Bikes

Bike Tire Bulge: What Do You Do?! (The Answer Isn’t Pretty)

Bike Tire Bulge? Oh no!

Having trust in your bike tire is a must for any cyclist. Noticing a bulge in the tire before, after or during a ride sucks.

It's only a matter of time before it gets a flat or blows up on you all together.

Bike Tire Bulge

A blowout is something that happened to me when on a bicycle tour across Europe recently. I noticed the bulge the night after a long ride. 

I rode on it for 2mins the next day before it blew up on me. Luckily I was riding slowly, it could have been much worse.

If you've noticed a bulge yourself and need a replacement, then Continental's Gatorskin's are my tires of choice.


What can cause bike tire bulge?

There are usually two culprits. The first is that the tire itself has worn down or been damaged. This could be from skidding, hitting a pothole or bad design. This is usually accompanied by a scraping or mark that you can see with the naked eye.

A lot of cheaper bikes sold at your local bike shop or superstore come with tires that may only last 400 - 800 miles.

This is not great, and if you’re new to the world of biking, you may not be aware that they are often inferior to more professional tires. Dealers do this so that they can offer cheaper bikes and still make a profit.

For a great article on when to change your bike tires give this guide a read. ​

Even if you have tires with a better design and consistency, they can still wear out over time.

Accidents happen.

 bicycle tire bulge cause

The second of the usual culprits is a badly inflated or placed inner tube. If this is the case, then you will be able to see part of the tube showing around the bulge.

The bead of the tire which should tuck into the rim will probably be showing with the inner tube bulging out.


Can I still use my bike if a tire is bulging?

The short answer is no.

If the tire is bulging, then it’s dangerous to you as the cyclist and to the tire. Just imagine going downhill at 35 mph and the rest of the inner tube coming out. 

When I think back to my bike tire bulge when cycling across Europe, I was so lucky to be going slowly. The tire literally blew up underneath me! 


Innertube solution

Fixing a bulging inner tube is much cheaper and easier to do than fixing a problem with the tire itself. The most common problem with the inner tube is that it was not inserted between the rim and the tire correctly.

Simply deflate the tube and start again.

First, check the valve is threading through the rim. Then inflate the tubing a little. Check that the tubing is sitting correctly on the rim and then start working on the bead of the tire.

This is the very edge which tucks into the rim.

Run your fingers along the edge of one side and then the other. Tuck in the beads if any are not placed right. Once you’re happy that everything is tight and nothing is protruding, then inflate the tube to three-quarters of what is necessary.

Do another check.

There should still be just enough room to make any corrections if part of the tube is showing. Finally, inflate the tire the rest of the way.

If this is not done right it blocks the flow of air and causes the bulge.

For more information on how to correctly install a new inner tube read this guide or watch the video by the GCN below. If you follow the process they've laid out you'll have no trouble​ with inner tube placement.


Tire solution

Unfortunately, the best option when the tire is the issue is to buy a new one. Before you fork out good money be sure you buy the best tire for what you need.

Tires produced by the likes of Continental or Michelin cost much more than other low-end brands, but they should last a lot longer.

Slicks are what you want to buy for commuting and road cycling. Knobby tires are for the off-road enthusiast.

Many tire sellers will provide a one-year warranty from the date of purchase. If you’re investing in the more expensive variety always check for this.

Tires will wear out more quickly when touring compared with commuting due to the mileage one covers.

bike tire bulging off rim

Summary

Never travel on a bulging tire. Always check to find the cause, whether it is bad threads, damage to the tire surface or a badly inflated inner tube. When you’ve found the problem, work on the appropriate solution.

A good cycling habit is to check your tires before and after every journey in the same way you would check your brakes. It’s always best to spot a problem at the beginning rather than after it’s caused lasting damage.

Image Credit Flickr Creative Commons - Dom Sagolla