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Why are flat tires something we still see these days?

5/14/2014 1:06 PM

Do any of you ever wonder why there hasn't been a solution to flat tires, especially for the likes of World Cup DH and XC teams? While watching live feeds of PMB Cairns and seeing the Fort William BDS photos, I couldn't help but wonder how a flat tire could ruin an Elite pro's race run these days. The teams/companies spend so much money every year going from race to race, the riders train their asses off and risk their lives for a podium, yet a $2 tube or a burp in a tubeless can blow the entire race weekend. Titles and championships are lost because of flat tires. We have $10,000 bikes that can't keep air in the tires if they're hit just right.

Is it the lack of performance/handling/grip that a system could compromise? Is it cost? Materials?

I know there is/was Le System by Michelin that helped riders finish a run and Schwalbe has their new dual chambered system (Danny flatted at Ft Bill BDS and didn't have the dual chambered system...why?). Syndicate (and maybe others) messed with (and possibly still mess with) sew-ups.

I guess if I was sending a handful of athletes around the world (or was an athlete being sent around the world) and all that effort was blitzed by a flat tire, I'd want to gouge my eyes out.

5/14/2014 1:11 PM

yes I agree flats are super annoying, especially living here in SoCal where you can barely go riding in the summer without getting a thorn, I try making tire liners out of old tubes, but I still get flats. It gets expensive.

5/14/2014 4:01 PM

As far as I see it, it's pretty easy to set up your bike so that you won't get any flats. Throw in some nice, thick tire liners, a pair of heavy-duty tubes--maybe even some sealant in the tubes--and pump those suckers up nice and firm. Flat-free! But, of course, your bike's going to ride like crap. If you want flexible casings that will conform over obstacles, low pressures that will help the tire stay grounded, and lighter weight...well, then you're going to have to take more risks. That's how I see it. The World Cup teams are pushing the edge when it comes to traction and performance, and that means they're taking a chance on durability. They're also dealing with new tracks and changing conditions all the time, which makes it even harder to predict where that balance of performance and durability needs to be.

But that's assuming current equipment. If you're asking why we haven't developed puncture-proof tires (Kevlar rubber? Titanium tread?) or why a system like Schwalbe's hasn't taken over for preventing pinch flats, I don't have the technical expertise to answer. I'm just saying that with what's available right now, teams make a deliberate choice to risk more flats because the alternative sucks.

5/14/2014 4:14 PM

Where are these $2 tubes you speak of? Some shops around me have the nerve to charge $12 for a single tube!

5/14/2014 4:17 PM

anotherbikerguy wrote: As far as I see it, it's pretty easy to set up your bike so that you won't get any flats. Throw in some nice, thick tire liners, a pair of heavy-duty tubes--maybe even some sealant in the tubes--and pump those suckers up nice and firm. Flat-free! But, of course, your bike's going to ride like crap. If you want flexible casings that will conform over obstacles, low pressures that will help the tire stay grounded, and lighter weight...well, then you're going to have to take more risks. That's how I see it. The World Cup teams are pushing the edge when it comes to traction and performance, and that means they're taking a chance on durability. They're also dealing with new tracks and changing conditions all the time, which makes it even harder to predict where that balance of performance and durability needs to be.

But that's assuming current equipment. If you're asking why we haven't developed puncture-proof tires (Kevlar rubber? Titanium tread?) or why a system like Schwalbe's hasn't taken over for preventing pinch flats, I don't have the technical expertise to answer. I'm just saying that with what's available right now, teams make a deliberate choice to risk more flats because the alternative sucks.

for the record, i don't personally suffer from flats that often. when i do, it's usually b/c i've neglected service or maintenance.

re: teams pushing the balance and taking a chance on durability.

I totally hear you and know that existing technologies don't seem to give a lot of room. I just think about factory team X spending 6 or 7-digit figures on a World Cup season that is ruined by flat tires and cringe.

Could a custom/one-off solution for team X be created for 10% of their budget? I would think that'd be worth it. The T.H.E. system 10 or 12 years ago seemed like it prevented pinch flats well. It was just a major hassle for mounting tires. That hassle seems like an easy trade off so my World Cup rider could finish a race run.

I have to imagine the companies and teams have all investigated this. Just seems like after so many years and so many races (both XC and DH) ruined by flats, some creative engineer would have something sorted. Even if it was a labor intensive system that required a small handful of custom/one-off pieces.

5/14/2014 4:17 PM

bikeboardorblade wrote: Where are these $2 tubes you speak of? Some shops around me have the nerve to charge $12 for a single tube!

haha too true. $2 for the manufacturing cost maybe? : )

5/14/2014 4:32 PM

I remember speaking with the guy behind Nuetec TuBliss for motorbikes. He said that for mtb's it was harder to design a similar design of using an inner chamber system because mtb tires aren't structurally rigid..... or something along those lines.

I have gotten pinch flats using tubeless dual ply tires and about 35psi. Yes, holes in the sidewalls of the tires.

I think maybe to almost eliminate flats, tires have to be thicker, which means heavier. Who wants to ride heavier tires?

5/14/2014 4:46 PM

I'm lost by this,I've been running tubeless for 3 years and have never flatted,I have burped air on a few occasions but never enough to end a dh run and if on an xc ride I've just put more air in. None of the guys I ride with all of which run tubeless have a problem with flats. Obviously flats can and do happen with tubeless but it's so rare as to not be a problem,I stopped carrying a spare tube 2 years ago after a year of never needing one. I run medium to low pressures.

5/14/2014 5:39 PM

At Interbike in 2006 Hutchinson unveiled their Serenity tire which uses closed cell foam that cannot go flat, but they weight a ton and are only available for commuting bikes. Also pneumatic tires are the only good choice for offroad riding as without the adjustable of an air tire we would be stuck with one hardness for all conditions.

5/14/2014 5:49 PM

Minty wrote: I'm lost by this,I've been running tubeless for 3 years and have never flatted,I have burped air on a few occasions but never enough to end a dh run and if on an xc ride I've just put more air in. None of the guys I ride with all of which run tubeless have a problem with flats. Obviously flats can and do happen with tubeless but it's so rare as to not be a problem,I stopped carrying a spare tube 2 years ago after a year of never needing one. I run medium to low pressures.

Same here. Run tubeless and ride constantly. Not one flat all past year. All of my racing buddies flat all the time. I think it has to do with smoothness of rider...some world class enduro guys flat and some don't. The smoothest guy in enduro, Jerome Clementz...did he have a flat last year? Not like Fabien Barel that hits every rock in sight and slides his back end around every corner.

5/14/2014 5:57 PM

bikeboardorblade wrote: Where are these $2 tubes you speak of? Some shops around me have the nerve to charge $12 for a single tube!

Lol, that's what I was thinking bike. I WISH I could spend $2 bits on a tube. More like 6 on avg.

5/14/2014 6:06 PM

Don't forget about that annoying evil weed called puncture vine (aka tack weed) which infests Huge areas, east of the Cascade Mts. Although generally it is an urban weed, It is literally in every Rocky Mt state, and often in large quantities ( like Salt Lake City, which is completely covered with it )

Since it hitchhikes on car tires, it is spreading more and more each year too. Learn to recognize it.

5/14/2014 6:13 PM

mountainbiker92 wrote: At Interbike in 2006 Hutchinson unveiled their Serenity tire which uses closed cell foam that cannot go flat, but they weight a ton and are only available for commuting bikes. Also pneumatic tires are the only good choice for offroad riding as without the adjustable of an air tire we would be stuck with one hardness for all conditions.

seems like the foam idea would have merit for DH applications, especially if some weight could be reduced.

for the sake of reminiscing - T.H.E. eliminator rim (i can't find the video of the rider just smashing full speed into curbs)



5/14/2014 6:19 PM

Again comparing to the moto world, I used to run a Michelin Bib Mousse in my front tire. Its essentially a solid foam tube that is 100% impossible to flat. I ran those for races so I could just smash into stuff without a care about flatting. The downside was that it was a boat anchor. So heavy it affected the bike's steering and handling. I sure wouldn't want that on a mountain bike.

Its very hard to get flats from using a tubeless set up. In the 12 years I have been running some sort of tubeless kit, I have gotten maybe 5-6 flats. If you are just trail riding its pretty hard to flat. If you are dh racing and really pushing it, flats are pretty easy to get.

5/14/2014 6:57 PM

sspomer wrote: Do any of you ever wonder why there hasn't been a solution to flat tires, especially for the likes of World Cup DH and XC teams? While watching live feeds of PMB Cairns and seeing the Fort William BDS photos, I couldn't help but wonder how a flat tire could ruin an Elite pro's race run these days. The teams/companies spend so much money every year going from race to race, the riders train their asses off and risk their lives for a podium, yet a $2 tube or a burp in a tubeless can blow the entire race weekend. Titles and championships are lost because of flat tires. We have $10,000 bikes that can't keep air in the tires if they're hit just right.

Is it the lack of performance/handling/grip that a system could compromise? Is it cost? Materials?

I know there is/was Le System by Michelin that helped riders finish a run and Schwalbe has their new dual chambered system (Danny flatted at Ft Bill BDS and didn't have the dual chambered system...why?). Syndicate (and maybe others) messed with (and possibly still mess with) sew-ups.

I guess if I was sending a handful of athletes around the world (or was an athlete being sent around the world) and all that effort was blitzed by a flat tire, I'd want to gouge my eyes out.

Good point about Hart at last weekend's BDS. Same thing happened to Ragot at the first WC this year. Why aren't they running the new system I wonder?

5/14/2014 10:40 PM

I never seem to get flats and I'm a tube guy. The only time I seem to get them is when I forget to pack a spare tube/patch-kit.

Btw, $2 is the wholesale cost of your average-grade inner-tube. Essentially, if your LBS is charging more than $6 for a tube, they're fleecing you.

5/14/2014 11:38 PM

DH is like formula 1 racing now. The bikes are so tuned, that every gram counts. I like the threat of flats. Every racer is racing the same track, so if you flat, it's rider error, meaning you didn't ride as good as others. If you do it all the time, maybe go for bigger tyres/tubes, but that adds weight and slows you down? It's part of racing, pushing light and strong materials to the limit and hopefully getting away with it....

5/15/2014 12:25 AM

It's risk vs reward. Many puncture resistant products greatly increase the weight, on an already oversized (650b) and heavier wheel set up. When racers are pulling out standard bolts and exchanging them for titanium or using only half of the "required" bolts, they will for sure opt for a lighter wheel set up whenever they deem it feasible. Obviously there is a certain risk here the presents itself and some teams opt for the slightly heavier set up. But when 1st place and 6th place can be separated by fractions of a second, many of the top guys will run the lightest set up and risk it in hopes of gaining those tenths and hundredths.

5/15/2014 12:59 AM

Minty wrote: I'm lost by this,I've been running tubeless for 3 years and have never flatted,I have burped air on a few occasions but never enough to end a dh run and if on an xc ride I've just put more air in. None of the guys I ride with all of which run tubeless have a problem with flats. Obviously flats can and do happen with tubeless but it's so rare as to not be a problem,I stopped carrying a spare tube 2 years ago after a year of never needing one. I run medium to low pressures.

sb66er wrote: Same here. Run tubeless and ride constantly. Not one flat all past year. All of my racing buddies flat all the time. I think it has to do with smoothness of rider...some world class enduro guys flat and some don't. The smoothest guy in enduro, Jerome Clementz...did he have a flat last year? Not like Fabien Barel that hits every rock in sight and slides his back end around every corner.

Not an Enduro race, but Jerome did flat his Mavic system for a Downhill race he entered last season. I can't seem to find the race though.

5/15/2014 2:13 AM

@ Minty - I've had the same experience as you. . . but I am not regularly riding WC DH courses at WC pace, so hard for me to compare. .

@sb66er - I agree being smooth helps to avoid flats. However, I doubt any of us on this forum are smoother than the people Spomer are talking about. . .

One thing I noticed when I would get flats with tubeless (when I used to race), is I think I would get a burp I didn't notice then would pinch the tire casing later on in the run, I think from low pressures resulting from the initial burp. Less common would be a sharp rock just destroying the tire straight up. Never couldn't finish a race run because a thorn.

When you set up for your race run, most everybody puts on a new tire and (if tubeless) new sealant. When I'm just out riding my trail bike, I'm pretty much on nearly dry sealant that has more or less glued the tire to the rim. I wonder if the sealant could maybe "dry up" a little faster if this would help avoid the burp and subsequent flats. . .

5/15/2014 6:31 AM

To be honest, I have a pig of a cross country bike that has 2ply 2.4 Ardents with tubes on it. I purchased 6 of these tires 2 or 3 years ago for about $15 each. They are heavy as shit, but over the last couple years I have had one flat tire.

But, on my downhill bike I was using the same tires but in the 2.6 variety. Same air pressure basically and yet I flatted those a bunch of times. I ride my other bike just as hard (even took it to Bromont last year once).

I think a lot of it, as someone else mentioned, is the person who is riding and of course some good (or bad) luck. If you point your bike straight down the trail, with no regard for what is in front you, you're going to get a flat eventually.

Maybe this can relate to Formula 1 racing (and others). Budgets in the millions of dollars and yet they still manage to run out of gas on a constant basis. Its all about pushing everything to very limit and shit happens.

5/15/2014 6:59 AM

The worst is spending $50 on a new tire and having the sidewall slashed on the second ride by an outcropping rock. Tires seems to be the most difficult to address because of their heavy impact on the handling of the bike. Look at cars and they're about right where bikes are in terms of flats. They have tires with run flat systems but tires that completely prevent flats is not possible unless using a fairly thick material, but that affects handling. They've invested many more years and many more millions into developing tech. so unless racing production cars can come up with a surefire way to prevent flats, it will not happen in mtbing. If it happens in auto racing, it'll be a long while till that tech. trickles down to bikes. Ah what a glorious day that'll be.

5/15/2014 7:05 AM

I sort of gave up on tubes and tubeless system years ago and now just run both (On my DH bike that is. I don't currently have a trail bike.) I've got Mavic tubeless rims and tubeless tires, then run a tube inside with the Mavic o-ring seal on the stem. That way if I hit something hard enough to pinch the tube, the tubeless system still holds the air in. And since there's a tube in there, burping is no longer a problem. The main drawback is that you sort of have to take the whole thing apart to check if the tube is still intact, which I never do.

Back in the 3.0 tire days, I overheard a racer complaining to his buddy that he'd increased his tire pressure from twelve to eighteen whole pounds of pressure and was STILL getting flats. For me tire pressure is what really saves me from flats. For me, flirting with low pressure means only running thirty pounds, which is how much Peaty runs. I'm taller and I'd guess heavier than him, so I generally run thirty five in the rear. It may not make for the BEST traction, but I hate the squirmy feeling of low pressures anyway.

5/15/2014 7:09 AM

Having experimented with a wide range of tubeless setups, tire liners, sealants, and tubes, my most reliable setups have been the heaviest: Geax Neurons on Transition Revolution 36 wheels with Wal-Mart tubes pumped full of sealant. I think I went a year on that setup with no flats. Tubeless just has too many frustrations for me - like coming home to a bike hanging in the stand with a tire that has gone flat and come off the bead without ever touching the ground. Best solution as far as I am concerned are the Bell tubes from Wal-Mart. "Guaranteed No Flats!" printed right on the side of the box in big red letters, accentuated by pics of broken glass, tacks, and thorns. Don't even need a reciept for that return...

5/15/2014 7:20 AM
Edited Date/Time: 5/15/2014 9:26 AM

canadmos wrote: To be honest, I have a pig of a cross country bike that has 2ply 2.4 Ardents with tubes on it. I purchased 6 of these tires 2 or 3 years ago for about $15 each. They are heavy as shit, but over the last couple years I have had one flat tire.

But, on my downhill bike I was using the same tires but in the 2.6 variety. Same air pressure basically and yet I flatted those a bunch of times. I ride my other bike just as hard (even took it to Bromont last year once).

I think a lot of it, as someone else mentioned, is the person who is riding and of course some good (or bad) luck. If you point your bike straight down the trail, with no regard for what is in front you, you're going to get a flat eventually.

Maybe this can relate to Formula 1 racing (and others). Budgets in the millions of dollars and yet they still manage to run out of gas on a constant basis. Its all about pushing everything to very limit and shit happens.

canadmos and lev, your statements about F1 puts all this in perspective on the racing/World Cup level well. good points

5/15/2014 7:53 AM
Edited Date/Time: 5/15/2014 8:17 AM

Big Bird wrote: I sort of gave up on tubes and tubeless system years ago and now just run both (On my DH bike that is. I don't currently have a trail bike.) I've got Mavic tubeless rims and tubeless tires, then run a tube inside with the Mavic o-ring seal on the stem. That way if I hit something hard enough to pinch the tube, the tubeless system still holds the air in. And since there's a tube in there, burping is no longer a problem. The main drawback is that you sort of have to take the whole thing apart to check if the tube is still intact, which I never do.

Back in the 3.0 tire days, I overheard a racer complaining to his buddy that he'd increased his tire pressure from twelve to eighteen whole pounds of pressure and was STILL getting flats. For me tire pressure is what really saves me from flats. For me, flirting with low pressure means only running thirty pounds, which is how much Peaty runs. I'm taller and I'd guess heavier than him, so I generally run thirty five in the rear. It may not make for the BEST traction, but I hate the squirmy feeling of low pressures anyway.

And that little o-ring is supposed to hold the air back in the event that the tube suffers a pinch? I'm totally baffled by this concept.

I tried tubeless on some stans flow wheels, and could not find a tire that would hold on. UST tires, 2ply dh tires, TCS, from all kinds of brands. After enough ruined rides, and one ruined race, I gave up and put the tubes back in.

My best flatless setup begins with my favorite rim, the Spank Subrosa. The center of the rim is raised and it results in fewer pinches, one time I dented the rim testing a rock landing, and rode away without a pinch flat.

The next crucial aspect of the setup is a DH casing tire, on the rear I've been running a clipped Conti Mud King for about a year now. It is difficult to find a tire narrow enough for xc climbs (2.3-2.4), but with a DH casing for durability. The mud king is great, so is the Larsen tt 2ply. I really wish Maxxis would use the DH casing on their 2.35 minions again, that would be the Balls.

In my experience, single ply tires fail in two ways; first they suffer pitch flats (even at 60psi), then they blow out the sidewall. Wearing a $70 tire's sidewall out before the tread is a waste, so I don't run folding tires on my mtn bike anymore.

5/15/2014 7:59 AM

This is a good opportunity to bring back this video :D;

The ending...

http://www.vitalmtb.com/videos/features/Rapid-Fire-Kyle-Strait-Scrubbin-Jumps-and-Foldin-Knobs,14733/sspomer,2

I'm guessing Kyle is running tubes or those bad boys would have exploded off the rim?

5/15/2014 8:18 AM

I remember running 50 psi in a double DH tubed Intense 4 ply tire at the Idaho NORBA one year. Still flatted once in practice. haha the good old days of 50 lbs DH bikes.

Also ran tubeless for DH for half a run at Whistler two years ago. I dented the rim so bad (yes in 1/2 a run) that the tire wouldn't seal anymore. Swapped back to tubes.



It seems that a soft metal rim, fresh DH tire, good medium weight tube and a bunch of talc powder is still the way to go for hard DH use.

5/15/2014 8:56 AM

What I don't understand is that Danny is a Schwalbe rider. So why didn't he have their new TU Bliss system?

http://www.vitalmtb.com/product/feature/Good-Riddance-Pinch-Flats-Introducing-Dual-Chamber-Tire-System-from-Schwalbe,219

5/15/2014 4:25 PM

We need Graphene coatings.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphene
If we could just figure out how to make it..
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