A flat tire while driving is a fairly irregular thing during regular driving through the city. Riding a bike along the shoulders/bike lanes of industrial roads is a different matter though especially through the wet months here in Metro Vancouver.
When I started riding a bike to work last year I started in early September. We were at the tail end of another stellar summer and I managed to get over three weeks of rain free riding in. One thing I discovered once it started raining was that rain tends to carry more debris onto the shoulders of the road and leaves it here. It didn’t take long after that for me to get my first flat tire.
I had repaired flats in the past so this wasn’t a big deal the first time it happened. The big difference for me is that this is the first time I had to repair flats for the sake of commuting. Repairing a flat so you can go for a leisurely ride is one thing. Repairing a flat so you can get to work or back home is a completely different exercise.
Here are a few things you should carry to be prepared for handling a flat while riding/commuting:
- a means of re-inflating your tire – either a mini hand pump (Topeak Mini G MasterBlaster Bike Pump with Gauge) or CO2 canister (Planet Bike Air Kiss CO2 Bike Tire Inflator)
- a spare tube – it’s easier to simply replace the tube while you’re on the go than to try to patch it especially if it’s dark or/and raining
- a patch kit – you will rarely ever need this on a commute but for the long haul rides having backup doesn’t hurt
- tire levers – these things will make getting the tire off your wheel much easier – but NEVER use them to pry your tire back on, it is fully possible to get your tires back on your wheel without prying them on with tire levers. There’s a pretty good chance that the tube will get pinched while prying your tire on with tire levers
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re changing the tube:
- Once you get your tire and tube off, take some time to inspect your tire/tube for the cause of the flat, there’s no point fixing the flat if there’s still a metal sliver, shard of glass or thorn still stuck in the tire which will give you another flat as oon as you get going again
- DO NOT use your tire levers to pry the tire back on to the rim, tires can be a pain to mount on the rim but it is possible to do so without prying them on. Anytime a tire is pried on to a wheel with levers there is a chance the tube will get pinched, effectively causing another puncture before you even get going, or compromising the tube, resulting in another flat in the near future
You should always be prepared for a flat while riding especially if there’s a chance that you’ll end up stranded. I had to call my wife for rescue more than once because the bus that runs along my route stops running after a certain time. But the better alternative is to not get a flat at all which is what we’ll discuss in the next post.