Posted by: audaxing | December 15, 2014

Three ways to avoid punctures

Punctures are not inevitable! There’s plenty you can do to avoid them. If you spot the broken bottle in time, you can take evasive action. But this article isn’t about that. I’m looking at the measures you can take to make your tyres better able to withstand normal road wear and tear.

Fit indestructible tyres

There are tyres that are really thick and strong and can resist even quite large sharps. Tyres have 3 zones on them, the centre tread that is on the road most of the time, the shoulder that the bike tips onto during cornering and the sidewalls that don’t normally touch the road.

On normal tyres the centre tread is toughest, the shoulder is grippier but maybe not so tough and the sidewalls, as they are supposed to flex, are the thinnest.

From the outside in, the tyre has an outer casing of a rubbery material and this is on a carcass
The internal construction of puncture resistant tyres includes an extra strip of material underneath the centre tread. Additionally, the really resistant ones have reinforced sidewalls and an extra thick outer casing. All this extra stuff means that they are extra heavy. The lack of flexibility in the sidewalls makes them less comfortable. Usually the compound in the outer casing is designed to be hard wearing first and fast or grippy second. So the trade offs in the really puncture proof tyres are quite severe.

An example of this kind of tyre that I’ve used is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. In 28mm they weigh over 600g compared with less than 300g for a really light weight 28mm like the Schwalbe Ultremo ZX

Ultremo ZX last approx 2500km summer riding (without puncturing) and are incredibly fast and grippy.
Marathon Plus last an incredible 15000km before all the tread is worn off

Use tyres that aren’t worn

After thousands of km, any tyre is worn out. The casing is so worn, you can see the carcass. It’s clear at this point that the tyre is ready to replace. Unfortunately, most tyres start puncturing often long before this. One tactic to employ is to look for small nicks in the tyre and replace it when there are a limited number of these: they show a real world wear metric

Front tyre, not worn

Front tyre, not worn

Nick in back tyre

Nick in back tyre

On my best bike with relatively light Michellin Optimum tyres I replace when 4 or 5 nicks are visible. On heavier tyres it’s more difficult to judge. Some damage to the casing on tyres with more casing material is not a problem so perhaps only counting larger cuts is a good idea

Use sealant

I haven’t tried this final tip! But people who have gone tubeless tell me that it works well for them. Tubeless systems (with no inner tubes) rely on sealant to make them work. And the sealant prevents small sharps from causing much pressure loss

But in summary..

You can try and reduce punctures but you will never entirely eliminate them!


  1. I should have read this sooner, I got a flat half way home tonight. My front tyre was really worn so it was no surprise but inconvenient to happen at 7.30pm on my last work day of the year. Had to push it from Holloway to home. Happy Xmas. Hope you have a good one. X

    • oh dear Lorn! We are going to Minehead on Boxing day for the full noisy thing. Hope you have a good one too! XXX

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