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How to Overcome Pinch Flats

When the snake bites…

 If you are a keen and experienced mountain biker you know this feeling very well – you are going down a rough and technical trail with blistering speed, everything is going just perfectly, your speed is increasing more, more and… BANG! Pssssssssssssssssssst! We all know this horrible noise of a tube that is leaking air. Your tyre is getting softer and softer and there is nothing you can do about it in that moment. And then the usual routine – stopping, removing the wheel, removing the tube, patches, and pump and making your mates wait for you. But is there anything you can do to make it happen less often? Let’s discuss it further…

 

First of all let’s define what kind of flat tyres we are talking about here.

The ones I specifically mean are called ‘’Pinch flats’’ or ‘’Snake Bites’’ and these occur when your tube gets punctured on both sides by the edges of your rim. It is usually a result of hitting a curb or a rough and rocky trail section fast with not enough tyre pressure. It can happen to both tyres but happens more often to the rear tyre as it is additionally pushed to the ground by your weight.

It is the worst kind of puncture as your tube gets seriously damaged and, due to the size of holes, it almost always needs replacing. There is also a serious danger of denting or bending the sidewalls of your rim or, in the very worst case, cracking it beyond repair.

All that above sounds really nasty and no one would like it to happen. Fortunately, there are a few ways to prevent this kind of punctures from happening:

 

1. Make sure you have enough tyre pressure, especially in your rear tyre.

We all enjoy the advantages of softer rubber on descents – added grip, smoothness and comfort on rough and technical trails. It all comes at a price though – softer tyres make your rim roll closer to the ground and therefore be more prone to pinch flats. A few more Psi, especially in your rear tyre might make your ride feel a bit rougher and less comfortable but it will prevent you from Snake Bites and, in a long run, will let you become a better rider as you will learn how to analyse a trail and pick your line more carefully rather than just fly straight through your obstacles.

Your desired tyre pressure depends on your weight, tyre choice (2 and 3-ply tyres can be run at lower pressures) and the type of terrain you will be riding on (rocky and rough or smooth and flowy).

2. Picking your line.tf

It is vital that you carefully pick your line as you descend and, if possible, avoid the sharpest and biggest rocks. You need to make sure you look fairly far ahead as you ride down a track and spot the smoothest places to put your front wheel on – this is what makes pro riders so quick!

3. Maintaing your speed.

Make sure you go quickly enough to be smooth but also that your speed matches your abilities and you can control your bike. You do not want to get out of control and hit that big rock causing an unexpected puncture. Sometimes slow is fast!

4. Equip your bike with 2-ply or 3-ply tyres.

Double and triple compound tyres have harder and stronger sidewalls but still provide plenty of grip thanks to softer side knobs. Stiffer and tougher side walls will not bend under pressure and will not allow your tube to get trapped between the obstacle and your rim. These kind of tyres are more advanced and usually more expensive than single compound ones but this investment will pay off!

 

Pacenti DL31

5. Try wider rims.

Wider rims do make your tyre and tube sit better and the tube is less prone to roll to the outside of the rim wall and get trapped between the rim and an obstacle.

On-One Chunky Monkey Tyre

6. Go tubeless.

Tubeless systems are getting more and more popular and we are not surprised – if the tube is removed there is nothing to be pinched and flatted. There are plenty of good-quality, high-volume tubeless ready tyres available on the market nowadays. The best examples are our 650B Smorgasbords and Chunky Monkey rubbers. This kind of tyres allow you to switch to tubeless if you use special, sealed rim tape, tyre sealing liquid, a tubeless valve and a higher-wall rim. You should be able to make the conversion yourself with using a good-quality track pump. Please note that tubeless tyres can lose pressure when pushed too hard and ridden at low pressures as the tyre wall might come off the rim and lose air. This kind of issue can be repaired easily though by adding a bit more tyre sealing liquid and tyre pressure.

All the solutions above have been tried and tested by our riders and we all recommend going tubeless if possible – this system has really improved over the last few years and proves to be bomb and puncture-proof.

Just apply some subtle changes to your riding style, bike setup and you will not only be suffering less flat tyres but also will be feeling smoother and faster on your bike.