Adventure riding leads us to awesome places. Often in remote areas where there is no road side assistance. Those are the places we enjoy riding most. But those are also the places where a small problem can quickly turn into a big one if you are not prepared well. In this post we will learn how to deal with tire trouble. Other posts in this series talk about chain maintenance, air filter, suspension, bike setup, oil changes and general tips and tricks.

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

Tire Trouble

Tire trouble is inevitable really. It is probably the most common trail side repair job. The good news is that most flats are easily fixed on the trail. The bad news is, it not just punctures that will cause your tire to go flat. Let’s look three ways you can get a flat tire and how to prepare for them.

Punctures

Flat rear tire after it got punctured by a rusty nail on the garage floor
Bummer…

Punctures are the most common reason for flat tires. Although you can greatly reduce your chances of getting a puncture, you need to be prepared to deal with them on the trail. Fixing a flat is not hard to do and you do not want to be that one guy that ends the group ride because you are unable to fix it.

Oh and on a side note: make sure you keep your garage floor clean. The puncture on the right was caused by an old nail on the garage floor. It stinks to find your bike like this when you want to go ride.

Low pressure

Riding with low pressure increases traction in tough terrain. But running pressure too low in the tire is another common reason for flats. On tubeless rims, the bead can separate from the rim, causing air to escape. On tubed tires, lowering the pressure too much may cause the outer tire to spin around the rim if there is no rim lock installed. The outer tire than takes the inner tire with it and shears off the valve.

It can also cause a pinch flat. This is when your wheel hits and obstacle so hard that the inner tube gets pinched between the obstacle and the rim. With (very) low pressure, the inner is more likely to get pinched.

Bent rims

Finally, bent rims cause flats. On tubeless rims, a dent in the rim itself can cause air to escape from the tire, similar to lowering the pressure too much. On tubed rims this is not as much of a problem, but depending on the size of the damage, the bead of the outer tire gets exposed and maybe even the inner tire.

How to prepare for tire trouble

You can buy all the tools and read all about how to deal with issues on the trail. But, The tools are dependant on the type of tire you run. Tubed tires will require you to fix or replace the inner tube. This often means you need to take the wheel out. Then either patch the puncture or replace the inner tube in its entirety. So you need the tools to do that.

Dealing with tire trouble in a warm garage with your favourite tunes on the radio while sharing beverage of choice with a friend is a lot better than having to do it on the trail for the first time.
Tip: practice at home. Invite friends, enjoy the struggle 😉

When replacing the inner tube, keep the sizes of the front and rear in mind. So you may want to carry spare inner tubes, for example a 21 inch for the front and an 18 inch for the rear. You can get away with taking only a 21 inch as it will fit an 18 inch rear if need be, but it will not work the other way around. An 18 inner tube will not fit a 21 inch rim. If you really want an adventure, leave the spare inner at home and become a bush mechanic.

Tubeless tires often don’t even have to be taken out at all. A puncture can be plugged. Low pressure is easily solved with a pump, either manual or electric. Bent rims are bit more challenging and will require you to find a way to get the rim back into shape enough so that air no longer escapes or at least not quickly. That probably means applying blunt force.

Go Practice

The best tip I can give you though: practice this stuff at home! Having all the tools and spares you need is worthless if you don’t know how to use them. Dealing with tire trouble in a warm garage with your favourite tunes on the radio while sharing beverage of choice with a friend is a lot better than having to do it on the trail for the first time.

In the rain.

After a long day of riding.

All alone.

In the dark.

So, might as well make it a fun exercise at home. Invite your riding buddies, and do it all together. In my first practice run, getting the wheel back in was the difficult bit. Getting it all lined up so the axle could go back in, was a challenge. But, I got it done. Only to realise I had forgotten to put a spacer on, so I could do it all over again.