Road bike tire advice
RoadBikeRider.com. Every road bike rider should get their newsletter. Here's some great advice about tires I haven't seen elsewhere. I've been throwing away my tires a little early, so this is a great set of tips:
Dear Uncle Al: How can I tell when it's time to replace my tires? And does it make sense to rotate them like with car tires to extend their life? -- J.J. P.
Uncle Al Fires Back: This is easier than finding WMD's, J.J. My technique is to keep the rear tire on until the brownish casing starts to show through the black tread. Then, I put the
front tire on the rear wheel and install new rubber up front.
If you don't move the front tire, it'll probably rot on the rim before it ever shows signs of serious wear. So this type of rotation is a smart idea.
Not smart is rotating a half-worn rear tire to the front. Don't make it easier to lose control because of a front-tire flat or blowout. Have your best rubber on the end of the bike that
has the most to say about staying upright.
Besides plain ol' wear, there are a couple of other compelling reasons to retire a tire.
One is a cut too big to be "booted."
A cut through the casing can be patched, or "booted," if it's small and straight. A cut that's jagged or curved is probably a blowout waiting to happen, so chuck the tire if it looks that bad.
You can boot a cut from the inside with a tube patch or tough strapping (filament) tape. I like to use a couple of layers and cross the fibers, kind of like the bias of the casing itself. Strapping tape is strong, and the fix should last the life of the tire.
The second sign that it's replacement time is when the rubber has dried like a prune on a Phoenix sidewalk.
Riding on a dry, cracked tire, no matter how little tread wear there is, is a bad idea. It'll grip about as good as eggs in a Teflon pan. (I know, I know -- mine stick, too.)
Check for dryness when the tire isn't inflated. Pinch the tread and look for telltale cracks. Scrape your fingernail along the sidewall and watch for powdery residue.
Tires dry out from too much sun exposure, like I'm starting to do. And from ozone exposure when they're stored near electric motors or LA smog. A dry climate, like we have here in Colorado, will do it, too.
I've been told that Armor All will prevent drying, but I'd be wary of putting anything that slippery near rims and brake pads. Remember, these are just bike tires, not works of art. Replace them if they're questionable.
One other note: For you gals and guys who race, never do it on a compromised tire. A blowout in race conditions could put your life on the line (and the lives of riders around you).
If you can't race on good tires, stay home and earn enough dough till you can afford them. Sketchy equipment cannot be tolerated in the peloton.
Get ready to have a flat!
It's fine to be a world-class flat fixer, but it's better not to puncture at all. This quick checklist before you leave the house can make a puncture less likely--and quicker to fix if it does happen.
* Check your tires. Very few punctures happen the instant you ride over something (pinch flats excepted). Usually, a small and sharp shard sticks in the tread, then works though to the tube during many wheel revolutions.
Find these bad boys by checking the tread in bright sunlight or with a flashlight. If you spot something, carefully pop it out (not into your eye) with the corner of a small screwdriver.
Dig a little to made sure you don't leave the sharp tip.
While doing this, look for thin areas where the casing is beginning to show through the tread. Never continue to ride a worn tire. It's a lot more susceptible to punctures. A front flat can make it hard to keep the bike upright.
* Check your seat bag. It should be well stocked with two tubes, two or three tire levers and a patch kit. Don't forget a small piece of Tyvek, duct tape or other strong, thin material that's suitable for lining ("booting") the inside of a
cut in the tread or sidewall.
Put each tube in a zip-shut plastic freezer bag. They'll be easier to pack than in a box, and less likely to have holes worn by rubbing against tools. Sprinkle talcum powder into the bags as another way to reduce friction. It'll make the
tubes easier to install, too, and it might even reduce the chance of flats.
By the way, do you have the right size tubes? We've seen riders flat on their 700C tires and pull a 26-inch mountain bike tube out of their seat bag. Or, riders on fancy wheels with deep V-shape rims will have useless tubes with standard-length valve stems.