A flat tire is inevitable if you’re someone who cycles regularly.
If you’re repeatedly getting flat tires, then that could be a sign that something is wrong with your wheels.
Constantly having to change your bike tires or drag your two-wheeled steed to the bike shop is a hassle and takes time away from your commute or your precious moments out on the road. Spending money constantly on inner tubes and materials for patching a bike tube is no fun, either. Not to mention if there’s something wrong with the tire, it could be a safety hazard, so you shouldn’t be riding with a tire that keeps going flat.
Why Does My Bike Tire Keep Going Flat?
If your bike tire keeps going flat, there could be a sharp object caught in the wheel or there could be a problem with another part of the wheel, such as the valve stem.
Identifying the culprit, removing/fixing it, and taking care when replacing your tires (such as ensuring the tires are inflated to the correct tire pressure) can get rid of the problem.
Here are a few more tips for identifying causes of persistent flats:
Potential Causes of Persistent Flats
Foreign Object Stuck in the Tire
One of the most common causes of a flat tire is a sharp object puncturing the inner tube. You’ve probably already thought of this and checked the inner tube for any foreign objects. But sometimes a sharp rock or piece of glass will get wedged below the rubber on the tire. It may not immediately puncture the inner tube, but when a bump on the road presses your new tube against the sharp object, it punctures it.
If all of your tires show visible puncture signs around the same place on the inner tube, that’s a good sign that there’s a sharp rock or other debris stuck in the wheel. If you can’t see a visible puncture, you could still have a pinhole leak. Put the tire and inner tube in a bucket of water and squeeze. If you see bubbles, there is a leak.
Never try to find any hidden debris by running your bare hand along the wheel, as you could cut yourself.
Old, Worn-Out Tire
If your tires are worn out, the rubber is less resistant and more vulnerable to punctures. It’s also more likely that there are small cracks through which air can escape. Replacing the tire completely is the best way to stop flat tires due to aging rubber.
There are a few signs that can help you identify if it’s time to change your tires:
- The treads are worn down
- The tire has flat patches along the center
- You can see the threads through the rubber
If you don’t notice any signs of wear and tear but you know you haven’t changed the tires in a while, you should still change them to maximize your safety.
If there’s damage to another part of the wheel, it can catch on the bike tire and cause a puncture. The rim is the closest part of the wheel to the tire and the most likely part to cause damage if it bends out of shape. The wheel spokes could also come loose, poking holes in the inner tube.
The easiest way to fix a jagged edge along the rim is with some rim tape. Be sure to apply the rim tape snugly, as spokes and the sharp rim could sneak through any gaps and puncture the inner tube.
Check that the rim is fitted snugly against the tire. If the edge comes loose during an impact, the tire could ‘burp,’ or come away from the wheel, and release air.
Damage to the Valve Stem
The valve stem is another part of the tire that can cause a flat if it sustains damage. Both Presta valves (most commonly found on road bikes) and Schrader valves (most commonly found on mountain bikes) can sustain damage. Once the bicycle tire valve is leaking, the inner tube will not retain air, no matter how hard you pump.
The valve stem is probably the culprit if you notice that your bike tires always seem deflated, even after you fill them with air. Cleaning the valves or replacing the faulty valves will get rid of your flat problem.
How To Prevent Flat Tires in the Future
There are a few things you can do to prevent further damage to your tires if your bike tire keeps going flat:
Avoid Road Hazards
Some wear and tear is inevitable. But you can decrease the number of flat tires you get by being a little more careful when you cycle.
When you’re cycling on the road, try to avoid going near the curb. The edges of the road and the curb are where broken glass and other debris tend to accumulate, so staying closer to the center of the bike lane (when it is safe) will help to prevent punctures. Avoid potholes and bumps when you can, as those impacts can puncture tires.
Be Careful with Bike Tire Pressure
Every tire has the recommended pressure printed on the side. Every bike tire is different and needs a different amount of pressure to function.
If you overinflate your tires, that could lead to a flat tire because the overinflated inner tube could suffer a blowout.
If you underinflate the tire, the inner tube will move around more, decreasing your control over the bike and increasing the likelihood that it rubs against another part of the wheel and picks up a puncture. Underinflated tires are also more likely to pick up a pinch flat or snake bite, which is a flat tire that happens after you bump a curb and accidentally pinch the inner tube against the rim.
When filling your tires with air, be very careful with the bike tire pressure. Any carelessness could result in a persistent flat tire problem. Check out our article on how to pump a bike tire if you’re not certain how to do it correctly.
Maintain Your Bike
Sometimes regular wear and tear is the cause of persistent flat tires. Old, worn tires are less resistant to bumps and debris on the road, which can lead to more flats. High mileage on your tires, extreme weather conditions (such as a heat wave), and long periods of inactivity can all wear down your tires and cause flats.
If it’s been a while since you last changed your tires, replacing them for new ones with better tread can get rid of the problem. Replacing your tires is quick and inexpensive, particularly if you visit the bike shop and ask a professional to help.
When you are conducting maintenance on your bike, such as changing the tire, make sure you’re using the right tools and following the right procedures. Often, a novice cyclist will try to change their tires without help and will end up damaging an inner tube, which is only noticeable once they get a flat. If you’re not sure about your skills, ask a more experienced rider to show you or visit a bike shop for the first few tire changes.
Invest in Quality Equipment
If your tires keep getting flats, maybe it’s not you—it’s the tires.
Low-quality tires and inner tubes are more likely to sustain punctures after even the smallest damage. Invest in quality tires that will last longer.
When you’re stocking up on supplies for your bike, you can get accessories that protect your tires from flats. A tire liner goes around the inner tube and provides an extra barrier against sharp objects. Quality rim tape keeps the spokes in place and protects the tire from the rim’s sharp edges.
Finally, be sure to get the right size tire and inner tube for your wheels. If the inner tube and the tire don’t fit snugly, the extra movement or constriction could lead to a puncture.
Tips for Properly Changing a Tire
Sometimes poor form while changing a tire causes flats.
Before inserting the inner tube, inflate it slightly so that it is round, not flat, when you feed it into the wheel. This will prevent a pinched tube.
You can use a tire-changing lever tool to detach your tires from the rim and remove your old tube, but when you put the new tube in, it’s better to just use your hands. A lever tool can sometimes slip and puncture the tire. That’s okay with the old, punctured tire, but not your new one!
We recommend making use of professional bike tire services if you’re not sure how to change a tire.
The Final Word on Flat Bicycle Tires
If you’re experiencing a persistent flat bike tire, that could be a sign that there’s something wrong with your bike tires, such as an invisible puncture, damaged rims, or even a clogged valve stem.
Regularly inspecting your bike, taking care when you ride, and following instructions for changing and inflating your tires can go a long way toward reducing flat tires.