this tends to highlight any that have stuck and are starting to work their way through.
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Old 04-06-21, 04:21 AM
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Incidentally, I think the reason for the question about your rims being carbon is that those brake pads look like Mavic pads for carbon rims. Others will no doubt know but my understanding is that you shouldn't be using those on alloy rims.
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Old 04-06-21, 07:41 AM
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@psychoanalyst Looking at your pics your chainstays near the seat tube look exactly like those on my 2013 Izalco Ergoride. There will not be enough clearance for a tire larger than 25mm.
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Old 04-06-21, 08:01 AM
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With respect to putting larger tires on that bike. Put the current tires back on... unless you already have something bigger. And then look to find the place on the frame or fork that has the least amount of clearance.

Might be the tread to the seat tube, tread to brake calipers or sidewall to chain stays on the back or it might be more limited on the front with the fork crown, fork tubes or again brake caliper.

Once you know that distance, you can usually for certain go that much more bigger with a tire width. Tires grow in diameter about the same as they do in width.

Your brakes have a caliper release on them, It looks in the pictures that you know what that is for. It's hard for me to imagine that those won't open far enough for a 28 mm tire if that will fit your frame.

Even if it doesn't open enough to let you put the wheel in because the tire is too wide, you can deflate the tire. I used to have to do that on a bike I had back in the 70's that didn't have a release. After the wheel is on, then you pump the tires up and width isn't an issue.
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Old 04-06-21, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by psychoanalyst View Post
My rims are not carbon fiber. Nor sure about the material and the other question you asked though.

I inflate my tires to ~100 psi. I used to be 200 lbs and now thanks to COVID, I have put on several more! So I am likely. a factor as well. But I see your point regarding the chaffing.
As a shop wrench for over 45 years I find that the more info I have the better I can fully understand the situation and thus give better advise. Perhaps this is a point in time to learn some about your bike's construction and wheels/rims/tires in particular.

At 200+ lbs and the skinny tires you are using (and it sounds like you are restricted to) 100psi might not be enough to eliminate the internal scuffing/chafing/abrading I see. If you had carbon rims that also had no hook edge (or internal lip) the higher pressure would cause the tires to creep off the rims more easily.

But all this starts with understanding of what is causing the flats you are getting. And that cause might easily be more then just one reason. There are many problems we face that have more then one contributing factor. Andy
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Old 04-06-21, 08:21 AM
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Lots of good tips so far. If you find after correcting everything suggested already and still getting too many flats, yes, the Gatorskin Hardshells are a little more flat resistant than the Gatorskins. If you can't fit the 28's a 25mm width will certainly be better in every way than a 23mm.
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Old 04-06-21, 08:33 AM
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Here's an incomplete list of some of the factors that I often talk about with our customers and at the Flat Tire clinics I run for the local bike club (not in any specific order)-

Rider weight and load weight
Rider's "manor" of riding. As in cadence, weight placement, unweighting or not over the various surfaces and avoidance abilities.
With paved roads where in the road/lane does the rider travel in
Type of road derbies the local area generally sees.
Tire types, size, air pressure, rim strip type, age, condition
Rim design and spoke end condition (see rim strips too).
Weather conditions (wet/dry)
Karma

As one can see the variables (with each having their own range) are many and interact is ways that are hard to fully predict. (Remember high school math with equations having 3 variables? This is a lot more complex...)

Further comments- I have learned that the rider is the greatest factor that can't be counted for. I've seen riders lighter then I (150 lbs) have far greater flat issues then heavy riders (like the OP) might have even with much the same equipment and roads. So no one factor is the answer that solves this so common problem.

An aside- I joke with my customers about the 3 Holy Grails of our cycling world. Solve any one and you will be rich and thought of a s a god within our community.
1- a universally comfortable saddle that fits all bikes
2- chain lube that doesn't get dirt, prevents wear, noise and rust and doesn't wipe off when one's leg brushes against the chain/rings
3- air filled tires that never go flat

It's this last one that has likely seen the greatest amount of $ and time spent over the last 125 (aprox) years. Solve that one and every auto, plane trucking company as well as all he armies in the world will pave the road to your door. Andy
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