Getting any type of flat while you are out on the trail can be a real pain but getting a pinch flat can sometimes be more so. This is because of all the different types of flats this is one that you can learn how to avoid for the most part.
The main way to avoid pinch flats on your mountain bike is to simply make sure that the tire pressure on your bike is set right. In particular, you risk getting a pinch flat on your tube when your psi is too low.
To explain why this is such a big deal when it comes to avoiding pinch flats, you should first understand what exactly a pinch flat is and how it happens. While the right psi is the main way to avoid this from happening, there are also a few other helpful tips that you should know about as well.
What Is A Pinch Flat?
Unlike other types of flats, this is one that you can get without running over anything sharp at all. This is also one kind of flat that you can only get if you have a tubed tire since it is the tube of the tire that pinches together to make a pinch flat.
A pinch flat is often referred to as a snake bite, and this is how you can identify if this is the type of flat you have or if it is something else. It is caused when you hit something in the trail hard enough that it flattens the tube in your tire, slightly folding it in a section as it does so.
This fold gets pinched by the weight of you on your bike as you go over that part of your tire, making a set of small holes that are usually about ½ inch apart on the tube. This looks very much like a snake bite, hence why it is commonly called that.
Important Facts About Pinch Flats And Tire Pressure
As mentioned, the main reason why pinched flats happen is due to under-inflation of the tube. This is because there is not enough air pressure in the tube to prevent it from collapsing to the point where the tube can be pinched by the rim.
Check Your Air Pressure Regularly
This being said, you must first make sure that your psi is high enough, but you should also check the pressure of your tires regularly. You should always at least give your tires a good squeeze before you head out on the trail.
While this will not guarantee that your psi is still alright, if there was a slow air leak that you didn’t know about when you last rode your mountain bike then squeezing the tire should let you discover this before you are on the trail.
With a bit of practice, you should even be able to get really good at telling what your air pressure is by squeezing on your tire, but that will come over time. In the meantime, you should be using a gauge to verify the psi frequently.
Even a good tube will leak out a little air over time, and there are a variety of things that can cause this. One reason is due to riding over rough and bumpy trails, another reason is that changes in the temperature where the bike is at.
Take The Temperature Into Consideration
Heat makes air move around more, so when your tires get hot the air pressure increases in them as the air in them moves around more. On the other hand, cold air has the opposite effect. This means that if you get your psi just right in your warm garage and then go out in the cold to ride during the winter that you are risking getting a pinch flat as the cold lowers your psi.
This is why the best time to check your psi is right before you are going to get on your bike and after your bike has been out of the garage or wherever you keep it at. You should keep a small portable hand pump with you on the trail that you can use to add a little air if needed.
Take The Weight Into Consideration
One of the other things that you must take into consideration is the weight that you will be putting on the tires. The more you weigh then the easier it will be for you to push on your tube enough to give it a pinch flat.
The same is true if you are packing a lot of things on your bike to go on a multi-day biking trip or if you are simply adding more weight in the form of jackets and other clothing items to keep out the cold. In either case, you will need to add more air to your tires to counteract the added weight.
Between the cold and the extra weight of winter items, many mountain bikers prefer to use wider tires in the winter. Wider tires are much better at distributing your weight over a larger area, enabling you to ride at a lower psi without as much of a risk of getting a pinch flat.
Check The Recommended Psi
One thing that can help you determine what you need to have the air pressure at is the recommended psi for the tube you have on your bike. Different brands in particular can have a wide difference in what psi they should have.
This information can be found on the box that you bought it in or sometimes on the tube itself or on the tire that goes with it. It is labeled as either psi or kPa on the side, and you should stay well within the maximum and minimum limits that it sets.
What To Do When You Get A Pinch Flat
When you get a pinch flat while you are out on the trail it can be quite a hassle. Simply put, the only real option you have is to take off your tire, remove the damaged tube, put a spare tube on, put the tire back on, and inflate it back up again.
This is one of the reasons why it can be so important for you to have a spare tube, and you may want more than one if you are planning on doing a full-day trail.
Other Ways To Avoid Pinch Flats
While completely avoiding pinch flats is nearly impossible if you like to ride with a low psi, there are a few other things that you can do to help decrease the likelihood that you will get a pinch flat. One of these options is to get an inner tube protection device.
Other ways include: going tubeless since without a tube it is literally impossible to get a pinched tube; avoiding rough bumps in the trail which might cause a pinched tube; and choosing tubes that might be less likely to be pinched.
When taking care of your psi, another thing that you will need to know is what kind of valve that your tube has. The two main kinds are Presta and Schrader valves, and whichever one is on your tube you will need to have an air pump that is compatible with it.
You will also want to find one pressure gauge that you like and stick to only that one. Sometimes you can measure the pressure with three different gauges and end up with three different readings, so only using one will make this simpler for you.
Finally, many mountain bikers prefer to have more pressure in their rear tire than in their front one. This is because of the fact that more of your weight goes on your back tire and, for reasons I already went over, you should always have more air to counteract more weight.
This does not need to be much different, usually around 2-5 psi difference is plenty to keep your back tube from getting a pinch flat. Remember it is far better to avoid pinch flats that to have to replace your tube.