Puncturesville, Arizona

You shouldn't wish your life away, but Feb. was not the month of my cycling life. I had EIGHT punctures in February, Mick had about 4 and Donie had 4. All of the punctures were tiny things apart from one of Donie's which was caused by Alzheimer's Disease of a Tyre Casing (ADTC) which ruptured. Most were caused by tiny little bits of glass stuck in the tyres, and very difficult to find, one or two with no obvious cause. Three of mine were on one spin. (Spin is a very Cork word. A Dubliner would go on a ride. How about you folks?). One was caused by my not having an extra spare 26in tube and using a 700C tube which I happened to have in my bag. It is written by sages such as Jobst Brandt that this should cause no problem, but they're never tried it. Where the tyre is folded over you will get a small puncture in about 50 miles or less, in my experience, but it may get you home. I've had a puncture develop on the three occasions that I've had to try this wizard wheeze!
The punctures have stopped. Last one was more than 10 days ago.

I went through about 10 consecutive bike tours with my wife, without punctures some years ago, only for us to get 3 punctures in about an hour one morning in Scotland, including a blown tyre. These were each on different wheels!. Got none after that for a few tours.
The record number for a day was a friend of mine, Paul Harte, who got nine one day in Spain. We'd split up for the day and when I rejoined him he was on his ninth. He was totally frustrated, had no spare tubes left and was patching the tubes. He couldn't work out what was causing them.
I took off the tyre and turned it inside out and found that there was a tiny exposed wire in the casing, sticking into the tubes. I glued a canvas patch over it and that solved the problem.

What's very frustrating is when the puncture is so small that you find it very difficult to detect it by the roadside and therefore can't tell where the problem is. If you can't, try blowing the tube up fairly big and LOOK. You will usually see something small which is the puncture hole. Dipping in water is the ideal of course but for that you need water and ideally a dish.

A subtle cause is where you see a small mark on the inside of a tyre casing and there's a small nick corresponding to it on the outside. You may feel nothing inside or out, but sometimes if there's a tiny bit of glass in there, you may only be able to detect it by flexing the tyre at the area of the nick. Two of the punctures I had last month exhibited this phenomenon. I was able to pick the glass fragments out with my fingernail, with a bit of patience. Occasionally I've had to resort to a pin.

A final word on punctures.
If there's a bang, you either have a big hole in the sidewall of the tyre, OR the tyre has blown off the rim and you will have a huge tear in the tube. This latter phenomenon has happened to me twice or three times while descending very steep hills with hard braking. It's described in the cycling literature.

10 comments on “Puncturesville, Arizona”

  1. Patrick wrote:

    The last puncture I had was in early winter 2008 (about 8,000 miles ago). It was caused by riding along a country lane where the farmer was trimming the hawthorn hedges, and a big thorn stuck itself into my front tyre. I rode several miles with the twig clattering against the mudguard before the tyre suddenly went down.

    Punctures are no fun at all in cold weather when your fingers are already numb and the wind is blowing. I'm aware that I tend to cycle with my gaze fixed on the road about 20 feet in front. It's a habit I try to break out of to enjoy more of a view, but it might be a reason why I tend to be punctureless. Of course now that I've said that I'll probably get a puncture next time out.

    My outings are normally called a 'ride' but I do like the expression 'spin' – it's crept into my lingo a bit recently.

  2. Garry Lee wrote:

    We live in the city and there's a lot of glass about, and in surrounding areas. Nearly all of our punctures are caused by glass. At a guess, I would get 10 per annum, maybe less some years. I've used Kevlar belt tyres in the past and have no doubt that they give a fair measure of protection. On my Land's End to John O'Groats trip with the CTC last year, I got 4, which was the highest number. Some got three.
    You can use very puncture-resistant tyres but all of them are slower due to casing stiffness. I used a kind of puncture resistant plastic tape inside the tyre years ago, it was called Mr.Tuffy, as far as I remember. The ends of this used to wear a hole in the tube, so I learnt to pass the ends over a flame to give a nice smooth finish and this stopped the problem. This stuff worked, but it also increased rolling resistance.
    Some years ago a writer in one of the cycling magazines did a review of a solid, and therefore puncture free tyre from Holland. His final comment stayed with me. "You will certainly get no punctures with these tyres, but I would prefer to get a puncture every day for the rest of my life than to ride on these tyres again!"

  3. Mary wrote:

    I dare not mention the P........ word.

    Get them a lot I do, and when i don't get them, my friends do. Had one to fix out on the trails on Sunday. Cycling over gorse is a bad thing for tyres, oddly, the 'you-know-what' tends to occur any time between 1 and 24 hours later. I frequently appear all optimistic for a grand day out, only to find.... "you can have a grand day out, after you fix me!"

    Got getting one of these pesky things fixed now in about 15 minutes, which for me is very good!

  4. Patrick wrote:

    Mary wrote: I dare not mention the P… word.

    I don't worry about saying "puncture" because I don't seem to get them as I'm always looking at the surface of the road ahead. My wife enjoys the view but never gets punctures because she's always behind me. This annoys me a bit. Why is it always me in front?

  5. Garry wrote:

    I THINK, but I'm not sure, that weight has something to do with it. It may be that a man's greater weight is more likely to drive something into a tyre? My wife appears to get fewer than I do.
    Actors don't say Macbeth, because by some unfathomable mechanism, it brings bad luck. Why don't you call it a Macbeth, Mary?? Then they can call "the Scottish Play", Puncture.
    A win/win situation, as they say nowadays..

  6. Patrick wrote:

    There's a 'senior cyclist' on the CTC forums who repairs punctures until his tubes look as if they have measles, and reckons they're stonger as they become twice as thick. He writes the date of the repair on the patches and still has a tube going back to 1987.

  7. Garry Lee wrote:

    I can't claim that but I've had tubes with 6 patches and most of my tubes have at least one patch before they're chucked aside.

  8. Chris wrote:

    I usually carry two spare inner tubes and no puncture repair kit. The Maxxis Larsen knobbly tyres that came with my Ridgeback MX5 left me with two punctures in as many weeks. I switched to Michelin PiLOT CiTY PROTEK MAX 1.75 and have had no problems. I vividly recall the previous time I punctured in the early 1990s. It was on my touring bike and I was zigzagging a bit to get up a hill. I leant the bike over from side to side and picked up a thorn in my front tyre. It managed to get through the casing by being off centre and to the side of the Kevlar belt.

    So all bikes but my latest have Kevlar puncture-resistant tyes on them. I aim to put that right soon. But if I do get a puncture I throw away the tube or chop it up and use it to wrap around stuff to prevent scratches etc.

  9. Garry Lee wrote:

    I used Kevlar belt tyres for years myself and the only stuff which occasionally punctured them was pieces of very thin stiff wire. The only downside of them is that they're undoubtedly slower due to stiffening the tyre carcass. The more flexible the tyre, the faster it is, all other things being equal.

  10. Kern wrote:

    Hi Garry,

    We came across your article “Touring Ireland by Bicycle” when planning our next tour (4 weeks starting end-May) and were struck by a number of things:

    1. Your recommendation on tyre size: Our past tours (e.g. Romania) were on hybrids, but this trip will be on new road bikes which have thinner tyres (23c and 25c respectively). Your article suggested 32c which I doubt would fit. In your opinion are 27c tyres manageable?

    2. Of the three SW peninsulas (Beara, Kerry, Dingle) it sounds like Beara is the recommended favourite for cycling. Should we also consider Mizen Head if we are in the area (just on principle)?

    3. Route: Our plan (so far) is to start in the southwest (probably Cork) and cycle north (Beara, Aran Islands, Clifden, Blacksod, Sligo). Opinions, route recommendations (must see/cycle/avoid), or alternate destinations would be most welcome.

    Thanks for your trouble and thanks for the article. It is a welcome change from the standard published material.


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