Bikes

A Pinch Flat: What Is It And How Can You Avoid It?

Pinch Flat

This guide will talk about punctures, specifically a pinch flat puncture. Enjoy 🙂

Punctures are an annoying part of cycling. Luckily, there are certain things we can do to significantly reduce the risk of getting them. It's often unknown that they occur in one of three ways.

  1. Either sharp objects pierce the tube from the outside.
  2. Sharp bits of rim penetrate the tube from the inside. 
  3. Or you can get an impact puncture. 

An impact puncture is when you hit something hard like a curb, rock or a root with a significant amount of force. If the compression is great enough the tube can become pinched between the rim and the tire. This flat is called a pinch flat.

Although the three are closely related, for the rest of this article we will be looking specifically at ways in which to reduce the risk of pinch flats.

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What Does A Pinch Flat Look Like?

It's usually easy to know if you've got a pinch flat as you'll see two little punctures side by side on the inner tube. For this reason, the puncture is occasionally called a snake bite.

pinch flat repair

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How To Avoid Pinch Flats

There are five ways to avoid a pinch flat puncture. They include having correct tire pressure, your tire choice, your inner-tube choice, potentially having tubeless tires, and your cycling position on the road. We'll talk about each one in more detail down below.

Tire Pressure 

Correct tire inflation is essential. There are variations on what proper tire pressure is depending on your weight and the width of your tire.

A 60-70kg rider should look at a tire pressure of around 90 - 100 PSI. Whereas an 80kg + rider should look at a tire pressure of around 110 + PSI, maybe even a little more.

Pressure Gauge

Correct inflation helps reduce the risk of impact punctures, as it provides proper resistance between the tire and the rim.

Tire Choice ​

The type of tire that you choose is important, and it's not just about choosing a tire that has been labeled as puncture resistant.

You should investigate the width of a tire. If you're lucky enough to ride on super smooth roads, a 23mm tire will be okay. However, if you're riding on rougher roads you'll want to look at getting a 25mm or if it'll fit, a 28mm.

The extra volume of air will mean it's much better at avoiding pinch flats.

The only trade off is a little extra weight, but increasingly we're learning that wider tires roll better, so they're potentially faster.

Inner Tubes

An area that people try and save weight on is through their inner tubes. However, light inner tubes puncture more easily, so it's better to go for something that weighs more as it'll be thicker.

The one exception to this is when using Latex inner tubes which are lighter and have better puncture resistance. They're more resistant to ​sharp objects, but they're more prone to a disastrous blow-out which is bad news for pinch flats.

Whichever tubes you end up choosing, make sure you get the right width, particularly if you're running tires as big as 28mm. Standard inner tubes will work, but the rubber will be stretched so thinly that you'll lose a bit of puncture resistance.

Inner Tube

Tubeless Tires 

Tubeless tires are a big step forward for road bikes. There's a liquid Latex sealant inside them that will seal small punctures without you even noticing, and doing away with the inner tube eliminates the risk of pinch flats.

The only time that your tire should puncture is if you get a gash in the rubber so big that the sealant can't cope with it.

Tubeless tires are a significant investment. Chances are your current wheels won't be tubeless compatible and neither will your tires, meaning you'll have to invest in new gear. But, if you're a heavier rider and you ride on rough roads, it could be money well spent.

Where You Ride

Where you ride doesn't mean choosing entirely different routes, although this could be a sensible decision, it's more about your positioning. Try not to ride in the gutter, and keep your eyes peeled for potholes, manhole covers, or anything with a sharp edge.

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How To Repair A Pinch Flat

If you find yourself with a pinch flat repairing it is very similar to repairing a normal puncture. The only difference is that you'll need to use a longer sized patch or use two normal sized patches. The video below by Dean Magnusons gives a demonstration of this.

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Conclusion

So to avoid an impact puncture you'll need to:

  • Make sure that you check your tires and wheels for potential problems.
  • Inflate them to the correct pressure.
  • If needed buy wider puncture resistant tires.
  • Consider tubeless tires.
  • At all times on the road keep your wits about you.

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