Touring Bicycle Maintenance: Selecting The Right Tires

What to look for in selecting tires for touring on a bike. What you need for repair of a bicycle tire and how to check your tires.

In selecting the right tires for touring, you want to look for tires that offer protection against flats and sidewall damage, as well as a tire that can hold added weight. It is also a good idea to see how easily the tire can be mounted on the rim of your wheel. Some tires are either too flimsy, for secure mounting or the opposite, so difficult that you can break tire levers trying to remove the defected tire.

For any kind of tour cycling, you should have no less than twenty-five millimeters in width. A wide tire will not slow you significantly. Remember, you're touring not racing. You want good traction, so look for tires that will grip when there is sand or water on the road surface. You want the tire not so wide that you have difficulty in getting the tire past the brake shoes. So, if the tire you are looking at is more on the balloon side, check to see if it gives you enough clearance. In general, depending upon the size wheel you have on your bike, no more then thirty-five millimeters in width is needed.

Look to see if the tire comes Kevlar-lined. This helps protect against flats. It doesn't stop flats from happening or from your tire being sliced by a road hazard but it does help. You can put a liner in your tire, such as a "˜Tuffy'. These "˜liners' are a strip of plastic that you insert in the inside of your tire for additional protection. Check the sidewalls of your tire. Are they as thin as paper? That's not a good choice. It is fine for racing tires, where weight is an issue, but remember, you're out to enjoy the scenery, not race to the next town.

Tires come with one of two types of beads. A bead is the edge of your tire where it fits inside the rim on both sides. They are foldable or non-foldable. This prevents the tire from coming off the rim under pressure. The foldable tire has a Kevlar bead. It's more expensive, but you can fold it up easily to store and pack on your touring bike. I recommend that you have at least one foldable tire to take with you in case of an emergency. The non-foldable have a wire bead in the rim. These run less expensive and are just as good. You could save money by buying non-foldable for the wheels and have one foldable for, "˜just in case'.

Another thing to keep in mind is cost. There are good tires on the market for less then twenty dollars. Make sure though, you are buying a tire that has all the high qualities we discussed. One way of making sure is riding the tire before going on your tour. This way, if you have a problem, you can either buy another or take the tire back. Try removing the tire to see how easily or difficult the tire is to work with. Check the tire for any defects. Sometimes these can't be detected until you have mounted the tire and inflate it, letting it sit overnight. It's better to deal with this now, before the bike tour, then to find out on a country road.

Carry a boot with you. A boot is any piece of strong material that can be inserted inside the tire in case your tire is damaged, usually by sharp metal or glass chard that rips the tire. If you have an old worn tire, cut from it a couple of pieces in different lengths, at least three to five inches long. Cut the rim bead off that runs on each side of the old tire. You don't want a boot that is wider then your tire because you want to insert the boot inside the damaged tire without coming over its rim. In a pinch, a number of things can make an emergency boot. A piece of aluminum foil, a candy bar wrapper, even a dollar bill folded up, will get you back on the road. When you insert the boot, make sure it covers the damaged area with a little extra to cover the tear completely. Replace the tube, if damaged, and pump the tire up. Check to see if the boot is holding. If you see the inner-tube bulge out under the air pressure, then you need to re-set the boot. Replace the damaged tire as soon as you can.

Make sure you have all the tools you need. Tire irons, for removing a tire from the rim, boots and patch-kit for fixing the inner tubes. It is also a good idea to practice putting on and off a tire, as well as repairing the tire or inner tube. This way, if trouble happens, you're prepared and within a few minutes, ready to enjoy the rest of your tour.

© High Speed Ventures 2011