Everyone that has owned a bike has had the same issue with flat tires. Some BMX riders may not know about an old school technique used by the founding fathers of BMX to reduce flats. This article will cover the most common ways to avoid pinch flats and street hazards that cause flat tires.
A pinch flat is caused by your tube becoming compressed between an obstacle and your rim. Some riders call this a snake bite because it is usually two small punctures about an inch apart on the tube itself. One way to resolve this is to increase your tire pressure. You should never attempt to go beyond the maximum tire pressure that is stated on the side wall of the tire. Most mart bikes state a maximum pressure of 45 psi while professional tires can range from 65 psi to 110 psi. If you ride street or urban assault then you will want to run your tire pressure as high as you can in order to lower rolling resistance. This can also increase your overall stability because lower tire pressure can make your rig feel sloppy and hard to control. Affordable tires can run up to 65 psi and are stable if you are trying to save money. These mid-grade tires can be purchased at local marts, sport shops and bicycle shops and are readily available.
Beyond tire pressure there is another technique that old school BMX riders will use. This involves saving your old inner-tubes. The rubber tubes inside of your tires may not have a specific maximum tire pressure because the tire itself will contain the tube and hold the pressure so that the tube itself does not expand beyond its rated size. Even if your tube has several small punctures you can still use them as a jacket for your new tube. The process is simple.
Remove your wheel from the bicycle, let all of the air out of the tire if isn’t already flat and then remove the tire from the rim. Then remove the old inner-tube from the rim. Check the tube for any small stickers, sticks or pieces of metal that may be embedded in the tube. These hazards can cause a flat on your new tube so check carefully and remove them if you find any of them. If you look closely at the tube on the inside circumference of the tube you may see one seam along the center of the inside, or two seams on either side of the inside center of the tube. Take a cutting tool like a pair scissors or a razor knife and cut out the stem. Now cut along the center of the inside circumference of the tube until you have completely opened up the inside circumference of the tube itself. This process will create a tube jacket that you can place over the outside of the new inner-tube and then place both the tube and the jacket inside the tire making sure that everything is lined up inside the tire before you put the entire assembly back on the rim. There should be about a half inch of jacket on either side of the tube when you place it in the tire. The jacket should overlap far enough to rest just over the inside of the rim protecting the tube from pinch flats. You can put about 3-5 psi of air in the tube to help hold everything in place while you re-mount the tire, jacket and tube back onto the rim.
Make sure you double check the assembly before putting the maximum air pressure into the system. Once you have completed all of the steps above you should be able to air up the tire to its maximum air pressure and re-mount the completed tire/rim assembly onto the bicycle.
This technique does not add much weight to the overall rig and will reduce pinch flats and hazard flats that you might normally encounter. This technique can also increase the life of the tube and tire as slow leaks will take longer to release the air from the tube if you do run over a hazard. Basically you are increasing the amount of space between your outer tire and your inner-tube so that when you do run over a sticker or other road hazard there is less chance of the hazard continuing all the way into your tube and releasing the air. Some tubes can be thicker or have the outside of the tube that rests inside of the tire re-enforced but they will cost more than regular tubes. This is a cost effective way to recycle your old inner-tubes, increase functionality and the life of the tire/tube system while reducing the chance of hazard or pinch flats.
Always run the recommended tire pressure for the tire that you use on your bicycle. If you do not run your bicycle for several months the air will slowly run out of the tubes. This is normal and some people do not realize that simply airing up the tires will resolve a flat tire issue on a seldom used bicycle. Make sure that you test for leaks each time you ride and expect some pressure loss over long periods of time whether you ride the bicycle or not. A great way to test a used tube is to put about 15-20 psi in the tube and rotate it under some water in a bucket or a sink. Look closely for bubbles that rise from the surface of the tube. There may be some bubbles on the surface but the ones that rise up and off of the tube can indicate a slow leak or small puncture. Patch as needed or convert the tube into a jacket for your new tube.
If you have any great tips or tricks that save money and increase the life of parts for BMX bicycles then leave me a comment or send me a note here at Associated Content. Ride safe!