Bicycle tires -- a primer for commuters..
August 20, 2011 1:32 PM Subscribe
Tell me everything I need to know about tires and tubes for my new daily commute on a bicycle!
posted by thehandsomecamel to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I've been cycling for years, but always in relatively safe places (parks, designated bike roads, military bases) and usually in situations where it was a short walk back to my car and I wasn't trying to get anywhere on time. I.e., if anything mechanical failed, no big deal.
But I've recently started school at a large urban campus about 5 miles from my apartment, and I'm biking to school. My first week of school I had two flats. One of them was almost certainly caused by my book bag sliding off the rear rack and tearing off the valve stem, so I'm not sure there's a pattern here or anything. But now I'm paranoid. What should I know about bike tires and tubes as a new commuter in a large city with crappy roads? (Okay, it's Los Angeles.)
- I ride a Bianchi Strada, which takes 700x25 tires.
- I weight about 210 lbs, and my books and computer and other school gear weigh 35-50 lbs. depending on the day. (The school stuff is in a pannier over the back wheel.)
- Just five miles each way. I try to avoid traffic and use side streets, but I still have to cross five major roads. Long hill at the end, but otherwise fairly flat.
1) Should I be pumping up my rear tire more? I believe I'm pumping it up to the max recommended pressure (120 psi), but (a) I always lose a good bit detaching the pump, and (b) it seems to squish outward a little when I sit on the seat and the pannier is full. I've read that "there shouldn't be more than 15% deflection" when the tire is properly inflated... but I don't know what that looks like. Does anyone have a good rule of thumb for how much deformation is too much? (Also, does anyone have hints for how to minimize air loss when removing the pump?)
2) Should I buy new tires? These tires are 6 years old, but the bike was in storage for two of those years, so let's say four. Couldn't really estimate how many miles. The tread on the contact surface is worn away and the sidewalls show some cracking, but I'm given to understand that happen before they need to be replaced.
2a) Should I buy kevlar-lined tires? My wife's cousin recommended Gatorskins. Anyone want to recommend aye or nay?
3) Are weekly or monthly flats just part of a commuter's life? Should I plan on carrying spare tubes, tire levers, and a pump? I only had three flats in the previous fours years of riding, but very little of that was on poorly-maintained city streets, so maybe that's not a good guide. I never carried that stuff before when riding for pleasure, although I did carry a CO2 canister for small leaks.
3a) If yes to the above, how do you plan your commute, given that you may have to stop and change flats all the time. Do you tend to leave ridiculously early every time?