Tired of Bike Flat Tires? This is for You!

Flat tires are a bummer, but they are avoidable!

Getting a flat tire on your way to work or when you are out enjoying a carefree e-bike ride is no fun.  It can even be stressful if it will make you late for work!

There are ways to reduce the stress of a flat tire and put the fun back into riding though.  Below are some tips for you that will seriously reduce or completely eliminate bike flat tires.

Avoiding road debris is easier said than done but one habit to get into is looking down the road for glass, nails, tacks, etc and anticipate routing your bike around if possible.

Check your tires for signs of wear & tear.  Older tires are more prone to flat tires and it is a good idea to replace them when they show signs of reduced tread and/or sidewall wear.

Maintaining your tire pressure will make a big difference in the overall performance of your e-bike and help you avoid “pinch” flats.

If your tire pressure is too low you won’t get as much range out of your e-bike because the low tire pressure makes the whole electrical and human system work harder to move the bike around.

In addition low tire pressure makes it easier to “pinch flat” your tire.  A pinch flat is caused when you hit a hard object with your tire and it pinches the tube between the rim and the tire.  When you use higher tire pressures the potential for a pinch flat goes down significantly.

Higher tire pressure is good but you don’t want it to be too high because it can make for an uncomfortable ride!

Here are my recommendations for tire pressures:

Urban/City/Beach Cruiser/Cargo e-bike: 45-60 psi

Mountain e-bike: 35-45 psi

Touring/Road e-bike: 100-120 psi

SLIME Tube

SLIME!  Another trick is to use something called SLIME!  Sounds weird but this stuff works well to minimize flats caused by small road debris (glass, tacks, thorns, small nails, etc.).  This is an inner tube sealant that will fill small holes in your inner tube as the wheel rotates.

Personal Note:  I have been on many rides when I hear a flat happen (swishing noise) and then it just stops because the SLIME fills and plugs the hole.  It is a nice feeling knowing that I don’t have to change a flat tire!

SLIME comes in a few varieties:

Pre-SLIMED:  The simplest way to SLIME your e-bike is to buy pre-SLIMED tubes and install them in your tires.

DIY SLIME:  You can buy SLIME by itself and “install” it in the tubes on your bike (schrader valves only).  This requires that you remove the valve stem core and pump the SLIME into the tube and then replace the valve stem innards.  Your local bike shop can help you with this too or they may sell you the pre-SLIMED tubes.

The down side to SLIME is that if it can’t seal a hole (some punctures can be too large) it will make changing the tube messy!

Note About buying inner tubes:  If you buy new inner tubes make sure you buy the right size to fit your tire.  Look at the sidewall of your tire and you will see what size it is.  Most e-bikes are 26” or 700C in diameter although some may be 20” for folding e-bikes.  The width varies quite a bit between tires but you will usually find that inner tubes are label with a width range like: 26” x 1.75-2.25” or 700C x 28-35mm.

Schrader or Presta?  Another selection you will have to make when purchasing tubes is knowing which valve stem you have: Schrader or Presta.

Schrader valve stems are like car tire valve stems and they are probably the most common on electric bikes currently.

Presta valves are narrower and are generally found on high performance mountain and road bikes.

And yes, both valve stems require a different pump head, although there are adapters that allow you to use a presta valve with a shrader valve pump head or you can get a pump that works with both valve types.

Tire liners: These are thick strips of rubber that go inside the tire to add an extra layer of protection between the tire and tube.  Mr Tuffy is a well known brand.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus

Reinforced tires:  Another way to minimize flats is by getting a bike tire that is built to be more flat resistant.  These generally have Kevlar or some other special rubber reinforcing material that makes it harder for sharp object to find their way to the inner tube.  Here is a good reinforced tire, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus.  Note: using tire liners with these tires would be redundant.

No more flats….ever!  Okay so you are really sick of flats and you never want to deal with air filled inner tubes again!  You may want to check out the Serenity tires and foam inner “tubes” from Hutchinson.  These are supposed to be better than the old solid rubber “tubes” because they are lighter and have a better ride feel and efficiency.  No air involved, so you will NEVER get a flat, but the jury is still out on how well they ride.  The foam tube systems of the past are heavy and they have a spongy ride feel that can make them feel like they are sapping your energy.

Tubeless tires: There is a growing trend of tubeless tire systems in the mountain bike realm (even road racing bikes too) and you may be interested in this.  Instead of an inner tube a tight seal between the rim and the tire is created to make it “tubeless”.  This requires that the rim is sealed and there are 2 different ways of doing this: a stout rim strip that is installed in the rim or a wheelset that is designed to be tubeless with no holes in the top rim surface.  In addition a slime type of substance is used to seal any small puncture holes.  Personally I don’t see much reason to use this system on an electric bike because it doesn’t offer many advantages over using the SLIME tubes in regards to preventing flats.  The tubeless system is better for high performance mountain & road bikes but I still wanted to mention it here.

My recommendations:

1.  Use SLIME inner tubes and maintain your tire pressure.

2.  If you ride in an area with a lot of road debris then I would recommend a tougher tire or a tire liner in addition to number 1 above.

3.  If you never ever want to deal with a flat you could check out the Hutchinson Serenity tire system.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions by leaving them in the section below.

Thanks!

-Pete

P.S. Don’t forget to join the Electric Bike Report community for updates from the electric bike world, plus ebike riding and maintenance tips.


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12 Comments

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  1. Brian Jackson February 3, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    The only thing I would add to this is that slime will sometimes cause flats by fouling the valve stem. Be sure to buy a high quality inner tube and tire slime to avoid this.

    • Shanbrom February 3, 2012 at 10:08 am #

      I ride my LAFree Sport about 4,000 miles a year and hate getting flats. My suggestions are all of the above— a tough tire like Armadillo, liners, heavy tubes and slime. Bike shops will wince at all the added weight, especially because it’s in the wheels, but with some 400w of assist I don’t worry about it. also, consider slightly larger tires and DO keep them inflated to the maximum rated pressure or you’ll cut down on your range ALOT. still, you’ll get an occasional side wall flat or hit a major nail or screw.

      • Pete at Electric Bike Report February 3, 2012 at 11:03 am #

        Shabrom, that is awesome that you put that many miles on your e-bike! Sounds like you are taking all the measures to reduce/eliminate flats. It is true that adding that much rotating weight to a non electric bike would make riding tougher. E-bikes have the advantage of the electric assist which makes that less of an issue.

    • Pete at Electric Bike Report February 3, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      Great point Brian. This is true if you are adding slime to tubes yourself. Usually less of a problem with tubes that are sold with slime already installed.

  2. DP-San Diego April 12, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    My friends thought I’d be a weight weenie with my ebike too, but that’s certainly not the case. It’s a commuter, so I wanted reliability and comfort. I put 29×2 puncture-resistant tread and sidewall tires on my 700C rims and converted to tubeless. I run the minimum pressure. My 20″ trailer tires have the thickest Slime tubes.

  3. David Tangye April 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    I have a thornproof tube plus cut an old standard tube and covered the thornproof with it before putting it into the tyre. I should use a tough road tyre too, but so far the beefed up tube combination has worked great with cheap tyres for well over a year now. I have had no punctures, whereas before I got at least one every couple of months. Tyres are 26″ x 1.95 on an electric bike (electric kit on a beach cruiser).

  4. Michael K. June 23, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    I had Heavy duty tube with slime, kevlar tire, and an inner liner and still got a flat. The rusty nail went in through the side wall. I do not remember running through any junk on the road, but somehow I got a nail in the side of my tire. It put a small hole in the tire, but chewed up the inner tube. It took a day to get the tire off the rim and replace it with a new tube. I count it as one of those one in a million happenings.

  5. Kirk February 26, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    I have some Kenda Kiniption 80 PSI 26X2.3 tires. I’m going to be putting in a rim strip and HD tubes and running them on a Yuba Mundo cargo bike with a Crystalyte 72 volt hub motor. It can smoke the tire and get up to 45 miles an hour so balancing it properly and avoiding “high speed” flats are a big concern. I’m afraid the slime could get it out of balance too far. Any thoughts on that??

  6. Lynn Ellsworth May 25, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Thank you, very good advice on flat problems here in AZ where the plants hate us.
    The solid rubber inserts were briefly mentioned and I want to add that they are terrible. I tried 2 Bell solid rubber tubes that were meant for 26″ x 1.75 to 1.95 tires. On the 1.95 size tire the feeling was so wobbly, like a flat tire, I felt unsafe and with a 1.75 tire the solid rubber tube was impossible to install because my tire had wire beads next to the rims. Maybe the solid rubber tube might work with very flexible tires with no metal cords but I think it best just to avoid the Bell solid rubber tubes for any bicycle use.

  7. Ian Fleet May 25, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    On the topic of flat tires,i had a puncture in my rear tire with slime in the tube,the tire was as flat as a pancake. I tried to repair the tube but the slime prevented the patch from sticking and the tube kept deflating.I was 6 miles from home and i needed to replace the inner tube,as it was the rear tire with a rear hub drive i had a bit of a problem.My fathers house was 3 miles away and i decided to make a pit stop there, while making my way there the inner tube came out from within the tire wrapped itself around the freewheel split, splattered me with slime and all over the bike.The tube seized up the freewheel meaning the peddles kept rotating with the chain.I made it to my fathers took the back wheel off and fitted a new tube but i could not free the freewheel from the old inner tube,i had to ride home slowly and keep peddling or the chain would come off.I spent 2 hours once i got home removing bits of old inner tube and slime from the freewheel and managed to free it.A week later i have fitted a tire liner and done a 12 mile ride over the south downs with no problems. I will not be using slime in the tubes again!.

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