It is April.Â The sun is shining and the temperatureÂ will break into the 60s.Â Trails and streets are finally free of ice and snow and you want to be outside.Â Suddenly you remember your dusty bicycleÂ resting in a corner of the garage.Â Perfect!Â You jump on and pedal out into the spring air.Â The feeling is exhilarating until.. kerchunk!Â The front wheel goes over the first frost heave, the tire exhales, and youÂ are enjoyingÂ the sunshine on the walk back.
Â This is the common pinch flat, spoiler of spring bike rides and generator of income for bike shops. It occurs when an underinflated tire contacts a bump in the road causing the tube to be pinched between the tire and the rim.Â Â An examination of the inner tube will show the characteristic two small holes a rim width apart, a â€œsnake bite.â€ Â Â Give me and your bike a few minutes of attention and Iâ€™ll help make sure your first ride of the year does not end in deflation.
The rubber of bicycle inner tubes is not totally impervious to air.Â Over time, even in an intact tire, air molecules leak out slowly reducing the pressure.Â A typical mountain bike tire should have between 40 and 65 pounds of pressure.Â After sitting in the garage over the winter it may have only 20 making a pinch flat on likely.Â It may even appear to be totally flat!
When you prepare to take the bike out for its first spring ride, start by examining the tires.Â Make sure the sidewalls are free of cracks and bulges and there are no major cuts or excessive wear on the tread. Â The rubber part of the tire should be pliable, not stiff or cracked.Â Check that the bead (the part of the tire that contacts the inner side of the rim) is seated well, that is tucked in evenly all the way around the rim.Â If any of these things are amiss consider replacing your tire and tube.
Â Next determine how much air you should put in.Â Almost all bicycle tires have recommended pressures embossed on the side of the tire.Â You will see either a â€œmaximum pressureâ€ or a range of pressures expressed as PSI (pounds per square inch) and/or Barr.Â Road bike tires are usually in the 60 â€“ 100 PSI range, mountain bike tires 45-65.Â When there is a range choose the lower end if you are riding on gravel, dirt, or uneven surfaces, choose the higher end if you are riding mostly on smooth pavement.Â
Â Bicycle tubes have two different kinds of valves.Â Most common is the Schrader, identical to the valve on the tire of your car.Â These are on all department store bikes and many bike store bikes.Â If you find your valve stem is skinny and has a little knob on top you have a Presta valve and will require a special headÂ on your pump or a small Schrader converter that screws on the stem allowing use of a standard pump.Â If this sounds like greek, get some help.Â
The best tool for the job is a good bicycle specific floor pump with a built in pressure gauge.Â Simply engage the pump head (chuck) and pump the tire up to the desired pressure.Â Remove the chuck quickly to prevent air escape but remember most of the whooshing you hear on release is air escaping from the hose.Â If you ride regularly or you have many bikes in the household a floor pump is well worth the $30-40 investment.Â If your pump does not measure pressure youâ€™ll need a pressure gauge.Â Get a bicycle specific one; those designed for cars usually donâ€™t have a high enough pressure range.Â Compressors are great but be very careful, especially with those designed for car tires.Â They deliver high volume fast making it easy (and dangerous) to blow a tire.
Â Next, check the bead again, especially if the tire was totally flat to begin with.Â If it is not even all the way around deflate the tire and try again.Â If it is still not even the tire may need to be remounted or replaced.Â Listen for any obvious leaking.Â Put a little spitÂ on the valve, if it blows bubbles the valve is leaking and will need to be tightened.Â Check the pressure again in 24 hours.Â Still at pressure?Â If so you are ready to go.Â Don’t forget to check the pressure in your tires every couple of weeks.Â Having problems?Â Get some help at a bike shop, bike maintenance class or clinic.Â Check shiftinggearsbemidji.comÂ for .Â Donâ€™t delay, the summers are short.Â Get out and ride.
Thank you to The Pioneer for launching Dr. Bike!Â Here is where you’ll findÂ education, information,Â conversation, and celebration of all things pedal powered.Â Join us at the Bike Rodeo on Thursday at the Nymore arena 3:30PM -7PM.Â Check the home page at shiftinggearsbemidji.comÂ for map and details.Â Don’t forget to bookmark it.Â It will be your go to page for cycling events in the Bemidji area all season long!
Don’t let April’s fickle weather keep you indoors.Â Get out and ride, but before you do, see the next post to make sure you don’tÂ end upÂ deflated….