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Tag Archives: Pinch Flat

I Hope I Don’t Get One Tonight

A flat tire.  What a buzzkill!

Most cyclists are prepared for a flat.  All cyclists hope that they don’t get one.  The odds are against us though.  Flat tires are inevitable.  It is not a case of “if,” but “when.”

On rare occasions inner tubes have manufacturing defects.  This causes tubes to split along a seam, or tear at the junction with the valve.  There is not much you can do to prevent inner tube failures.

A self-inflicted inner tube failure is the pinch flat, also known as a snake bite.

Puncture Pinch Flat

A pinch flat most commonly occurs when you run over something that causes the tire to deform enough that the inner tube is squashed against the wheel rim.  This puts two small holes in the inner tube, at the pinch points.

I said ‘self inflicted’ because pinch flats are much more likely to occur with under-inflated tires.  Bike tires leak over time.  You will need to add more air from time-to-time to maintain the proper pressure.  Run your tires too soft, and you will be snake bit.

I have been guilty of doing this.  I like to run my tires at between 80psi and 90psi.  Softer tires means a more comfortable ride.  I have let my tires get too soft, with predictable results.

In most cases flats happen because you ran over something sharp.  Roads are littered with sharp objects.

Bits of glass, either from broken bottles or shattered windscreens, are usually visible.  If you see it in time, you can avoid running over glass.  Unless you are riding at night, which is when I picked up this chunk.

Puncture Glass

Small stones are less visible.  It is worth examining your tires after every ride to remove any sharp stones stuck in the tread.  Before they work their way through the tire and into the inner tube.

Puncture Flint 2

Then there are the pointy things which are invisible while you are riding.  So small that a thorough search is often needed before you find the offending object, embedded in your tire.

The majority of my flats are caused by staples or Michelin wire.  Those fine bits of steel wire on the right come from steel-belted radial tires, which were invented by Monsieur Michelin.  Hence the name.

Given that most flat tires are caused by essentially invisible road debris. there is little you can do to avoid them.  Even “puncture proof” tires are not 100% resistant to being pierced by staples, Michelin wire and the like.

So learn how to repair a flat tire, and carry tire levers, a spare tube, and a pump or CO2 inflator on your rides.

And be thankful that we don’t have these in Malaysia.

Puncture Goathead Thorns

Feeling the Pinch

It was the Islamic New Year on 5th November.  Like its Gregorian calendar equivalent, the advent of the Islamic new year is marked by a holiday.  A holiday to be celebrated with a long bicycle ride.

The original plan was to ride from Bukit Tinggi to Bentong, eat beef ball noodles for breakfast, and ride back.  Bukit Tinggi is about 300 meters / 980 feet above sea level.  Bentong is 95 meters / 312 feet above sea level.  The hard work would come on the way back.  Nine of us, including birthday boy Raj,  pointed our bikes downhill and rolled through the light rain.

The wet weather soon moved on toward Kuala Lumpur, leaving us on damp roads but under overcast skies.  There would be no need for arm coolers and suntan lotion.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

We swung into Bentong after about an hour.  Only to find that the famed beef ball noodles shop was closed.  So we embarked on a spin around the town looking for an alternative.

We ended up at the wonton noodles shop where we had stopped during the Durian Fiesta ride.  Which suited the birthday boy.

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Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Everyone was so refreshed after breakfast that we decided to continue on to the Chamang waterfall.

Chamang Waterfall Route

The waterfall is very easy to get to.  Follow the sign just outside Bentong, and start climbing.  Six kilometers into the climb we got our first glimpse of the Perling River.  Accompanied by the thwack thwack thwack of cloth against rock.  Someone was doing their laundry.

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The waterfall was worth the 110 meter / 360 feet climb.  We all enjoyed spending twenty minutes watching the water cascading down the rock face.

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Raj is a relatively new roadie.  So all credit to him for coming along with us on these longer rides.  And being thrilled at the prospect of the climb to come that Griffin and I are pointing out!

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

On the way back we made a pitstop in Bentong for drinks and photos.

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

Photo courtesy of Mark Lim

“Is this where I catch the bus to Kuala Lumpur?”

The ride back to Bukit Tinggi was interrupted by two pinch flats.  I was a bit surprised to be stopped by a pinch flat on this smooth section of road.  Here I am demonstrating my tube-changing skills to a very interested audience.

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

Photo courtesy of Shahfiq Abdul Manap

“Stop thief!!”

Twenty kilometers later I had another pinch flat.  That one was no surprise.  I was on a bridge with a lorry right beside me.  I had no choice but to ride over a gaping expansion joint.  My prayers to the guardian angel of inner tubes were not answered.

That didn’t detract from a great morning out with my riding buddies.  Great company, good food, cool weather, impressive views, lots of laughter, and when I was in a pinch, Marco had an inner tube to spare.

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