Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It's a fact of life - if you do a lot of riding, you are going to get flat tires.

Every year at the Interbike Trade Show there are a few companies touting their flat-less, non-pneumatic tires. That these tires are going to revolutionize cycling by eliminating the dreaded flat tire. Despite the claims, these innovations never seem to catch on and, the over one hundred year old technology of the pneumatic tire roles on!

And that leads us back to the flats. In a typical year, my wife, Professional Triathlete Paolina Allan and I get on average 2 - 3 on-the-road flats, in thousands of miles ridden. Last, year was typical - we had exactly three flats for the year between the two of us!

Paolina had two on one day and one ride - one going up Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, AZ and another coming down Mt. Lemmon. The picture above is me changing #2. #1 was a staple through the tire, and #2 was a small razor sharp piece of scrap metal that again went right through the tire. I note in the picture above, another group ride's support van had stopped and loaned us a floor pump - very kind of them.

I had one, on the day we road the Ironman Canada bike course in August. Just as we started to ramp things up heading up the Yellow Lake climb, I ran over a metal screw, that perfectly punctured through the tire. In all three instances the change-over to a new tube was made quickly, and we were on our way in a few minutes.

These three flats, were total flukes and, just plain bad luck. On message boards and forums I see many triathletes and cyclists are plagued with flat tires. What I do to minimize flats is as follows and it seems to work for us:

- Ride on the best rubber that you can afford. I see this often - people riding $5,000 bikes and really cheap tires. Up-grade your rubber. It's win-win: Better ride and less flats.

- Make sure your tires are installed properly. It's not that hard a skill. This should be a basic. Know how to do it, at home and on the side of the road. Practice it! Outstanding guide for clincher tube changing at the always informative Park Tool site.

- Always check tire inflation and pressure, before every ride! Buy and use a good floor pump for home use and for on-the-road know how to use a Co2 cartridge (always carry two) or mini pump.

- Between rides check your tires over carefully. Look for cuts, and small micro pieces of glass and metal imbedded in the tread/tire. Use a pin to dig the small things out of the rubber.

- Scan road ahead for obvious things that cause flats. If on a group ride, alert following riders to these issues. Don't get too obsessed about this, as you also need to focus on riding and other things.

- Try to find a tire and rim/wheel combo that goes on and off easily for both your every-day wheels and your race wheels. Some combos are terrible and require the strength of three men to make a change. You don't want that combo.

FWIW - we have had great success with the Vittoria EVO CX tires. These clincher tires are "expensive", but they meet all of my key tire criteria:

- Have amazing feel for the road.
- Roll straight and true and offer fantastic grip in corners.
- Despite claims of others, reasonably durable. Again, only three flats last year!
- Go on and off our regularly used wheels very easily.
- Are readily available in most good bike shops.

Despite all of this, flats happen. Be ready for them! Don't sweat it. Know what you are doing. Make the change, and get on with the ride!
How often do you get flat tires?

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Black Socks

Are you a member of the Brotherhood of Black Sock Wearers?

The Rules seem to have mixed feelings on black Socks for cycling. However, I think they have been overly influenced by a certain cyclist from the State of Texas.

My use of black socks for cycling goes back a number of years, and way before, Big Tex started doing it. It was based more on utility and pragmatism than anything else. Back in the early 90's I was living in Vancouver, B.C. For those who know Vancouver, know that it rains a bit in Canada's Lotus Land, and you are often out riding in what locals call "Liquid Sunshine", more than you would like. There were some regular group road rides that I would attend, and I noticed that the hardest of the hard-core guys, like mountain bike ace, Bruce Spicer would wear black socks. I would always return from these gritty, wet, winter rides with my nice white cycling socks, now several shades of grey - a grey that would not wash out, no matter how many times through the washing machine, I note. So I went black! Problem solved.

I can't take full credit for it, but when Sugoi started to make cycling socks, when I was working there in the late 90's, I pushed in a planning meeting, to "Make sure you offer those socks in black". Made sense, Sugoi was a Vancouver based cycling apparel company - we knew about riding in dirty and wet conditions.

Since then, the sock business has exploded - it's a new sub specialty product category all itself these days. If you walk into a cycling or running shop you'll be faced by a wall of socks, from a variety of manufacturers, and a rainbow of colour options and designs, beyond the basic white sports sock. There are even anatomically correct options for your left and right foot . . who knew?

However, my eyes are always drawn to the black socks. My current preferred socks are the DeFeet Aireator Black High-Tops (pictured above). Simple. Basic. Black. Never get dirty. Always look the same! However, as you can see, on a quick perusal of the DeFeet website, their socks come in many different colours with all kinds of funky and cool designs. With socks these days, you can go crazy! Check out these retina wreckers from my friend Joe Foster from Sock Guy.

Now, when you see another cyclist wearing black socks, I am not sure what it is but, it's usually a veteran, someone who's been around for a few years. The kind of fellow rider that you just have to give a nod, to, to know that he/she get's it! They've been around the block a few times. They are comfortable in their own skin, and on the bike. You can be comfortable sitting on their wheel, or next to them in the group. They'll be calm and cool! And perhaps most importantly, they don't have to worry about keeping their white cycling socks, white!

Are you a member of the Brotherhood of Black Sock Wearers?

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