Much like celebrity deaths it seems that flats come in threes. First there is the during ride flat caused by a sharp thorn. Then there is the secondary flat from a small leak caused by an unseen remaining thorn. Finally there is the third flat that makes you scratch your head and think unclean thoughts. If this sounds even remotely familiar you are not alone. Flat tires can sometimes be caused, repeatedly, by hard to trace origins. The following checklist is provided as a guide to help walk tandem teams through potential causes.
- Foreign Objects – the easiest to identify are foreign objects like thorns and nails. Protruding through the tread or sidewall the object punctures the tube causing loss of tire pressure. Upon removing the old tube use your hand to gently feel the inside of the tire casing for the offending object and remove.
- Pinch Flats – the easiest to correct pinch flats are caused by a compression of the tire sidewall to the rim edge squeezing the tube causing dual punctures that will rapidly release air. Caused by running low tire pressures over uneven terrain, think rocks, roots, or potholes, the easiest solution is to run higher tire pressures in your tubes.
- Cut sidewalls – inadvertently riding through broken glass or sharp stones can slice the fiber sidewalls of your tire. The resulting hole allows the tube to balloon out and puncture. Before the tube can be replaced and re-inflated the tire needs to be replaced or, if the puncture repair occurs on the road, a patch can be made using dollar bills or energy bar wrappers to cover the cut. The goal is to stop the tube from poking through the tear.
- Rim Burs – The inside of a tandem rim is covered with multiple sharp junctions that can easily flatten a tube. The spoke nipple holes, rim weld seal, and tube valve hole are potential sources of edges that can cut a tube. These are the pesky flat causes that can go undiagnosed for months. Usually the result of old rim tape that has shifted to one side tandem teams are generally unaware of the problem and will go through multiple tubes until the culprit is identified. Using a small metal file to clear burs and applying new rim tape normally solves the problem.
Flat tires are the bane of most tandem teams existence but ride enough miles and they are guaranteed to happen. With this checklist as your guide hopefully the 3-peats will be avoided.