Pinch Flats On Bicycles & How To Prevent Them

Pinch Flat

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Tire problems are the number one mechanical failure for bicycles. One particular problem that crops up occasionally with bicycle tires is pinch flats. Learn how to avoid pinch flats and prevent expensive tire and rim damage.

Sidewall Damage

A pinch flat is a flat tire caused by riding with the bike tire underinflated and running over a pothole, railroad tracks, etc. The underinflated tire smashes against the rim and squeezes the tube between the rim and tire, causing a puncture. The rim and tire can also sustain damage.

Avoiding Pinch Flats

There are two ways to avoid pinch flats:

  • Avoid large, deep potholes and high railroad tracks – especially when riding fast.
  • Correctly inflate your tires before riding.

When making sure your tires are fully inflated don’t rely on feel. A road tire that holds 100 psi will “feel” fully inflated when it only has 50 psi. Check those tires for correct inflation with a tire pressure gauge. I use a floor pump that has a gauge built in. I check the tires before I begin riding with the floor pump, adding air as needed.

Filling Tires After Repairing A Flat On The Road

Very few of us carry a tire pressure gauge on the road. If you have a flat tire while out riding you can still get your tire inflated to somewhere near the correct pressure. It will require you to do a little homework first. While at home, deflate one of your bike’s tires completely and pump the tire up with whatever pump or CO2 inflator you carry with you on the road.

  • For frame-mounted bicycle pumps, count how many pumps it takes to inflate your tire to the proper pressure.
  • For CO2 inflators, fill the tire and check the pressure with a tire pressure gauge. You can change the pressure by using a larger or smaller CO2 cartridge. For most 700C x 23mm or 25mm road bike tires a 20 gram cartridge will get you in the ball park.

By keeping those tires properly inflated and avoiding large road hazards like potholes, curbs and railroad tracks you can avoid pinch flats entirely. You’ll still get flat tires though – they seem to be unavoidable.

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About Greg Dickerson

I got my first 10-speed bike at the age of 14 and have been addicted to cycling ever since. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I've ridden the Seattle to Portland (STP) and Providence Bridge Pedal rides several times.  Due to having a traveling job, I've had the opportunity to ride in several states when away from home as well.

View all posts by Greg Dickerson →

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