Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The problem with punctures ...

You will probably know by now that I am a Schwalbe Marathon Plus fan. A good, but heavy, puncture-resistant tyre.

No doubt you will have seen posts on various forums where riders are reporting that a particular tyre is particularly prone to punctures or is particularly puncture-resistant.

How do these various tales (including my own) measure up when treated as "scientific data"?

I find there are four main problem areas:

1) One problem with any "scientific" comparison of tyres is that reader's anecdotes don't always relay whether they use "Slime" or suchlike in their tubes.
A "no slime" rider will report a puncture where a "slime" rider will not. If the puncture in a "no slime" tube can be fixed with just a can of "tyre foam", does it still count as a puncture?
Is that not just the same as having a "slime" tube?

2) A second problem is tyre inspection.
One rider might inspect weekly (or even daily), removing debris, while another might only check after they have a puncture. Punctures from sharp, but small, chunks of glass and stone, can often be avoided by more frequent tyre inspections. When using tyres without a kevlar or thick rubber belt, and tubes without "slime", the difference is the puncture rate is quite marked.

3) A third problem is route and road positioning.
Quite simply, some routes have a higher puncture risk than others. Thorns on the road, broken glass, sharp stone chips, or nice smooth, clean, tarmac (asphalt). This is also one of the reasons why "gutter" riders get more punctures than folks who ride further out into the lane - notice how the road debris accumulates in the gutter?

4) Punctures can be caused by more than just stuff sticking in the tyre.
"Pinch flats" can occur to due insufficient care in fitting the tube in the first place or riding thin, hard, tyres and hitting a pothole.
Flats can also occur due to distortion of the rim due to damage.
And then there is the old favourite of the leaking valve.
On new wheels, it is also a good idea to check that the rim tape protects the tube from the spoke heads and that the wheel itself doesn't have any sharp bits, such as around the valve hole.

When this ...

is caused by this ..
(p.s. it is a tyre stud from bicycle snow tyres)

... working it's way through the back of the tyre it started life in,
does it still count as a puncture?
Or is it a manufacturing defect?
Or is it a "user error"?
To conclude, therefore, when comparing brands of tyres using rider's anecdotes, be careful that what is being compared is actually the tyres rather than the riders' behaviour ...

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