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You know when you hit something in the road and it’s bad. Your tire flats almost instantly. A catastrophic blowout can be a little spooky, unless you’re prepared.
I’ve been carrying the same flat kit for five years and never needed the extra pieces… until Sunday morning, 25 miles out. Way too far to walk home…
One minute I was happily cruising down the road with my friends, the next I was on the side of the road with my rear wheel off, wondering how I was going to limp my bike home.
I was prepared, though. I hadn’t been carrying around extra measures for nothing. I got my tire levers out of my pack and pulled the tube and tire. I inspected the inside of the tire… the puncture was clean through the Michelin Pro 4 Endurance kevlar. It had to be a piece of metal or glass in the road I hadn’t seen. I reached into my pack and pulled out a package of Specialized Flat Boys. Scuffed up the inside of the tire with the sandpaper and applied the adhesive patch over the gash. Then I installed the tire, then the new tube… and then, the trick; a good old-fashioned Dollar bill folded in half, twice – once the short way, then once the long way.
Without that dollar I’d have been pooched. Even with the Flat Boy or another patch, it wouldn’t have been enough to keep the tube in the tire. The inflated tube would have pushed through the tear in the tire and it would’ve blown inside of minutes. Instead, I rode the remaining 40 miles of that ride with a smile on my face (wondering the whole time if the roadside patch would hold).
One final, very important little tip: Make sure the tire flap from the gash is pointing the right way, no matter the rotational recommendation of the tire. You want the gash facing so the rotating tire will slap it shut every time around. If it’s backwards, the road can open it up a little bit every revolution. When the gash is atop the wheel, as in my first photo, you want the flap pointing to the back of the bike.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t add the last little laugh line from my buddy, Brad. I was standing in line at the counter to purchase a Coca-Cola (orange vanilla, it’s FANTASTIC) and Brad comes up behind me and says, “Hey, I’ll pay for that Coke for ya so you don’t have to take your bike apart”. We had a good laugh over that one.
First, and I’ve gotta put this out there because being stranded because you can’t get your tire back on your rim – if you’re using a tire/wheel combo that is next to impossible to get the tire on, try a different brand of tire. Personally, I’ve had a lot of luck with Specialized tires. Michelin tires are fantastic once you get them on the rim, but the task ain’t easy, and therein lies the rub. Carbon wheels can be troublesome, as can tubeless ready wheels.
One important thing to note as well, a tire will stretch a little bit as it breaks in over a couple of weeks of use. Where we get into trouble is if we get a flat in that first couple of weeks.
Now, let’s move on to some decent tips.
- Never, and I mean this, folks, never use a tire lever to seat a tire, where you stick the lever under the tire bead and over the lip of the rim and push up on the lever. You can wreck your $1,000 carbon fiber rim or put a small puncture in your tube. Now that I said that, why is it okay to use a lever to remove a tire but it’s not okay to use that same lever in that same fashion to seat the tire? I have no idea, but the owner of my shop says “no bueno”, and so does pretty much everyone else (except bucky in the comments). Call me a lemming on this one.
- For the impossible to get tire, there’s a tool for that. The Kool-stop Tire Jack. They are excellent tools, relatively cheap, and they work. I’ve got one myself. Instructions are included and there are YouTube videos to demonstrate.
- The Kool-stop is great, but it’s too big and bulky to carry in your saddle bag or in your back pocket. Never fear, there’s another tool that’ll work in a pinch, on the side of the road. Your tire lever. Now, if your perceptive, you’re asking yourself, “what gives”. I know. We’re going to use a special tire lever in a special way that won’t leverage the rim in a possibly destructive manner. I recently bought a set of Park Tool tire levers because they’re tiny. Well, it just so happens that those tiny levers have a bigger curve at the end than most (not the hook, the curve). If I get my Michelin tire to where I simply can’t get it any further with my hands on my carbon fiber rim, I can use the curved end to help the tire in. It takes some hand strength, but it works. I just hold the lever in my hand, slide the hook under the bead and pull on the lever while pushing down on the wheel.
- Next up, Crank Brothers has a great tire lever they’ve named the “Speedier Tire Lever”. I don’t know how this thing would hold up to the impossible tire, though. Still, check it out, it’s a cool tool. UPDATE: My buddy, Titanium Henry says this one is legit. He’s never found a bead too tight.
- I’ve saved the best for last, though. I just found this tire lever after I picked up my Kool-stop Tire Jack. I’ve already forwarded the find to my local shop so they can get a box in so I can purchase mine from them. Var came out with the answer to the KSTJ’s bulky size. Var’s two-piece tire lever (not to be confused with their standard lever) is a stroke of genius. The center piece slides out and is your first tire lever. the hooked end on the main piece is your second – for removing the tire. Then, seat your tire most of the way, set the notched end on one side of the rim, hook the tire bead, and push the lever to seat the tire. Bob’s your uncle. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ll have one for each saddle bag in short order. This tool is the real deal:
So there you have it. What to do about the impossible to seat tire. They’ve got a tool for that.