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What happens when you get a flat?

Old 07-03-15, 09:54 AM
  #1  
Bikram
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What happens when you get a flat?

Beginner rider here. There's a recent thread about flats which sparked my curiosity. So: What happens when you get a flat? And what do you do about it?

In many years of casual riding (so casual that sometimes years went by between rides), I've never had a flat. The tires on my old bike are original and must be near 30 years old. The knobby and fairly fat MTB tires on it are still fine, plenty of tread and super comfortable. Probably because they are knobby MTB tires with super thick tread is the reason I've been flat-free.

Now I also have a fun bike with 700x25C road tires. They are the OEM Giant tires and are fairly slick. I suspect they are much more vulnerable to punctures than my old bike's tires.

So the noob questions are:

1) what happens when you get a flat? Is there a "blow out" or is there a gradual loss in pressure?
2) can the bike be ridden when it has a flat? Or are you stranded?
3) I see that patch kits are available and are small (and sometimes cheap; saw one in a dollar store). Assuming I have one with me, how long does it take to patch a tire on the road? Is it a delicate procedure such that it'll be difficult with cold numb fingers? Or is it a tough procedure that'll require fairly strong fingers and grip.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:12 AM
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1. Both. However blowouts are rarer than the slow leak. Usually it's a shard of glass, wire from truck tire retread, or something like a thorn causing a slow leak.

2. Riding on a flat will slow you down so much that walking is faster especially on the road. Handling is horrible. Plus you'll ruin the tire and maybe even the rim.

3. Patching is somewhat of an art. The biggest mistake is not waiting enough time (about 5 minutes) between applying the glue to the tube and putting on the patch. You'll also need a pump, tire levers to remove the tire; and possible a 'boot' to cover over the hole in the tire. Another big mistake is failing to find what caused the flat, such as a thorn, and removing it.

There are some other options. One is to bring a spare tube and just slap it in (after finding the thorn or whatever). That will save some time and you can patch the tube later. You can also get some 'scab' patches that don't require waiting for the glue to dry or even applying any glue. Some say that this is a temporary measure and you should still fix the tube with a proper patch later. Others say this is BS. You can also speed up things by using a CO2 cartridge to inflate the tires. I prefer a pump myself as I've had multiple flats on a ride a few times. That's also why I carry a spare tube and a patch kit.

The above comments are not for tubeless tire systems. That's another discussion. Plus I'm about 99.9% sure that your Giant doesn't have tubeless tires.

You are probably correct that your new bike's tires will probably flat more often than the fatter MTB tires. When the OEM tires wear out, you might want to consider getting something like Gatorskins or Armadillos for replacement as they are more puncture resistant.

The first thing that you should do is practice, practice, practice patching a flat in the comfort of your home or garage. Also make sure that you have all the tools needed to patch a flat on your bike when riding. Tip: Those little tubes of glue are known to harden with time especially once opened. It's really sad when you've used up your spare tube and need to use the kit only to find the glue is bad. That's why I check it about once a month by squeezing the tube and also carry a couple of the 'scab' patches just in case.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:16 AM
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I fix it . a puncture is the inner tube losing it's air tight integrity ,

a Blow Out is the tire sidewall rip tearing and letting your tube out and bursting because its no longer constrained
by the tire casing,

a Blow Off is a inadequate attention to details putting your tire on and the tube pushing the tire off the rim., when inflated.

"How long" like so many things is all about Practice , do a few rehearsals at home to see if you know how, well enough,
and have the right tools .

I bring a brand new tube , put it in *and then patch the punctured tube at home or at a Lunch stop .

a blow out you need a New Tire.

* you must check your tire for remaining puncture inducing materials or it will poke in the spare tube too.

Last edited by fietsbob; 07-03-15 at 10:20 AM.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:19 AM
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There's no mistaking a blow out. You'll duck because you'll think someone fired a gun at you. A regular flat will cause some vibration in the wheel. Rear flats are just an annoyance. Front flats can be dicey. Stop right away if you flat the front tire.

Riding on the rim will damage the tire, and probably the rim, too. You're only stranded if you don't have a patch kit/spare tube, tire levers, and an inflation device. Or, even if you have all of these, you don't know how to change a tube.

While I carry a patch kit, I don't use them on the road, unless I have such a string of bad luck that I get three flats on a ride. I carry two spare tubes. It's faster, and easier, to just swap out the tube for a new one, and then you can patch the old tube at home--in good light, in a dry place.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by JerrySTL View Post
The first thing that you should do is practice, practice, practice patching a flat in the comfort of your home or garage. Also make sure that you have all the tools needed to patch a flat on your bike when riding.
+1,000,000.

In the past few years my problem with patching is gluing the patch next to the hole. Guess I should add reading glasses to my repair kit.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:30 AM
  #6  
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With 30 year old tires you are risking a sidewall failure which will result in an instant flat. What happens depends upon how fast you are going. If you are tooling along you can maintain control. I wouldn't want to risk a blowout on a curvy downhill stretch doing 30+ mph which is not out of reason. On the narrow, high pressure tires, picking up a tack or thorn may result in a slow leak that can take time to notice. If it becomes harder to pedal, check the pressure in your tires with your thumb.
No, you can not ride a bike with a flat tire. You will ruin the tube for sure and probably ruin the tire as well. It is also hard to pedal and uncomfortable even on smooth pavement. Mail order tires and tubes are cheap so not replacing those 30 year old tires is foolish. Look up tires and tubes here and see what I mean: Tires & Tubes | Bike Tire Tubes | Valve Caps- Niagra Cycle Works The inexpensive ones work fine. You don't have to spend $30-$50 to get a decent tire and shipping for two tires and a couple tubes will be well under $10 unless you live in Outer Mongolia. Buy a mini pump. The one I carry cost around $8 and will pump a 700C tire rock hard. Buy the dollar store patch kit for patching the tubes when you get home. Some like the one I use have tire irons included in the kit. So, my advice is to buy a small seat bag which will hold the pump, spare tube, and a few other small items so you can carry what you need to fix a flat. Practice removing and replacing the tube at home using the old tube and old tires until you can do it without putting a hole in the new tube. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to remove the wheel, remove the old tube, check the tire for what caused the flat (remove thorns in my case), install the new tube, pump up the tire, and reinstall it on the bike. Off you go. I'm more concerned about heatstroke when fixing a flat than cold fingers this time of year.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:54 AM
  #7  
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I usually bring 1 spare tube with me, as well as tire levers and a mini-pump. It's served me well so far. But make sure you know how the procedure works beforehand, i.e. how to disengage your wheel, how to remove the tire and the tube and how to tuck in the new tube and tire. You can get some good practice by replacing your ancient tubes with some modern ones in order to avoid risking a sudden blowout.

Of course, I've no way of knowing what the state of your tires is, but I would expect that 30 years would have an effect on the rubber. I'd replace those too, just to be on the safe side.

Last edited by vatdim; 07-03-15 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 07-03-15, 11:05 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Bikram View Post

So the noob questions are:

1) what happens when you get a flat? Is there a "blow out" or is there a gradual loss in pressure?
2) can the bike be ridden when it has a flat? Or are you stranded?
3) I see that patch kits are available and are small (and sometimes cheap; saw one in a dollar store). Assuming I have one with me, how long does it take to patch a tire on the road? Is it a delicate procedure such that it'll be difficult with cold numb fingers? Or is it a tough procedure that'll require fairly strong fingers and grip.
1. Could be a blowout. The tire goes flat immediately. If you're at speed and it's the front, it will be a challenge to control the bike to a stop.
2. You could ride a flat tubular if you had to. A flat clincher will come off the rim and probably cause a crash and ruin your rims. You aren't stranded because:
3. You've brought a spare tube or patch kit and a means of reinflating the tire. I am a belt-and-suspenders kind of guy so I usually bring both a spare tube and a patch kit, a CO2 cartridge and a frame pump. The first flat gets a new tube and CO2. I can be back on the road within 5 minutes. Second and subsequent flats (yes, it's happened) get a patch and pump. This takes a little longer but not much.
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Old 07-03-15, 11:38 AM
  #9  
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Usually as I'm riding along I'll start feeling a few sharp bumps which will indicate a flat tire. So, I stop and check the pressure.

I like to carry a spare tube which is quick and easy to put in. But it is also important to try to locate the cause of the flat before putting in a new tube... so it won't recur.

I'm NOT a fan of glueless patches which are now common in dept stores

However, I've also encountered situations where my glue tube was dry, so one can't always count on it for patching.
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Old 07-03-15, 11:43 AM
  #10  
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Find a Safe Place to get Off the roadway


Get some help to find the cause.


Put in a spare tube and pump
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Old 07-03-15, 01:18 PM
  #11  
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Here's quick step-by-step guide that Bicycling mag published about 11 years ago. Maybe it will help.

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Old 07-03-15, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by GP View Post
+1,000,000.

In the past few years my problem with patching is gluing the patch next to the hole. Guess I should add reading glasses to my repair kit.
I carry a small pen and circle the hole.

Watch a few YouTube videos and then practice. At first I would always put in a new innertube, but now I mostly patch but still carry a new innertube just in case.
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Old 07-03-15, 02:51 PM
  #13  
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In my past 25+years on the old WalMart mountain bike, I had never gotten a flat although I didn't use it for commuting until last year (and then I replaced it with a hybrid). Now that I'm commuting on my new bike with skinnier 32 tires, I do think about that possibility. What I may do is buy a spare tube and keep it at work. I carry a mini pump, so if I get a flat midway I can always top off the tire and call it good.
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Old 07-03-15, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
I carry a small pen and circle the hole.
I draw a big cross-hairs over the puncture so that even as i'm positioning the patch I know where the puncture is. The glue or "roughing up the tube" process could mess up your circle. I guess you could just make a bigger circle.


But yeah, as Allen Iverson says: "Practice!"
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Old 07-03-15, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by highrpm View Post
In my past 25+years on the old WalMart mountain bike, I had never gotten a flat although I didn't use it for commuting until last year (and then I replaced it with a hybrid). Now that I'm commuting on my new bike with skinnier 32 tires, I do think about that possibility. What I may do is buy a spare tube and keep it at work. I carry a mini pump, so if I get a flat midway I can always top off the tire and call it good.
I have never had a flat where I could just pump some air into it without patching or replacing tube. That would be great if it happened, but it never has in my experience.
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Old 07-03-15, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by highrpm View Post
In my past 25+years on the old WalMart mountain bike, I had never gotten a flat although I didn't use it for commuting until last year (and then I replaced it with a hybrid). Now that I'm commuting on my new bike with skinnier 32 tires, I do think about that possibility. What I may do is buy a spare tube and keep it at work. I carry a mini pump, so if I get a flat midway I can always top off the tire and call it good.
That only works if you have a slow leak.
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Old 07-03-15, 04:27 PM
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One thing that helped me early on was volunteering at my local bike charity wrenching events. They typically have the newbies on flat duty. You change 40+ flats in a day and suddenly its old hat. Then when you have one on the side of the road, you are back going in 5 minutes.

GCN has some good videos as well:

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Old 07-03-15, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
I've ridden up Chocolate Bayou on my jet skis before. Almost a decade ago now.
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Old 07-03-15, 09:20 PM
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I've only had blowouts on the rear, always due to wearing out the tire and not replacing it, and always while stopping with rear brake. Needed a spare tube in every case (not patchable).

Have had snake bites both front and rear. Typically I hit something and have an immediate feeling that the tire is going down (sometimes I luck out and I'm wrong). It doesn't go flat instantly, but pretty quick so you can brake to a stop, or least I always have been able to. Can patch, easy to find.

Small puncture of glass, wire, something like that. As I ride I can feel things are a little "mushy". Just a matter of puling over and stopping. Can patch, but it can be hard to find the location on tube (helps to keep tube in original orientation with tire and check inside of tire for cause). Or I have licked the tube at likely spot, looking for bubbles. You need a pump for this, don't think feasible with a CO2 cart. I have had a couple times when I didn't realize I had a flat until I came out the next day. Until I removed the foreign object tire stayed pretty hard. Once removed tube wouldn't hold air for s---.

I have limped home by pumping/riding/pumping (go slow). Also limped home on alloy rim (go slower, any bump is a killer -- pretty much the same as walking but walking in cleats any distance is next to impossible, and I've learned trying to walk in socks or barefoot doesn't really cut it either. When I've done this I do NOT sit on saddle -- all weight on pedals and bar.)

Patching along the road can give you a few minutes to relax, regroup mentally and then be on your way, unless others are waiting or you have a time crunch.

I have used a single set of "sport" plastic levers for 30 years and have never had a problem. Sometimes I will just use fingers, but if you have the levers why bother?

I used to use CO2 carts in the late eighties but they were one-shot, kind of expensive and hard to find so eventually I just went to a mini-pump.

I've had 2 flats in the last 3 weeks, one glass one wire. Kind of sucks as I had gone a long time flat-free.

scott s.
.
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Old 07-04-15, 05:16 AM
  #20  
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I would echo Caloso's comments regarding CO2. It's very handy. Twice now I have found myself with a slow loss of air that I was able to deal up with a very quick blast of CO2. In the rain I was able to give a quick blast 4 times on my way home. Instead of sitting by the road trying to fix a flat in the rain I was able to just pop off my bike for a few seconds and hit the tire with air. I would further echo the need to get very good at it by practicing.

Here's a practical tip. Just today my wife complained about her rear tire losing air overnight. I took the wheel off and exposed the tube. I pulled the tube out but left the valve in place. I pumped it up and found the hole. Then I looked carefully where the hole in the tube lined up and found a tiny sliver. You can remove the tube completely from the tire but do not lose track of how the tube is mated with the tire so you can look carefully for the cause of the puncture. I simply leave the tube in the tire and inflate it. Sometimes the leak can be at the valve itself so if you don't find a hole initially, do remove the tube entirely from the wheel and check it thoroughly. Lastly, be sure you get glue over the entire area the patch is going and be sure to give it two min or so to get tack dry before applying the patch. Don't rush that and apply the patch too soon.
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Old 07-04-15, 09:09 AM
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I don't have the patience to read all these replies, but let me condense what I've learned in 45 years of cycling:
You WILL have flats. You will. I've had nine on a century and three on my 25-mile RT commute. Carry a patch kit, pump and probably a spare tube, and know how to use them. Practice at home, not by the side of the road in the rain with cars whizzing by. First one I fixed took me half an hour. In a contest several years ago, I swapped tubes in a 700x32 tire and pumped it to 95 psi with a frame-fit pump in about 3:30. Practice. You WILL have flats.
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Old 07-04-15, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by digibud View Post
You can remove the tube completely from the tire but do not lose track of how the tube is mated with the tire so you can look carefully for the cause of the puncture.
I line up the valve and the tire manufacturer's name to give me a reference point.
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Old 07-04-15, 10:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Jarrett2 View Post
One thing that helped me early on was volunteering at my local bike charity wrenching events. They typically have the newbies on flat duty. You change 40+ flats in a day and suddenly its old hat. Then when you have one on the side of the road, you are back going in 5 minutes.

GCN has some good videos as well:

Great that you learned by doing something to help your fellow man.
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Old 07-04-15, 11:00 AM
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What happens when you get a flat?

You shout obscenities because there's no way you're getting that KOM on the current segment now.
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Old 07-04-15, 11:13 AM
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I carry a spare tube, but I try to patch it first. Gotta wait a full five minutes for the glue to soak in.... Check the entire tire to see if the glass, nail, screw , or thorn is still there, pull it out so it doesn't poke the new tube...

I carry a pump, but I plan to start carrying CO2 cartridges ...

I carry chalk to mark the spot on the tube where I found the leak...

hope this helps.

PS- No, you're Not stranded (like a car), you can always WALK home, carrying the bike on your shoulder...
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