Author Topic: Bicycle wheel tube problems  (Read 1224 times)

Papa bear

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Bicycle wheel tube problems
« on: August 26, 2019, 05:25:03 PM »
So, Iíve got a road bike that I donít ride nearly enough, and a big reason for that is that I have to change out a tube on the tires every 40 miles or so.  So I get a few good rides in, hang it back up, take it down again, flat tire, try to fill it back up, wonít hold air.  Argh!!!!

Iím not an experienced biker nor do I have much bicycle maintenance experience.  What stupid things can I be doing wrong? What should I be looking at to fix this?

I keep the air at around 100psi when riding, donít take it off the road or bike path, etc. 


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kendallf

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2019, 05:46:56 PM »
Probably the most common causes of repeated flats are:

1. You change the tube, but still have a wire/piece of glass/whatever in the tire.  Especially with small bits of wire, you can pump it up, ride for a couple of hours, hang it up, and return to a flat because of the slow leak.  Check the tire over carefully when you change tubes. 

2.  Rim tape.  If your rims have some POS thin plastic stretchy stuff covering up the spoke holes, replace it with some good cloth tape.  The cheap plastic strips can shift when you hit bumps and puncture the tube on the edge of the spoke hole. 

3.  Pinch flats.  These are when the tire edge "bites" the tube when you hit a bump too hard; usually caused by under inflation.  You see a characteristic double slit in the tube.

If you're getting lots of wire/thorn punctures, switch to a heavier tire like a Vittoria Randonneur or a Specialized Armadillo.  They won't ride like the supple road tires, but you won't have a flat every ride either.

SweatingInAZ

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2019, 06:49:05 PM »
Great list @kendallf

Here's what I do to figure out what is causing a flat
  • Mark the valve stem, tire, and wheel with a marker (silver sharpie for the stem and tire, black or masking tape for the rim)
  • Remove the failed tube
  • Inflate the failed tube (not to any measurable psi, just enough to inflate)
  • Rotate the tire in my hands while holding it near my ear to find the leak
  • If no audible leak is found, try sliding the tube through a tub of water to find the leak
  • Or spray soapy water
  • Or pump it up more and repeat
  • Finally, circle the leak with a silver sharpie
  • Lay the tube on top of the tire and wheel so that the original marks line up (be sure the tube is oriented correctly)
  • Feel around the inside of the tire if the puncture is on the outside of the tube, and inspect the rim tape if the puncture is on the inside

Once you've done this a few times, you'll be able to optimize and leave out the steps you don't need.
« Last Edit: August 26, 2019, 06:53:09 PM by SweatingInAZ »

dodojojo

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2019, 07:10:51 PM »
I used to get road flats all the time when I was still using the bike's stock tires.  I switched to Gatorskin and I can't recall ever getting a road flat in 10 years?  Until about 2 weeks ago.  I haven't checked out why it happened but I wouldn't be surprised if the Gatorskins need replacing.

Another type of flat I got, even with the Gatorskin, were flats from the tube getting pinched right at the stem hole.

Papa bear

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2019, 08:06:51 PM »
Ok this is awesome.  Iíve got to look some things over. Thanks for the info!


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WalkaboutStache

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2019, 10:49:29 PM »
Run a cotton ball inside the tire.  If there is something poking out, it may catch and you'll find it.

acepedro45

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2019, 09:46:10 AM »
If your tires are worn in the sidewall, you can be much more vulnerable to frequent flats. I learned this one the hard way.

If you suspect this may be the case but aren't sure, post some pics! Some of the forum biking veterans are still getting over their laughter from when I posted shots of my pathetic tires.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2019, 11:33:03 AM »
Probably the most common causes of repeated flats are:

1. You change the tube, but still have a wire/piece of glass/whatever in the tire.  Especially with small bits of wire, you can pump it up, ride for a couple of hours, hang it up, and return to a flat because of the slow leak.  Check the tire over carefully when you change tubes. 

2.  Rim tape.  If your rims have some POS thin plastic stretchy stuff covering up the spoke holes, replace it with some good cloth tape.  The cheap plastic strips can shift when you hit bumps and puncture the tube on the edge of the spoke hole. 

3.  Pinch flats.  These are when the tire edge "bites" the tube when you hit a bump too hard; usually caused by under inflation.  You see a characteristic double slit in the tube.

If you're getting lots of wire/thorn punctures, switch to a heavier tire like a Vittoria Randonneur or a Specialized Armadillo.  They won't ride like the supple road tires, but you won't have a flat every ride either.

Great list!


The only other thing I'd add is that if you've been riding the tire for a while, it may have simply worn out.  Road tires wear much faster than hybrid or mountain bike tires in my experience . . . and they get more flats as the rubber gets thinner with use.

ericbonabike

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2019, 12:04:07 PM »
If you're getting flats every 30-40 miles, that sounds like your rim tape is not protecting your tube from the spoke holes.
How can you tell?  Figure out where your tube is punctured.   If is on inside of wheel, it's probably rim tape issue.  If on outside of wheel (i.e. your tire) make sure there is nothing embedded into the tire. I've had a small chip of glass embedded in the tire that you couldn't see from the outside, but was just poking into my tube.  Would take 10-20 miles to eventually nibble into my tube. 

I had the rim tape problem with some trailer wheels, and I replaced the rim tape several times to no avail.

Eventually, I put a strip of electrical tape down.  Then some rim tape.  That did a better job of protecting the tube.

seeyalater

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2019, 02:20:12 PM »
Convert to tubeless and you'll never have a flat again.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2019, 02:32:46 PM »
Convert to tubeless and you'll never have a flat again.

You need to replace sealant on tubeless tires every 1-6 months for the sealant to work.

I don't know any sealants that work well in cold temperatures . . . so you lose all that protection when the temperature dips below freezing.  And then there's the painful procedure of trying to pumping like seat the tire with sealant leaking all over you, the floor, the ceiling, etc.

Papa bear

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2019, 02:30:52 PM »
I think itís a rim tape issue where the valve stem goes in.  Thatís where I found a tiny puncture in the tube. Nothing in here feels sharp, no foreign bodies, no wires or metal. 

Maybe the rim tape is cut too big for the hole?


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Dave1442397

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2019, 07:56:07 AM »
You could put a strip of electrical tape over the hole, then just punch a hole big enough for the valve stem.

Did you check that the puncture was on the top (valve side) of the tube? If it was on the bottom (tire side), then this tape is probably fine.

If you kept track of where your tire was mounted in relation to the puncture, this is the time to check that area of the tire very carefully. I had a sliver of metal embedded in a tire earlier this year, and I had a few slow punctures before I finally tracked it down.

Rubic

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2019, 03:01:39 PM »
I once had a similar problem with one of my bikes and couldn't get it fixed despite replacing the rim tape, checking for burrs, etc.  Finally in desperation I replaced the tire and laid the old tire aside for later review.

When I had time to methodically analyse the problem area with bright light, a magnifying glass, tweezers, and a lot of patience ... I discovered an embedded micro-shard that was just a fraction of the tire thickness.  This explained why I could ride for > 20 miles without a problem on a new tube, but eventually the shard would work its way through the tube, only to disappear again when the tire was removed.

If replacing your tire fixes the problem, you may have a similar issue.

M5

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2019, 03:50:44 PM »
Convert to tubeless and you'll never have a flat again.

You need to replace sealant on tubeless tires every 1-6 months for the sealant to work.

I don't know any sealants that work well in cold temperatures . . . so you lose all that protection when the temperature dips below freezing.  And then there's the painful procedure of trying to pumping like seat the tire with sealant leaking all over you, the floor, the ceiling, etc.

The first few points are definitely true (Orange Seal seems to work the best so far). As for the process being painful, if you choose your wheel/tire combo wisely it can be pretty easy. Tubeless technology has improved significantly in the past couple years. Mavic has perfected their road tubeless tech and I can pop one side of the tire off without levers, throw a little sealant in, and re-seat with a hand pump. This does involve using the Mavic brand tire as well since they designed them to work perfectly together, but I've found their tires to be faster-rolling and deliver incredible handling/grip on descents.

Here's an interesting tidbit of info as well... excluding tubulars, test results have shown a tubeless 28c to be the fastest-rolling.

jamesbond007

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2019, 04:11:45 PM »
All great points here. Just want to chime-in in support of Gatorskins. Those built like a tank. 0 flats in I don't know how long. I ride about 2000 miles every year. If you end up changing tires at some point, take a look at Gatorskin from Continental.

Papa bear

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2019, 06:50:22 PM »
You could put a strip of electrical tape over the hole, then just punch a hole big enough for the valve stem.

Did you check that the puncture was on the top (valve side) of the tube? If it was on the bottom (tire side), then this tape is probably fine.

If you kept track of where your tire was mounted in relation to the puncture, this is the time to check that area of the tire very carefully. I had a sliver of metal embedded in a tire earlier this year, and I had a few slow punctures before I finally tracked it down.

Yes, the puncture was on valve side. One small one, so I tried to patch it... didnít work.   

Who has a good place to buy tubes? My close by local bike shop went out of business and for whatever reason i couldnít find the size on amazon. 700x19-26. Odd size?


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BikeFanatic

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Re: Bicycle wheel tube problems
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2019, 07:16:28 PM »
What canít you fiind 700 or the width maybe just buy 700 20Ė23