Flat tires are one of the most frustrating things about using a bicycle for daily commuting. For ebikes, flat tires are even more annoying. Ebikes are heavier and so changing a tire can be more cumbersome. If the flat tire is on a hubmotor wheel, dealing with lifting the motor out, sometimes complicated by short hubmotor wires, really throws a kink in your plan. Changing a flat tire on an ebike can still be done, but it’s best to avoid the scenario all together, if possible. Here are 6 tips to help you avoid flat tires.
1. Avoid Flat Tires By Keeping Your Air Pressure High
Tires that aren’t fully inflated are a lot more likely to pick up a flat than nicely pressurized tires. Check the side of your tire to determine the proper pressure. Most standard mountain bike, cruiser and hybrid bike tires are in the 40-65 PSI range. Keep your tires in the mid to upper end of that range. As a quick gauge, try squeezing your tires between your thumb and forefingers. They should be firm, but not hard as a rock. You should feel a small amount of give.
2. Riding With Worn Down Rubber Is Asking For A Flat Tire
If you see the tread in your tire is worn down, or cracks appear in the rubber, change your tires. Aged, thin and rigid rubber is much easier to puncture than new, thick and pliable rubber. This is also a safety issue; you wouldn’t want to drive around with worn out, cracking tires on your car, so why would you do the same on your ebike?
3. Put Anti-Flat Tire Material In Your Inner Tubes
This stuff is great! I once had a thumbtack stuck in my rear tire for 10 months, but because the anti-flat gunk filled the hole around the thumbtack, it didn’t leak air. If you get a foreign object stuck in your tire, and it isn’t a safety issue such as a big nail that could come flying out, just leave it there. A little thorn or staple won’t cause any more damage to your tube than it already has, and the anti-flat gunk will fill the hole and basically ‘glue’ the foreign object in place, sealing your tube. Two of my favorite anti-flat tire gunks are green slime and Joe’s tire sealant.
4. Try Not To Ride On The Side Of The Road
The side of the road is where all the crap from the road gets kicked up and eventually deposited. It’s full of road debris like broken glass, nails, staples, thorns, etc. Even a piece of broken plastic tail light can puncture a tire if you catch it at the right angle. If possible, ride out in the lane with the cars. If you live in a city, your ebike can probably match city speeds so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are on a road where cars travel faster than your ebike, move over to the side whenever necessary for safety’s sake, but try to return to the lane when possible. Also, avoid riding in the dead center of the lane, since most cars straddle the center with their tires, causing road debris to accumulate in the very center of the lane where tires don’t contact the road. Ride slightly off-center in the ‘track’ made by the right side tires of cars.
5. Use Tire Liners, But Only Good Ones
If you are going to use tire liners, go with a soft, pliable rubber type, and choose a high quality type like Mr Tuffy tire liners. Cheap tire liners can actually CAUSE flat tires. When I lived in Pittsburgh, after the cold winter I found my plastic tire liners had become rigid and broken into hundreds of sharp little plastic shards – not what you want dancing around with your inner tube.
6. Upgrade To Better Tires
If you spend a lot of time on your bike, this will be a worthy investment. Your tires are the only connection between your bike and the road (on a good day) so shouldn’t you make that connection as good as possible? You can get some great tires without breaking the bank if you know what to look for. My favorite all-around tire is the Maxxis Hookworm. It’s great for street use and can take some trails and light offroading too. The rubber is thick with incredible grip, meaning you can really lean into those turns. I’ve never had a flat with my hookworms. That doesn’t mean they are 100% puncture-proof, but having good rubber makes a big difference.
There’s no such thing as an entirely flat tire-proof inner tube system, and flat tires are something that we all have to deal with every now and again. Avoiding them by following these tips is your best bet to delay your next flat for as long as possible.
Lastly, make sure you are prepared for the inevitability of a flat tire, should it happen in the future. Always keep a few tools on your bike so that you can repair a flat in a jiffy if you need to. Check out my ebike emergency kit for all the tools I recommend keeping on your bike.