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! 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.
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.
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.