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Professional Tweaks, Tips & Reviews By "AJ" Picarello
I hope you find my Tweaks and Tips section helpful. If there is something you want to know about, send me an email and I will try to add that to one of my upcoming articles.

Bring a flat repair kit while cycling! I can’t stress this statement enough. It’s not if you get a flat, it’s when you get a flat! Riding a bike for ten miles is not too difficult. Walking the bike home ten miles is no fun at all.

What‘s in a “flat repair kit”? The basics are a patch kit and a pump. These two essentials will get you out of most jams. They weigh hardly anything and take up little room. It’s a good idea to bring one or two tire levers to help remove the tire from the rim, but it is possible to remove a tire without them. It’s also smart to carry a spare tube since a torn or busted off valve can’t be patched.

Experienced cyclists may tell you to bring a Co2 kit. These devises are helpful especially when racing and work well during mosquito season, but a good pump works perfectly. Inflating with a Co2 can also blow a patch off the tube if done in a hurry. It’s also difficult to control the tires bead “seat” using a Co2. You could potentially blow the tire off the rim when inflating with a quick burst of air.

Another smart idea is to bring a thick piece of rubber and electrical tape. The rubber will work well to repair a ripped/torn tire and the tape can be used for holding the rubber in place inside the tire. Tape can be used for replacing an out of place or broken rim strip. Every rim (except tubeless) has a strip of cloth, plastic or rubber wrapped around the rim outer diameter and over the spoke nipples. The rim strip acts as a barrier between the rim and tube. Tubes can easily flat from contact with a spoke nipple or from contact with the hole in a double wall rim (a rim with two layers, the outer layer is drilled to insert the spoke nipple, usually speced on higher end bikes).

Anyway, be prepared for a flat tire because you are going to get them. Use your head when making a repair and remove the object that cause the flat before filling up the repaired, or new tube. Visually check the outside of the tire for a foreign object while carefully feeling around (for something sharp like glass) inside the tire with your hand.

Pump the leaky tube to locate the hole. The location of the hole determines the cause of the flat. A single puncture on the outer part of the tube indicates debris such as glass, a nail, tack, thorn, a staple, etc…

A hole on the tubes inner part, the part that faces towards the rim indicates a problem with the rim strip or spoke head. Visually inspect the rim strip. Most likely it shifted slightly revealing the sharp edges of a hole(s) in the double wall rim. Use you electrical tape and tape down the rim strip after shifting it back into place. File down sharp spoke heads. A sharp spoke nipple can poke through the rim strip and puncture the tube.

A hole with two gashes next to one another is called a “snake bit flat”. This type of flat can usually be repaired using two patches. A snake bite flat is the result of a large impact. Riding straight into a pot hole or riding fast through rocks causes this type of very common flat. Go ahead and make the repair to the obvious double puncture, but also check the tire for thorns. A thorn stuck in the tire will cause a very slow leak. The lower than normal pressure was most likely the cause your snake bite flat.

Always check your tire pressure before a ride. Tubes leak down all on their own. Road bikes will need airing up every ride. Mountain bikes may need air every other ride. Low tire pressure is not only annoying to ride and dangerous, but can cause you to get a dreaded snake bit flat.

Remember to buy a new patch get every few months. The glue in the patch kit dries out in a hurry. I’ve never had good luck with glue less patches, but I guess they could get you out of a jam and are better than nothing. I’d consider glue less patch only temporary. A properly patched tube is perfectly sound for pressures up to around 50 psi. Roadies should install a new tube after a patch repair. Road racing tires typically inflated to 120 psi. Patches do not work well at these intense pressures. Pump your road tire up to around 80 psi after patching and limp home.

If your tube explodes while riding, you have a serious tear in the tire or on the tires bead. If the tube has herniated outside the tire, get ready for a Ka Boom! Usually a rim brake pad is out of adjustment (or the rim itself is not installed correctly) and has worn through the tires side wall. A weak side wall eventually will give out, when it does; the tube protrudes into the rim brake and then explodes. The tube will deflate rapidly and could cause a rider to crash. This type of trailside repair is technical. The bead is under lots of pressure when inflated. You can try taping that thick piece of rubber against the tear. It may hold long enough to get you home. A patch will not repair the gaping hole in the tube. You will need a new tube for this repair. Do not apply the brake on the ride home, unless you have a tool to fix the out of position pad that caused the flat. Watch for clearance on the bulged repaired tire. You may have to disconnect the rim brake altogether just to get home.

In desperation, a dollar bill is pretty tough and works OK for side wall repairs. Energy bar of Gu wrappers will suffice as a quick fix. If your tube blows to smithereens and you have no spare, stuff the tire with vegetation then muscle the bead back onto the rim to get home. Believe me when I tell you that this actually works!

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